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Best of the National Book Festival: Jericho Brown and Dorianne Laux, 2019

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Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the Library of Congress National Book Festival. Each weekday, we will feature a video presentation from among the thousands of authors who have appeared at the National Book Festival and as part of our new year-long series, National Book Festival Presents. Mondays will feature topical nonfiction; Tuesday: poetry or literary fiction; Wednesday: history, biography, memoir; Thursday: popular fiction; and Friday: authors who write for children and teens. Please enjoy, and make sure to explore our full National Book Festival video collection!

Jericho Brown received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for his poetry collection “The Tradition,” which was cited as “a collection of masterful lyrics that combine delicacy with historical urgency in their loving evocation of bodies vulnerable to hostility and violence.” Brown is also the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. Dorianne Laux’s “Only As the Day Is Long” was a finalist for the poetry Pulitzer this year; she is a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and a recipient of the Oregon Book Award and the Paterson Prize.

Laux and Brown both appeared on the Poetry & Prose stage of the 2019 Library of Congress National Book Festival with Rob Casper, head of the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center. The “Poetry With a Purpose” program began with Brown telling the audience, as held held up a copy of “The Tradition”: “This is the truth: You don’t have to like these poems to buy the book. … You are welcome to get this book and just display it on your coffee table!”

The presentation begins with a reading by both poets. Jericho Brown reads four poems from “The Tradition”:

  • “Foreday in the Morning” (3:02)
  • “Bullet Points” (4:48)
  • “Hero” (7:39)
  • “Duplex” (9:21)

Dorianne Laux reads four poems from “Only As the Day Is Long”:

  • “Lapse” (13:01)
  • “Death of the Mother” (14:43)
  • “Crow” (16:41)
  • “Arizona” (17:57)

The presentation ends with a Q&A, which begins at 24:30.

The 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival will celebrate its 20th birthday this year. You can get up-to-the-minute news, schedule updates and other important festival information by subscribing to this blog. The festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You too can support the festival by making a gift now.