Jericho Brown Talks Paradise/Paradiso

I honestly don’t know what it is, but I keep finding connections between the stuff that we talk about in class and the things that I’m reading on the side. To be more specific, I’m currently reading a book of poetry called The New Testament by Jericho Brown, a well-known contemporary poet who talks about race.

The book is a journey of one black man’s experience. It weaves stories from the Bible and to discuss the role God plays in shaping the image/role of black men. Two poems stuck out to me, as they were juxtaposed to each other, and are in dialogue with much of what our class discusses.

The poems are titled “Paradise” and “To Be Seen,” alluding to both a false idea of paradise, which we have studied in both Dante’s Paradiso and Morrison’s Paradise, as well as the idea of being seen, or seeing as the poem suggests. My thought project focuses on how blindness creates a false sense of paradise, which Brown points out directly. “Paradise” points specifically to what the “truth” is, Brown writes “That story I told about suffering  / Was a lie,” as the poem’s opening lines. He later goes on to explain “And while I claimed / To have walked away hearing a voice / Or a fiddle, that too is untrue,” and it seems as though the speaker is addressing his own blindness. In “To Be Seen,” Brown frames the human body as a battle ground when the speaker is in conversation with his doctor, “My doctor clings to the metaphor / Of war. It’s always the virus / That attacks the cells that fight or die.” The poem ends with what I believe is a straight-up allusion to Morrison: “Look at me when I’m talking to you. / Your heading is not in my hands, though.” Like what?! That’s from when Beatrice turns around and says, “Turn around and listen well / Not in my eyes alone is Paradise.” Do you guys see this, or am I reading too much into it?

I attached the poems below for context:

Paradise

To Be Seen 

 

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