The Lights Won't Go Out On Me

Professor and poet receives Guggenheim

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard University

Poet Jericho Brown, associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory College, is one of 175 recipients of a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship, chosen from among nearly 3,000 applicants in the US and Canada.

“It means the world to me that there is some recognition from the outside world, to let Natasha Trethewey and Walter Kalaidjian know they were right to bring me to Emory University,” Brown says of the former US poet laureate, who heads the Creative Writing program, and the chair of the Department of English. “It’s always nice to know when I am writing a poem, the lights won’t go out on me.”

The award will allow Brown to work on a new book, Character, a collection of poems that will focus on society’s obsession with celebrity and will be written in the voices of people from literature, the visual arts, and film.

One piece, “Bullet Points,” has been shared widely online after Buzzfeed published the poem Brown wrote in reaction to coverage of high-profile police shootings and police brutality.

Brown previously received fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard and the National Endowment for the Arts, and his first book, Please, won the 2009 American Book Award. The Guggenheim, he says, “reminds me that yes, this work matters, and I am what I say I am. I’m a poet, and poetry makes a difference in the world.”

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