Shreveport native Jericho Brown ((born Nelson Demery III) has won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his collection “The Tradition,” which the Pulitzer board deemed “a collection of masterful lyrics that combine delicacy with historical urgency in their loving evocation of bodies vulnerable to hostility and violence.”
His poetry has been featured in The Bennington Review, Buzzfeed, Fence, jubilat, The New Republic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, TIME magazine, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry.81Hi-EtgjHL
“I’m happy to bring this prize back home, and by that I mean back to Black folks, back to the South, back to Louisiana, and back to my alma mater, Dillard University. Dillard is where I first took creative writing workshops as classes toward my major, and it’s where I first began to envision a life for myself as a writer,” Dillard University graduate shared in a statement. “These are not easy times for any of us, but I’d like to believe that this prize in this particular instance can show that there is still possibility for us no matter how rough the terrain may seem. And I’m grateful to have gotten the education necessary to make it to this moment.”
After graduating from Dillard in 1998, he earned a master’s in fine arts at the University of New Orleans and later a Ph.D. from the University of Houston.
Brown’s Pulitzer Prize win was no surprise to Dillard faculty members, especially Mona Lisa Saloy, Ph.D, folklorist and professor of English. “While [he was] a student here, [Brown] wore business suits daily with a matching bow tie, along with his fellow male classmates aiming for the study of law. They were serious about school and worked hard,” she said. “Indeed, he had “that something,” and I urged him to consider that perhaps he was sent here for something more than the Law, that there was a fine writer buried inside of him, just waiting to be released.”
Brown is currently an associate professor and the director of the creative writing program at Emory University. He is the recipient of several fellowships from Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is also the winner of the Whiting Award. Brown’s first book, Please, won the American Book Award and his second book, The New Testament won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. The Tradition is his third collection of poetry.
The Pulitzer Prize was funded and established in 1917 by the will of journalist and newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. It is awarded in 22 categories, focusing on journalism, literature, drama, history, and music.