DERRICK C. BROWN IN THE WASHINGTON POST Brown spoke recently from his home in Long Beach, Calif., about finding joy in quarantine and the transporting nature of writing.


Meet Derrick the Dynamic. Enamored with David Copperfield’s disappearance of the Statue of Liberty on live TV, he dreamt of being the first Christian magician performing in Las Vegas. Then, war broke out. Final new episode of the Washington Post original docuseries "Throwback Thursday" is out today:




Derrick C. Brown delivers the kind of poetry that reminds you how beautiful living can be. Case in point: His short film of spoken-word verse, “A Finger, Two Dots Then Me,” captures the profound beauty that can exist both in the mundane moments and the challenging ones. As the seven-minute piece crescendos, Brown reads a list of increasingly poignant “holy” things: “cows’ tongues,” “snow balls upside the head,” “sleeping during your uncle’s memorized dinner prayer,” “the day that you got to really speak to your father ‘cause the television broke,” “the day that your grandmother told you something meaningful ‘cause she was dying.”

Brown, a comedian as well as a poet, started writing poetry when he was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in 1992. Today, he is president of Write Bloody Publishing, a press that focuses on work by poets who are also stage performers.

Brown spoke recently from his home in Long Beach, Calif., about finding joy in quarantine and the transporting nature of writing.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Derrick C. Brown, quarantined at his home in Long Beach, Calif.
Derrick C. Brown, quarantined at his home in Long Beach, Calif. (Derrick C. Brown)

Question: What are some of the things that have been difficult during quarantine?

Answer: I went to visit my mom to walk her dog. To not be able to hug your mother when you’ve done it all your life is a very distant feeling.

Another thing that’s hard is money. I’m a person that made half of my income from putting on bigger and better live [poetry, comedy and storytelling] shows, and I never imagined the audience just vanishing like it was the rapture. And here we are. I was someone who kind of pushed back on doing digital shows, [but] it has forced me to be a little more creative.

Someone wrote that they were in the ICU watching the show. So, it’s a great wake up call for me to be like, “Hey nothing for you is hard right now.”

A: That’s one of the great things about poetry. I don’t always have to write about what I’m feeling. They say that if you force a smile, sometimes it ends up bringing you joy. And as a poet or a novelist, you can write persona pieces and imagine or recall a time that brought you immense joy. It’s almost like jumping on a plane and going to the island in the back of your mind and vacationing there for a little bit, and it actually makes me feel good. So, that’s kind of a neat thing to realize in a dark time.

In a dark time, it’s important for me not to ignore the heavy stuff. It’s also important for me not to treat sorrow and tragedy as a candy that I’m fueled by. [I can’t] ignore the miracle of being alive.

Q: Tell me about what has been bringing you joy.

Q: What have you learned about your creative process during quarantine?

A: That I work best when the muse is ready and when my brain is ready. I was always pushing myself and submitting and trying to put new books out. I used to force it, and now I have learned this kind of beautiful peace that comes from listening to my creative juices and where my body is. When I can wait and get settled and feel that spark, my quality goes up tenfold.

A: You see someone putting on a show online and they might be scared to charge five or 10 bucks for it. I think it’s important for artists to know that most people want to help and they respect what you do.

Do some Googling. Figure out how to start an Eventbrite page and take tickets. Get your sound right, get your light right, and then put on something beautiful that they’ll never forget. People are hurting and they’re lonely and they need your art.

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