In-Depth Look: Javon Johnson – “Baby Brother”

In-Depth Look: Javon Johnson – “Baby Brother””

Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.

“My masculinity is a well-hung portrait in a hallway of a crumbling house.”

Write-up by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre


One of the most powerful things that poets do is attempt to view issues through the lens of relationships. As many of us are already aware, if we want to persuade an audience that our point-of-view about a particular issue is worthwhile, just rattling off the linear, logical arguments probably isn’t going to work (especially today). But if we can translate our argument into a story, particularly a story that orbits around personal relationships and the emotions that drive them, people might actually listen.

The first two-thirds of this poem only hint at its eventual thesis statement; through the exploration of a real, grounded, human relationship, Johnson provides context, brings the audience in, and sets the stage for the “here’s what I’m really talking about” section of the poem. And when that section comes, when Johnson really dives into how children are socialized to think about masculinity and the damage that that does, it’s all the more powerful for not just appearing from the void– we already care about the people touched by it.

For people interested in this topic, two links: One is a short poem by Nayyirah Waheed, and the other is a longer talk from Tony Porter, co-founder of A Call to Men. Also, be sure to check out more of Javon Johnson’s work here.


While you’re here on our site, make sure to check out our books and merchandise in the Button Store, including Guante’s own book, as well as titles by Aziza Barnes, Danez Smith, Neil Hilborn, Donte Collins, Sabrina Benaim, and our newest release from Melissa Lozada-Oliva.

Javon Johnson – “cuz he’s black” (2M Views!)

“Black boys in this country cannot afford to play cops and robbers if we’re always considered the latter. Don’t have the luxury of playing war if we’re already in one.”

Congratulations to Javon on topping 2 MILLION views on this tremendous poem. Watch more from Javon here and here.
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