The New Testament by Jericho Brown review – dazzling verse on masculinity and race

Steeped in the language of the Bible and addressing sexuality and violence, this is a striking and inspiring collection

As a former speechwriter for the mayor of New Orleans, Jericho Brown understands the importance of speaking directly and persuasively. His poetry has received critical acclaim in the US, with his haunting first collection Please winning the 2009 American Book Award. His second, The New Testament, daringly juxtaposes the sacred and the profane, and in doing so encourages us to reconsider those very terms. Expanding on the themes of his debut, it offers a dazzling array of lyrics on the inextricable relationship between masculinity, sexuality, desire, violence and race.

Unearthing the Bible’s violent moments, Brown powerfully subverts the meanings and implications of holy verse. In To Be Seen, a preacher appears in the guise of a doctor who “clings to the metaphor / Of war” as he holds the speaker’s life ...