Jericho Brown: ‘Poetry is a veil in front of a heart beating at a fast pace’

The US poet on tensions between religion, sexuality and race – and why writing has saved his life

Jericho Brown was born in Louisiana and teaches English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He has won several fellowships including, in 2016, the Guggenheim. In an early incarnation, he worked as a speechwriter for the mayor of New Orleans before gathering momentum as a poet. His first collection, Please, won the American book award. His second, The New Testament, written in a spirit of tense lamentation, urgently addresses what it is to be gay, black and living in the US today.

Why The New Testament? Does the Bible provide your poetry with a holy infrastructure?
I grew up in a religious family – it was a requirement that we knew the scriptures. In 2010, I became very ill with HIV. I had not, for a while, ...