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After Winning The Pulitzer Prize, Jericho Brown Is In Demand And Prioritizing Laughter

These days, Jericho Brown is planning his laughter. Despite living through a pandemic, the last five months in the life of this Louisiana-bred, Atlanta-based poet certainly isn’t lacking for reasons to evoke joy, after all, he is the author of “The Tradition,” which earned him the 2020 Pulitizer Prize for Poetry—a historic moment in which Brown became one of two openly queer Black men to be awarded the prestigious honor in the same year. Much like his poetry, Brown’s laughter is infectious and unrestrained, soothing and measured, jarring and familiar; delivered with the intonation and cadence of a Kat Williams stand-up routine that leaves you bellowing over in laughter only to realize that he’s delivered a gut-punch that is simultaneously reflective and unrelenting. Jericho Brown is poetry in motion. He’s also in demand. One glimpse at the 326 text messages on his phone, many of which are congratulatory messages sent after his win, speaks to his impact on the world and the literary community. But despite the Pulitzer Prize elevating his career to unimaginable heights, Brown is embracing the journey and prioritizing laughter. 

“I try to make sure I watch The Golden Girls every night before I go to bed,” said Brown. “It sounds silly but it’s actually quite helpful. I think it’s a good idea to plan your laughter. To know that you’re gonna laugh every day. And I do laugh every day,” he said. “But if I watch a show then I know this is my laugh time. And if I see something funny then I can go to bed knowing that I did what I was supposed to do for me and I got some laughter in at a certain time.” 

Sleep may have been on the agenda the night before the winners of The Pulitzer Prize were announced, but in Brown’s case, it was poorly executed. 

“The night before it was announced, I did not sleep,” he said. “The wonderful thing about the Pulitzer Prize is that they don’t make you wait to find out who has won in the way that other awards do. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to those [other] programs in my tuxedo and you sit there sweating for somebody to tell you that you lost (laughter). I was all excited about being a finalist. When I watched it, and she said my name as the winner, I was already crying. I was already emotionally built-up from the night before. I really fell out,” said Brown. 

For many artists, winning the Pulitzer Prize is the pinnacle career achievement. Any award won thereafter, will most likely pale in comparison. But Brown tells The Reckoning that while the award itself is great, as a poet, it’s not where the real achievement begins or ends.

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