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Interview: Derrick Brown

At the heart of every killer independent press is an equally killer personality. In the case of Write Bloody Publishing, that personality is Derrick Brown. Rumor has it that Derrick’s been a paratrooper, gondolier, magician, and weatherman, but his work at Write Bloody and his own strange and smashing poetry is what makes Paper Darts really sit up and pay attention. He took a break from his nonstop asskicking to answer some questions for us.

 

Paper Darts: How do you find your writers?

Derrick Brown: I used to find them by touring my cheeks off and sitting in the back of poetry venues to see who was annoying and who knew how to avoid “poetry voice” and who could feel the audience inside. I don’t mean that in a dirty way—I mean that in the dirtiest way. I’d find them roaming the U.S. in their Honda Accords, blowing the minds of a crowd at a bookstore called Open in Long Beach, or ruling a reading while wasted at The Green Mill in Chicago. I always wished that I knew a book agent who would sign all of these talented folks so they could get a book deal. I jumped ahead a few steps and became my own agent and started my own press for authors who could read well out loud and write in- credibly on the page—and tour. Now I hand pick a few authors and use a submission process where all who enter have to know that they will be required to do twenty readings a year, and the twenty finalists out of hundreds submit a video of one poem and a full manuscript.

A staff of twelve freelancers then vote, and hell breaks loose. It is amazing how irate folks can get when all you want to do is put out some poetry you like.

 

PD: Is it safe to say you are trying to turn poets into rockstars?

DB: Must the best poets be coached into this, or are the best poets already equipped with that level of performance skill and ego? It used to be hard to find poets and authors that could write well and not be annoying in front of an audience. The novelist is at a supreme disadvantage to the poet. The poet can capture an audience at a live reading in a sentence and the novelist has to ramp up and painfully choose where to kill the story. Poetry is a bullet and the novel is a slow strangle. For this very reason I believe poetry readings can by synonymous with rock shows. Less cocaine brooding and more heart charging sass.

 

PD: How did you start Write Bloody?

DB: I started it in 2004. I am a pretty organized person due to my time as a paratrooper. Few realize what it takes to run a successful publishing company. Many run publishing companies and most get grants and can put out whatever illiterate strokefest they want and not care if it sells. I love the capitalistic desperation that comes from having to sell books or face starvation. If you can’t afford speed,
try running a press.

 

PD: What is it like to perform alongside bands like Cold War Kids?

DB: I’ve learned to address hecklers. To stop the show and to address them in a way that gets the audience on your side. It is such a fine line between making the audience feel awkward and making them feel like you know they bar—they usually come around by the second poem—and to have good, ambient music playing from an iPod to lock in the lushes. I also learned to never sleep with anyone in a band because they usually bring one pair of skivvies and freeball for weeks, showerless. Nothing worse than the stiff whiff coming from a drummer’s zipper.

 

PD: What was it about Anis Mojgani that made you want to publish him?

DB: What I love about Anis is that he is the perfect example that an author can have a flock, a temporary church (venue), and live like a pastor off the kindness of strangers. He has a pastor’s voice. He has fucked up clothes and the most gorgeous surreal lines thatare as undeniable out loud as they are on the page. You can often tell when a writer has engaged in holy things in their life, or when they are trying to make a turn. Anis, you can tell, is on a constant turn inward towards kindness and wonder, with the other eye outwards, looking for fairness and child- like power in everyday living. I know how much of a wank this sounds, writing stuff like this, but there is a reason he outsells Sherman Alexie, and it is because many, including myself, want to go back to where he is: a constant state of pocket-knifey imagination.

 

 

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