Poetry People

Local poet Derrick Brown discusses his most revealing work to date: Our Poison Horse

Local writer Derrick Brown discusses his most revealing work to date

Derrick Brown
Multi-talented Derrick Brown will perform a poetry reading The Off Center on Saturday. Derrick Brown/browpoetry.com

Derrick Brown has already lived a storied life. The son of an emu farmer and a former paratrooper for the 82nd airborne, Brown’s worked as a TV weatherman, a singing gondolier and a magician at Knotts Berry Farm. He spent years living on a boat in California's Long Beach Harbor called "The Sea Section." Brown has opened for the Cold War Kids and David Cross and recently took a guest-starring role on Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

He’s also a poet. A really good poet.

Brown is the man behind Write Bloody, the local poetry press that had its own bookshop on Cesar Chavez in 2012 and 2013. He’s been featured in numerous anthologies and written several critically acclaimed books of poetry to date. On Saturday, November 22, he’s throwing a party at The Off Center on Hidalgo Street in East Austin to celebrate the release of a new one.

His new anthology, Our Poison Horse, came as a surprise to Brown. “I thought I’d focus on writing novels and plays for at least the next 10 years,” he tells CultureMap. “But moving to the countryside outside of Austin sparked a whole new mode of writing.”

The countryside of which he speaks is Elgin, Texas. “I lived in Austin for years,” Brown says. “I enjoy being able to bump back into the hustle and jump back out into the quiet, sharp, country night in Elgin. Manor is closer, but just way too sad.”

Many of the poems in Our Poison Horse were written years ago, while Brown was living in a far different setting outside of Detroit. Local kids had sprayed a neighbor’s horse with pesticide — either to hurt it on purpose or just to keep the flies off — and Brown helped the wounded creature through its convalescence.

“I watched the horse slowly heal and finally it began to come to me, trusting me, and would eat carrots," he says. "Something about that horse, Lacey, about it not trusting me and then warming up pulled something out that I didn’t know I was ready for. There is a theme that in beauty-filled places, you will find horror, and gratefully, the reverse is true.”

During his time in Michigan, “an unexpected incredible war broke out, such bright, massive storms, snakes, guns, howling wind, hard sun — all kinds of poems gushed forth." Brown says, "I gave in to the process and my best work to date was born.”

The book is laid out in thematic sections — romance, strangeness, pastorals, etc. — and contains what Brown admits is his most personal work. “I felt unafraid to put really stupid poems next to intense poems of grief and longing,” he said. “I am enjoying the hell out of the rollercoaster.”

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Attendees at the party will be treated to readings from Our Poison Horse, as well as work performed by Anis Mojgani, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz and Kevin Burke. Admission is $5 for students and $8 for everyone else. All ages are welcome.