East Austin resident Derrick Brown is a surprisingly rascally personality to try to pin down. He’s a published poet, an accomplished musician, a variety show host, a book publisher, a licensed minister to the stars, and also a former military paratrooper.
And as of a few weeks ago, he’s Austin’s latest indie bookstore owner.
The store is called Write Bloody, a name which has become, over the past decade, synonymous with the most impressive assemblage of handpicked spoken word poetry and live writing available on the market.
Brown’s personal label and printing press, also called Write Bloody Press, has long celebrated the touring performance poets who know better than anyone how to make their words come to life both on the page and on a stage. These are professional poets like Beau Sia, Andrea Gibson, Anis Mojgani, Mindy Netifee and Buddy Wakefield, who pack poetry slams at every stop along the way.
“Believe it or not, some of the top-selling poets in the country are not from academia and they need to be heard out loud,” states Brown over a beer at one of his favorite bars on East Sixth St. “We at Write Bloody are striving to make poetry less dorky and as approachable as going to a rock and roll show.”
Not surprisingly, this forthright message of making poetry fun is making a huge impact on the poetry community and on the individual poets themselves. The eight-year-old press now boasts nearly 100 titles from 40 active authors, who also do their own marketing while on tour.
“When I sign an author, I ask them to tour every year, doing at least 12 live shows a year,” Brown explains. “I treat them like a band, where sales go up during their tour. I know that how hungry you are to be a writer is how much and how hard you tour.”
As a former touring poet himself (most famously as a part of the Poetry Revival Tours with his fellow slam superstars), Brown knows exactly what it means to live that life of constant couch-surfing, to rely on the kindness of strangers, and to sometimes sustain himself on applause more than actual income.
After years of living on a houseboat and growing his press from scratch in a rented office space in Long Beach, CA, Brown went on his most recent poetry tour with the specific intention to find a new town to call home.
“I went on tour, and I looked at every city I stopped in to see if I could live there,” he recalls. “Austin won.”
He cites our city’s outdoor bar culture, the population of Central Texans who are excited about performance, the natural beauty of the landscape, the kindness of the Austin Poetry Slam and his own Texas roots as the primary contributing factors in making his decision.
“I think I’ll die here,” he muses. “I’m too old now to learn a new place.”
The cozy new Write Bloody enclave, located on East Cesar Chavez in the same parking lot as Juan in a Million, is the proud culmination of nearly a decade of Brown’s continued efforts to inspire, publish and promote his fellow poets who make their living on the road.
And because live performance is so vital to the mission of Write Bloody, Brown will be hosting touring poets from the press regularly both at the store and at nearby venues.
As a kick-off to the grand opening of the store, Brown and his band of local Write Bloody authors will be hosting a full day of events on Sunday, December 2.
During the day, patrons are welcome to check out the offerings in the store and enjoy performances, beer, snacks and prize-winning carnival games including a Don Juan eating contest sponsored by Write Bloody's next-door neighbor.
That evening, everyone gathers again over at the ND for a special night of performance featuring touring Write Bloody poets Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, Anis Mojgani, Josh Boyd, Jason Bayani and many more. You may even get to see the sexy, street-wise Brown do a bit of his own highly regarded work.
“Every one of our writers has to be an amazing writer on the page and be captivating, so I can guarantee you’ll see some of the best poetry ever,” he promises. “Plus, a dance party.”
Write Bloody is located at 2306 Cesar Chavez. The day party goes from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday, December 2, and the after party kicks off at 8 p.m. Sunday at the ND@501 Studios.