The New Testament

By Jericho Brown


Hello, poetry lovers! 🌟 Today, we’re diving into the mesmerizing world of “The New Testament” by Jericho Brown, a collection that not only challenges the conventions of poetry but also explores profound themes of race, sexuality, and identity. Jericho Brown, an award-winning poet known for his candid and emotionally charged writing, crafts this collection to navigate the intersections of personal and historical narratives.

“The New Testament” is a lyrical meditation wrapped in contemporary verse, where Brown confronts societal norms and personal trauma. As we explore this collection, you’ll see how Brown’s background as a Southern black gay man deeply influences his work, making it a poignant reflection on human experience and resilience. 📖💔

Meaning of The New Testament

Opening section:
The collection begins with an exploration of identity and history. Brown’s opening poems set the tone for a journey through personal and collective memory, often referencing biblical imagery to juxtapose sacredness with the profane realities of modern life. For instance, Brown writes:

“I am a they in most of America.”

This line questions the societal norms and the often-painful awareness of being othered.

Mid section:
In the middle poems, Brown delves deeper into the struggles of love, faith, and acceptance. The poetry here oscillates between hope and despair, with Brown using his narrative voice to draw the reader into his most intimate experiences of love and loss:

“What once was married to the church,
Now flirts with faith, untethered.”

These lines reflect the poet’s personal conflict with faith and identity, emphasizing a liberation from past constraints.

Concluding section:
The concluding poems offer a form of resolution or acceptance, as Brown seems to find solace in the acknowledgment of his own complexity and worth. The language here is both defiant and celebratory:

“Do not mistake me for belief I am abandoned.”

This powerful declaration asserts identity beyond societal or doctrinal bounds, encapsulating the essence of liberation and self-acceptance.

In-depth Analysis

Theme of Identity
Brown’s use of the first-person narrative throughout the collection personalizes the themes, making each poem feel like a confession or a declaration. His exploration of a multifaceted identity interacts intricately with the form of each stanza, where line breaks and punctuation often guide the emotional impact.

Symbol of Freedom
Recurrent images of birds and flight appear throughout the collection, symbolizing the desire for freedom and transcendence beyond the confines of prescribed identity roles. For instance, Brown writes:

“I am a bird, I am the light from which the birds learn.”

Literary Techniques
Brown’s use of enjambment, alliteration, and assonance enhances the lyrical quality of his poetry, creating a rhythm that mirrors the emotional landscapes he navigates. His careful choice of words and their arrangement often serve to heighten the intensity of the themes discussed.

Figurative Language
Metaphors and similes are abundant, with Brown often drawing from nature and religious imagery to enrich his narrative. This figurative language bridges the personal with the universal, allowing readers to find their own meanings within his experiences.

Poetic Devices used in The New Testament

Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 poetic devices used in “The New Testament” by Jericho Brown, presented in a simple table format to illustrate how each device enhances the poetry.

Poetic DeviceExample from the PoemEffect on the Poem
Alliteration“Bitter bud blooms to blown.”Creates a musical quality and emphasizes texture.
Assonance“I am the only one who loves me.”Enhances internal rhyme and mood.
Enjambment“I am the sin I will die \n with.”Propels the poem forward, enhancing its pace and suspense.
Metaphor“My body, a beacon burning.”Illuminates abstract concepts through comparison.
Simile“Like a scripture made sacred by reading.”Clarifies and intensifies imagery.
Personification“The night is a cello spilling its bridge.”Gives life to the abstract, increasing emotional connection.
Symbolism“The dove—lost letter of the alphabet.”Represents peace, hope, or loss within the context.
Irony“I am the land of the free.”Critiques or highlights contradictions.
Hyperbole“I could shatter the sky.”Emphasizes feelings of power or desperation.
Oxymoron“Sweet pain of my history.”Contrasts ideas to reveal deeper truths.

The New Testament – FAQs

Q: What are the main themes of ‘The New Testament’ by Jericho Brown?
A: The main themes include identity, faith, love, freedom, and the intersection of personal and historical trauma.

Q: How does Jericho Brown use form in his poetry?
A: Brown frequently uses traditional forms like the sonnet but modifies them to suit modern narratives and themes, often incorporating techniques like enjambment and strategic stanza breaks to drive emotional impact.

Q: What role does religion play in ‘The New Testament’?
A: Religion in this collection serves as both a source of comfort and conflict. Brown explores his complex relationship with Christianity, often questioning and redefining spiritual beliefs.

Q: How is imagery used in the collection?
A: Imagery in “The New Testament” is vivid and often nature-based, helping to convey emotional states and philosophical ideas. Brown also uses imagery to juxtapose the beauty of the natural world with the harsh realities of human existence.

Q: Can ‘The New Testament’ be seen as autobiographical?
A: Yes, many of the poems in the collection are reflective of Brown’s own experiences and identities, making the work highly personal and introspective.

The New Testament Study Guide


Identify and list all the poetic devices used in the following verse from “The New Testament” by Jericho Brown:

“I am the truth, the knife,
I am the wound that will not heal.”


  • Metaphor: “I am the truth, the knife,” suggests the speaker embodies both clarity and pain.
  • Symbolism: The “knife” symbolizes sharpness, severance, or pain.
  • Personification: “I am the wound that will not heal,” gives human qualities to a wound, emphasizing chronic pain or suffering.
  • Paradox: The idea of being both the “truth” and “the wound” creates a contradiction, reflecting complex personal or social truths.

This verse showcases how Brown uses compact, layered language to express deeply nuanced ideas, making each word work hard to convey multiple layers of meaning and emotion. 📚✨