The Tradition: Civic Dialogue Edition

Jericho Brown

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In this special edition of Jericho Brown’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Tradition, you are invited to participate in an urgent dialogue—sparked by poetry—about what it means to be human. Including a discussion guide and an interview with the author, The Tradition: Civic Dialogue Edition is meant to catalyze and inspire deep and engaging community conversations. 

In 2021, the Free Library of Philadelphia selected The Tradition for their annual city-wide reading program, choosing a book of poetry for the first time ever. The vision was for neighbor to meet neighbor and discussin profound and transformative ways—the difficult subjects confronted so powerfully by the poems:  racism, homophobia, violence, and the human resolve to compose a joyful life. To encourage other communities—cities, schools, book groups—to follow Philadelphia’s lead, Copper Canyon Press collaborated with the Free Library and the award-winning podcast, On Being, to create The Tradition: Civic Dialogue Edition. The dream is to tap the power of poetry to open hearts, clarify vision, spark conversation, and help make the world a more just and equitable place. And, if we’re fortunate, to laugh as freely and share as openly as the poet himself.

ISBN: 9781556596421

Format: Paperback

The Trees

In my front yard live three crape myrtles, crying trees
We once called them, not the shadiest but soothing
During a break from work in the heat, their cool sweat

Falling into us. I don’t want to make more of it.
I’d like to let these spindly things be
Since my gift for transformation here proves

Useless now that I know everyone moves the same
Whether moving in tears or moving
To punch my face. A crape myrtle is

A crape myrtle. Three is a family. It is winter. They are bare.
It’s not that I love them
Every day. It’s that I love them anyway.

About the Author

Jericho Brown is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and he is the winner of a Whiting Award. Brown’s first book, Please (New Issues, 2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. His third collection is The Tradition (Copper Canyon Press, 2019)—winner of the 2020 …

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“A collection of masterful lyrics that combine delicacy with historical urgency in their loving evocation of bodies vulnerable to hostility and violence.” —Pulitzer Prize Committee, 2020

“By some literary magic―no, it’s precision, and honesty―Brown manages to bestow upon even the most public of subjects the most intimate and personal stakes.” —Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR

“A relentless dismantling of identity, a difficult jewel of a poem.“ —Rita Dove, The New York Times Magazine

“This is a truly wonderful book. These emotions and history Jericho shares are much needed in these times. A truly talented young poet.” —Nikki Giovanni

“Winner of a Whiting Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Brown’s hard-won lyricism finds fire (and idyll) in the intersection of politics and love for queer Black men.” —O, The Oprah Magazine

“The poems of The Tradition, Brown’s third collection, are at turns tender and vulnerable, severe and riveting.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“Pure artistry imbues nearly every line of this unsparing yet subtly delicate third collection from the masterly Brown, fusing the personal, political, erotic, and philosophical.” —Library Journal, “Best Poetry 2019” 

“Jericho Brown’s The Tradition pays off on the first page (which opens with “Ganymede,” in which he reimagines the Greek myth: “I mean, don’t you want God / to want you?”) and just keeps on giving… As I read, I became a Jericho Brown fan for life. Writing is good words in good order; poetry is the best words in the best order. Brown’s words are in the best order possible.” —Vox

“Jericho Brown’s poetry collection called The Tradition is just an absolutely stunning book. He’s such a gorgeous mature poet, just beautiful and challenging.” —Lisa Lucas, New York Magazine

As featured in:

The New York Times, “100 Notable Books of the Year”

NPR, “’I Reject Walls’: A 2019 Poetry Preview”

Literary Hub, “Most Anticipated Book of 2019”

Buzzfeed, “66 Books Coming in 2019 You’ll Want to Keep Your Eyes On”

The Rumpus, “What to Read When 2019 is Just Around the Corner”

BookRiot, “50 Must-Read Poetry Collections of 2019”

Buzzfeed, “Best Books of 2019”

ALA GLBTRT’s “2020 Over the Rainbow Fiction Longlist”

Salon, “Quarantine book club: Reading for mental health in a plague year”

Mother Jones, “The Books that Got Us Through 2020”

Oprah Daily, “Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Rita Dove on Why Poetry Is More ‘Urgent’ Than Ever”

NBC News, “12 Queer and Trans Poets to Read for National Poetry Month”


National Book Award Finalist for Poetry, 2019

NAACP Image Award Nominee, 2019

Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, 2020

Paterson Poetry Prize, 2020

Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, 2020

PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, 2020

One Book, One Philadelphia Citywide Reading Program Selection, 2021