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derrick brown

Episode 3: Heartbreak Will Straighten Your Hair

Poet and Comic Derrick Brown talks break ups, boats, and beers to the face.

Derrick Brown is a former paratrooper for the 82nd airborne, a comedian, a novelist, and a traveling poet. He also founded Write Bloody Publishing in 2004, which is the rock star of indie poetry presses. He’s toured with Cold War Kids, Amber Tamblyn, and Eugene Mirman. Plus you may have seen him on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Derrick Brown  00:02

So I've been on like, a campaign to convince people that poetry doesn't have to be annoying.


Fiona McCann  00:12

Welcome to We Can't Print This Podcast: telling the story you don't know,


Eden Dawn  00:18

Behind the story you do know.


Fiona McCann  00:23

Wow, thanks. That was not a compliment.


Eden Dawn  00:28

Okay, doing that again.


Fiona McCann  00:32

I loved it. I'm Fiona McCann.


Eden Dawn  00:35

I'm Eden Dawn.


Fiona McCann  00:36

And every week, we interview a writer of some kind or other about the stories behind their stories or poems, or articles, or whatever it is they write.


Eden Dawn  00:48

And this week, we welcome the one the only Derrick Brown and I mean that quite literally as Derrick is the only person I know that is a former paratrooper for the 82nd airborne, a comedian and novelist, a former magician, and a traveling poet. He founded Write Bloody publishing in 2004, which is totally the rock star of the indie poetry presses. And you can see him out on tour basically, all of the time, because that's part of what he does, and you will laugh and be delighted.


Fiona McCann  01:24

Go check them out. Go check them out. And today, we are talking to Derrick about, you know, that moment in your life where something happens. It's what you think is going to be your big break or a big moment. A game changer, that turns out not to change the game you thought it was gonna be. So, you feeling me on this one?


Eden Dawn  01:47

Yeah, I kind of had that happened to me. I mean, I think I've had many of the former where you think something is going to really change your career and it doesn't, it's tiny little drops in the bucket. The interesting thing for me is, you know, Fiona, you and I have done a lot of service writing, service journalisn. And for people who don't know, service journalism is very much what it sounds like, it's journalism, but you are providing a service to the reader. You're telling them, here are places to shop, here are places to go to eat, here are hotel reviews, all of that is service journalism. Because it's helping people understand aid services that they are going to be paying for and then also helping aid them in living their lives.


Fiona McCann  02:34

Yeah. And so it's usually kind of curation. Like pick evidently...


Eden Dawn  02:37

Definitely, tastemaker.


Fiona McCann  02:39

And then the writing part tends to be very short. It's kind of a specific style of writing where you, it's actually really hard to do consistently because there's a huge amount of work that goes into even the shortest little service, tiny service pieces.


Eden Dawn  02:54

But we've done a lot of it. Then I had a book come out called the Portland book of dates, which is essentially a guide book I wrote with my husband, which is all service journalism, really. But it's the ways to have the most fun in Oregon and through different kinds of dates. So it was curating fun things activities. So we had this book come out with our lovely publishers who are Sasquatch Penguin Random House, and this book came out and you know, it was for the Pacific Northwest and we were printing it not as many as you would for a full national release. And then it just kind of went bonkers.


Fiona McCann  03:35

It's not what do you expect from you know, you're like, "Oh, this is the little Portland service book that I'm gonna put together."


Eden Dawn  03:41

Yeah. And it's a type of writing I had done so many times. And then it came out in 2021. With the last two years when I have gone into Powell's, which is the mecca of independent bookstores in the country.


Fiona McCann  03:54

And also we're in there a lot because it's like five blocks from our office.


Eden Dawn  03:56

And we're in there all the time. So it's five blocks from our office, and it's a place I've been going to since I was a kid, like for my sixth birthday. We got to go to Powell's to get more Babysitter's Club books, you know.


Fiona McCann  04:06

The baby sitters Club was going to come into every podcast.


Eden Dawn  04:09

But it was on the nonfiction wall. Their bestsellers list nonfiction while next to like David Sedaris, and Michelle Obama, like my little book with my name on the front sat for like two years and I hit the Pacific Northwest booksellers. Association, again, with all of these huge names in the world. Somehow, my small book that was just encouraging people to like "go make out in this dark club and then like, go over here to have snacks after" was the thing that people wanted and I never expected that. And that would have always been like a career goal of mine to really be on that Powell's best seller wall. And then to walk in and just see it over and over every time I went in, I was like, it has to be gone by now and there it freakin' is.


Fiona McCann  04:57

When I was at a show, recently, a woman in the audience brought it up and was like, "I'm here on a date and my date bought me the Portland book of things on our six month anniversary." And it was so lovely to actually hear that direct kind of response from somebody in the audience. Not to be big in you as well, I know I'm sending like your hype girl now, but I completely can see how that's something you thought would be just a bit of a, you know, kind of do a little bit of grunt work here, my service journalism and like nobody, you know, it's never the one that gets a standing ovation. And yet, here it is, and


Eden Dawn  05:28

And yet here it is. And now there's another book coming out in that series that I cannot say yet but another city is coming soon.


Fiona McCann  05:36

Could be your city.


Eden Dawn  05:37

And could be your city and maybe there will be more but don't sneeze at service journalism. If your goal is that you're writing something because you're trying to help people get laid, which was really what my goal was, turns out that that is doing the Lord's work and honorable, honorable trade. What about you?


Fiona McCann  05:57

You know, thinking about this, I thought, "what were the big moments that I thought would be life changing over the course of my career?". And sometimes they're very hard to pinpoint, because, you know, if they didn't change your life in that way, then maybe you've sort of consigned them to the annals of histor, a little bit. But there was one particular moment I recall because I was working in, I lived in Argentina for a few years, and I was working in the Buenos Aires office of Reuters, with large a group of largely Argentine but then some Americans, mainly Americans on the sort of foreign desk, and me the Irish girl. And I was not very high up in Reuters, shall we say? I was, you know, I wrote TV scripts, I did that kind of thing like nothing, not not the hero journalism of Reuters at the time, And I was kind of the newest in last aid in tight situations. And that Bureau was sort of the Latin American hub. So they covered everything that was going on in Latin America, and they would send you know, their high profile reporters and cameramen and everybody out to like the big stories, and I would sit back in the office and, you know, wait till footage came in and write scripts and stuff. And like everything, you know, suddenly there was big news: Fidel Castro had fallen gravely ill. And it was really serious because it was 2006. He was in his 80s. And it was, he suddenly disappeared from public view on death's door. Everyone was like, "Oh my God". Fidel Castro who has ruled Cuba for a bajillion years, is suddenly gonna die. And that man has had such a big imprint on the global geopolitical landscape for so long. I mean, he was basically Cuban dictator for a very, very long time.


Eden Dawn  07:42

Yeah, decades and decades.


Fiona McCann  07:43

Decades and decades. I got this phone call, "Fiona, come into the office", and I walk in and they're like, "we need you to go to Cuba". And I'm like, "what?" Why are they sending me? I'm like the drone in sector 7Gover here. I was like, "Oh, okay. What?". They said, "yeah, listen, we need to get somebody there straightaway. And there are all sorts of problems with American visas. We need a fluent English speaker to write the piece. You're Irish. We can get you a visa so much easier."


Eden Dawn  08:16

Can you speak Spanish?


Fiona McCann  08:18

Can I speak Spanish? Can you go to Cuba? And I thought, "I think I can go cover the biggest news story ever in the history of the world, on my own go to Cuba". And I think they were gonna send the cameraman with me or something like that.


Eden Dawn  08:35

I cannot believe you've never told me this story. How could I now know it.


Fiona McCann  08:38

It was so exciting. I was like, "Yep, I am ready to go, say the word, I'll pack my bags." And so it was all very complicated. And I was waiting and waiting. And I had like pictures of myself walking in the streets of Havana, chatting to people in my flip flops, but also a reporter and also had this, this was going to be the big news break of my career and I would be covering. I was like, "I'm gonna be on all the tellies everywhere across the world." That'd be like, "Fiona McCann, coming to you from Havana where Fidel Castro has just died. He's right here beside me". I really was picturing it. Anyway


Eden Dawn  09:15

Fiona got the deathbed interview for reasons unknown but she managed to do it.


Fiona McCann  09:20

For reasons unclear, all of the press would have photos of his corpse and then me standing beside bloody years  on Fidel. I don't know. I just, I was pretty, I was so excited. It was such a big story, really, was such a big story and it was going to be such a big deal.


Eden Dawn  09:34



Fiona  09:36

Fidel got better.


Fiona McCann  09:43

He didn't die.


Eden Dawn  09:45

Did you go? Oh no.


Fiona McCann  09:50

I was like so close back to your scripts, but he's not. He's gonna pull through. Never forgiven him for that.


Eden Dawn  10:03

I think this is all a great segway into now Derrick's interview, where he tells us quite a bit about times when he thought his career was gonna go places that didn't and what it looks like now.


Fiona McCann  10:15

Yeah, sometimes people just don't die on you.


Eden Dawn  10:18

Words to live by.


Derrick Brown  10:20

Is there a way to reinforce the phrase "former Christian?"


Eden Dawn  10:22

Former Christian magician


Derrick Brown  10:26

 Teen. Teenage magician.


Fiona McCann  10:28

Teenage? No, that's the best part of your bio honestly.


Eden Dawn  10:31

Teenage Christian, wait, is that that's maybe a show we shouldn't be watching.


Fiona  10:35

What's a Christian magician do? Do they turn water into wine? What's the vibe? Do you, do you walk on water? Do you do make people pregnant without touching them? What's the?


Derrick Brown  10:46

You make grief vanish.


Eden Dawn  10:49



Fiona McCann  10:49

You you can erase my sins. You know what I'm saying?


Eden Dawn  10:54

Oh, he's doing magician hands and magician eyebrows.


Derrick Brown  10:57

We make the truth appear.


Eden Dawn  10:59



Fiona McCann  10:59

I have so many questions about this paratrooper Parsh and all of the Christian magician, obviously. But I'm really, I think most excited about the Write Bloody publishing because, since we've spoken, I feel like I've seen a bunch of people who were published there and I'm like, "you're doing the Lord's work there, to bring it back to Christianity."


Eden Dawn  11:21

Maybe this is what we meant by former Christian magician.


Derrick Brown  11:23

What is this podcast?


Fiona McCann  11:26

All I want to say is praise me and alleluia. No, but I.


Derrick Brown  11:30

Convertion path.


Fiona McCann  11:32

I do love that you are an independent poetry publishing house, which is just something we all need and we need more of and I really appreciate that. That's something you're putting out in the world chapter.


Eden Dawn  11:46

Good job Derrick. We'd like to start off the podcast by saying, "Good job Derrick."


Derrick Brown  11:49

I can get a three good attaboys!


Fiona McCann  11:52

That's why we called shit so much because now the rest of


Eden Dawn  11:56

We're gonna break you down for a little bit.


Derrick Brown  11:58

ADP people come up to the right political booth and sa, "What is this press all about?" And I was like, "Can't wait to tell you. We look for gut punch poetry. And then all of our authors have to tour like a band and its mandate in the contract that they do 20 dates to build a fan base. And a lot of authors are like, "I'm just a writer. I don't like people". I'm like, "but there's a niche kind of person that loves writing and then loves sharing their work with the public in a way that doesn't make them feel awkward when they're on stage."


Eden Dawn  12:27

Did you


Fiona McCann  12:28

Have all of those people here?


Eden Dawn  12:30

Yeah, we do. Do you? Did you have somebody that you looked to that had this style of career when you started doing it?


Derrick Brown  12:37

Yeah. So it was 9495 and I was writing. When I got out of the Army, I was writing little lines. I didn't know it was poetry. Someone asked me, my friend usually lives here, asked me to share it at a coffee shop. And I was like, "Why? Why would you share stuff in front of people?",  "Like it'll be fun. It'll be like a little talent show." And it was nerve wracking and went okay, but all my stuff was a little funny. And then Jeffrey McDaniel is a writer from Philly. Former hardcore drug addict, like cleaned up his own life moved away from the drug culture, and I met him in LA. And he had a line that said, "In some of the world, gigantic seashells hold humans up to their ears. But all they hear are the echoes of machines." And I went, "Oh my god. You did that thing?" You lured me in with humor, and then you jacked me up with some power. I would like to learn this trick. And he's like, "Ah, okay, well, maybe we can meet up and talk about it." So he wouldn't trust me at first.


Fiona  13:44

That was his trick. Hello?


Derrick Brown  13:46

Yeah. And then he was so giving and cool. And, like, looked at my work and said, "You're hiding. You're trying to be clever, but you're not saying the hard thing in your work. What do you what are you afraid of?" And I was like, "Oh, I don't want to go there." Yeah, and he helped me go there. And it was, it was life changing.


Fiona McCann  14:06

Wow, what was his name again? Tell me his name again.


Fiona  14:08

Jeffrey McDaniel, the author of Thin Ice Olympics, The Forgiveness Parade and Holiday in the Islands of Grief.


Fiona McCann  14:16

Well thank you, Jeffrey. You did great work.


Eden Dawn  14:20

It is so interesting, because from the first time I've seen you form, made poetry very accessible in a way that I have never felt poetry. Some I've seen a form it made poetry very accessible in a way that I have never felt poetry, has felt exclusive to me growing up in a world that I didn't belong in. Even though I admired it, but also it was just the thing I didn't get and then seeing you and Mindy Nettifee, Anais, and all of a sudden I was like, "oh shit, it can be really fun and powerful and punch you in the gut", and kind of like a party in a way I did not know.


Derrick Brown  15:00

Yeah. It was in the 90s early 2000s, there was these two groups for me. One were like becoming spoken word artists. They were like actors, right? They were like, it doesn't really matter what they're writing as much because the presentation is so powerful. They're like awesome monologues but couldn't really grasp it as poetry. It was just like, powerful spoken word performance dah dah dah. And then obviously they meet someone like Anise who has this poem, Shake the Dust, which is like, kind of performances, but you could tell, "I would read this over and over again". Mindy does the same thing, Mindy Nettifee. And so I was like, I want to find those Anais's and Mindy's in the world. Let all the spoken word people do their thing. But I want to find the people who like both of those things, because when it's written well on the page, it feels eternal. And then it's a little bit of icing if they can share it well out loud. But sometimes when I hear spoken word stuff, I'm not like edified. I'm like you're good and talented, but it's not going to stick with me because it feels easy. And I love the complexity when there's imagery and metaphor and simile hidden inside someone's work. And I'm like, That's not prose. That's not a monologue. That's clearly the power of poetry in there. And it put its hooks in.


Fiona McCann  16:24

I mean, it's also so much poetry. I think, you know, if it's really good, there is sort of a sonic quality to it, right? Where it's not just some poetry works beautifully on the page and all the best poetry does. But then to hear it spoken out loud, you hear rhythms and the music of it that you don't necessarily get when you're, you know, reading it on the page. And to hear it for me, to hear it delivered by the poet themselves, where I know where they paused, where they don't pause, why you start to see like, why are these words together in a row? Oh, because it listen to that sort of music in them and listen to this sonic landscape as well as the sort of visual that you might create from that or the emotional gut punch.


Derrick Brown  17:04

Yeah. The sonic thing matters a lot and especially, there's a strange thing where people would don't like, don't often criticize each other. You know, it's like, we're in a smaller group. We're not making a lot of money. Let's just uplift each other and I think causes weaker poetry. The sonic presentation matters a lot, especially for building an audience. If you say a line like, "everything I ever wished for, locked in winter frozen under the lake". Yeah, someone will be like, "Oh, it's sounding like poetry. I think that's how poetry supposed to sound. And it makes me want to barf". I'm like, "Oh, that sort of bebop jazz thing that was like 50s beat. Sounds like it's trying. It sounds too good wishes it was that...


Eden Dawn  17:48

All I can think about is the beginning of "So I Married an Axe Murderer."


Derrick Brown  17:51

Right, right.  It sounds like a cartoon of what the thing can be. But when you say when you talk like a person you say, "everything I ever wanted, frozen under the lake locked in winter." I'm like, "Fuck! What is going on?" It's like the economy of language. You know, someone said like poetry is best words in the best order. And I'm like whoever works hard on their work and crafts a line, it hits me 10 times harder than a novel, you know, and it's like a condensed movie.


Fiona McCann  18:29

I'm so glad you said that. First one was crap because I was like, "Oh no, that's his thing?"


Derrick Brown  18:37

What? Our dreams locked.


Fiona McCann  18:40

My God.


Derrick Brown  18:41

Why time measured by crime?


Fiona McCann  18:45

You're good at that. You're good at that.


Eden Dawn  18:47

So we are very happy to get you. We snagged you right in between when you were leaving book, publishing extravaganza AWP and Seattle on your way back to LA or your book launch. We got 36 hours in Portland, where last night you and I did a storytelling event together.


Derrick Brown  19:07

We competed against each other.


Eden Dawn  19:08

Guess who won?


Fiona McCann  19:10

Eden Dawn?


Eden Dawn  19:11

Oh, Derrick won.


Fiona McCann  19:12

I always say Eden Dawn.


Eden Dawn  19:13

Thank you. But I was runner up and I was very proud to be runner up because that was a kick ass storyteller.


Derrick Brown  19:20

Oh, race here all the time. Yeah.


Fiona McCann  19:22

Yeah, but good for you Derrick. You beat Eden Dawn. That's the deal.


Derrick Brown  19:26

Not easy. Queen of this town.


Fiona McCann  19:28

She's queen of this town.


Eden Dawn  19:29

Now, thank you, Miranda don't cut this. Leave all of that.


Fiona McCann  19:33

In fact, this needs to go on the website.


Eden Dawn  19:35

Yeah, maybe just pull a clip out. But we got you for two seconds and I'm so excited because I want to hear and talk about the new book coming out: Love Ends in a Tandem Kayak.


Fiona McCann  19:51

For those who don't know what a tandem kayak is, can you reexplain?


Eden Dawn  19:55

Because Fionna did not know what tandem kayak.


Derrick Brown  19:59

Kayaks, like well, its like to canoe for two, usually plastic. Usually with no sides if you rent them for the ocean so that the water can come in and go out easily. And you can either take one out all by yourself and your partner can take one out by themselves. Or you can rent one where you're both in it like a tandem bicycle. And then argue about how bad the other person is at paddling the whole time.


Fiona McCann  20:28

I think you speak from experience Derrick. That's what a tandem canoes is people and stay away from them apparently if you want your relationship to last.


Derrick Brown  20:39

If you're trying to kill it, just get it.


Fiona McCann  20:42

Get it. Like, "Babe it's it's time we got a tattoo."


Eden Dawn  20:46

As someone who has tandem kayaks and stayed in love, I feel like, I don't want to brag, but I'm just saying maybe the kayak helped.. a situational...


Derrick Brown  20:58

It is the ultimate test of cerebral fitness. You should get a tandem kayak.


Eden Dawn  21:05

So tell us about the book. Give us the breakdown of it.


Derrick Brown  21:10

Yeah. So before Portland, I was living in Long Beach, California, and I was rolling a lot of gondolas and I would come home rolling gondolas as a job. Singing to people in batallionand all that stuff. Yeah. I love the sea. And I was writing like memories, just what poetry books usually are. Then I went through this incredible ending to an engagement when I moved here and lived here in Portland. And it was kind of a downhearted time. And everything I wrote was just sorrow. It was very strange. They're powerful but strange.


Fiona McCann  21:54

Sorrow can make amazing art.


Derrick Brown  21:55

Yeah, but you know, no one wants, I don't like to wallow in it. And I want to say like that's, that's a terrible way to live. And it's a temporary thing, and it's hard to remember it but it is. And I tried something new where I, the following year start to say yes to a lot of stuff I normally wouldn't and I went on these road trips alone and just camped along rivers with no plan and it was magical and it was reinvigorating, and then something happened. Like eight months later, where like I came out of a cocoon and all this good stuff started to happen. So an editor helped me break the chapter into three chapters of memories that build to I was going to the bottom, in like, naked examination of sorrow and then the third chapter is a chasing of joy and humor. So it's a, it's a funny book. A grief... A grief, sad book and then a nostalgic book, too.


Eden Dawn  23:06

It's your Eat, Pray Laugh.


Derrick Brown  23:09

If I can eat memories, pray in the sorrow, and then love joy, I think that's it.


Eden Dawn  23:16

I mean, let's get you to Italy and the meeting with Julia Roberts.


Derrick Brown  23:19

Thank you. Yeah.


Eden Dawn  23:20

That's what's coming next. Julia Roberts can play you in the movie.


Derrick Brown  23:23

You could see her rolling a gondola in thigh high boots.


Eden Dawn  23:26

I do think what you said is important in, you don't like to wallow, but you have to feel your feelings. And after a big breakup, a significant life breakup where you think your life is gonna go one way with a person and then you do a direct pivot, there is a time that is important to grieve not only for that relationship, but for the change in your life, from your expectation of where you think you're gonna go and everything going different. And you feel, you feel as if the bottom drops out from you a little bit. Even if you're the person who does the breaking up, or if you're the person who gets vote, whatever the situation, regardless, it's just you're like, "oh shit, all these thoughts I had are not happening". But, if you can push through that, then the opportunity, this special moment arises, unlike any other time in your life where you're like, "I'm alone. I have no path right now",  and I feel like you can either choose to let it ruin you. Or you can do what you did, which is like or fuck it, let's just say yes to everything and go out there and start doing stuff.


Fiona McCann  24:31

And figure it all out.


Eden Dawn  24:32

And then you have this wild year where every time I look on social media, Instagram was just like, "Derrick's doing something fun today. What are you doing, bitch?" I'm like, "I'm doing stuff, too".


Derrick Brown  24:43

You're doing a lie. You got a new book. I feel like, you know, you develop skills as you grow older, whether you become a better cook or a better communicator. Honest bounce back is a skill, too, where, you know, bouncing back, you can fake your way through it and smile, but you're actually sad inside and fake it till you make it. That having remembering the life is blip. And that there is, there are skills to learn about how to remember how to be as a person after the rug has been pulled out, you know. It's very hard and it's a necessary skill, you know, especially if you could convey this to teenage lovers, you know, being like, "hey, this will probably fall apart and feel it and then know that like there's daylight around the corner and you are in charge of how quickly you get to that daylight, but you can't rush it", which is a great reminder. And a great reminder that the rug can get pulled out of anything at any time. And those sorts of sorrows and lessons are so valuable. You can see him as like I got flipped over or you can be like, I am learning something and I can't see what it is yet. And only after some time will I spot it.


Fiona McCann  26:08

Yeah, so true.


Eden Dawn  26:09

If only someone had been there to tell the Montagues and Capulets.


Fiona McCann  26:13

It's gonna be okay guys. I do rememeber, I remember when I my first terrible heartbreak, you know the one that like you can't eat, you can't sleep, too. I couldn't even drink it was like crazy intense. I couldn't, like my hair went straight. I think I told you that before. Like, I have curly hair. My hair went straight was like a terrible heartbreak. But I remember a friend came over and she sat there and she told me this very long, rambling story about this friend of hers who is beautiful and all the guys love her. And she's just the kind of girl who everybody wants to be with and I was like, "this story is not helping. Thank you for this story. Why? are we hearing about your lovely friend, Jane?" And she said, "well, because my brother at one stage was like the only guy who had never fallen in love with her and he had known her so well. And I once asked him, 'like how come you don't fall in love with Jane?' And he said, well, she's never had her heartbroken." As if like having your heart broken is a quality to look for in somebody and that really, I mean, at the time I was like, whatever I hate Jane or what have you Jane I don't know. And then afterwards I was like, that's really fair. Like I feel like having your heart broken is something that in the end makes you a fuller person.


Eden Dawn  27:27

For real. It does give you a level of empathy for people forever after that when you see someone going through heartbreak and you've been through it. You're like, "oh, yeah, I know. I know this moment you're in I know you can't eat you can't drink you're not sure what you're doing." I guess that makes us better humans.


Fiona McCann  27:45

You know, you can't control everything. Sometimes something will happen that'll just, I think before that, or you can get cocky sometimes in your relationships where you're like, it's kind of on me whether this lives or dies or whatever. But then when it happens the other way around, it is a real reminder that like something can change in a dime. You don't have control over everything. And it will may be devastating. But it'll be okay.


Eden Dawn  28:09

And so you were writing in real time. Everything is new in the book from when the breakup happened.


Derrick Brown  28:15

No, some of those were before when I was in it and it was like a dangling, hanging on by a thread kind of relationship.  But I was writing like a lot of memories to try to dig into myself at the time and then when it fell apart during the Portland days, then the sorrow chapter began. And then during that road trip, I brought a journal with me on my motorcycle and went to like an alien. An alien abduction festival in Terlingua, Texas because someone's like, "Do you want to check this out?, I was like, "Oh it's gonna be way too cold in February the motorcycle out there and I don't know where I'm gonna stay and yes, I'll be there. I'll be there in a couple of days."


Fiona McCann  28:55

I love that.


Derrick Brown  28:56

And I was like, "Let's just see". It was windy,  it was adventure time for sure. It's very hard to pull off that road trip. And I was like, well, I said yes, I gotta do it. Yeah, two things that popped in my mind. One is I hope the subtitle of this podcast is heartbreak will straighten your hair.


Eden Dawn  29:16

Yes, I think we can make it happen. I think we can make it happen.


Derrick Brown  29:19

And the other thing is that, I forgot to bring up something useful, which was my friend Briana Kalish, who's a clown. She's like a stilts person and a balance on bottles person, came to me like a friend. You know, how you said empathy comes after you've seen someone. She was like "Hey, there's something I need to tell you that as this year ends, you need to try something that I do at the end of the every year", which is I get out three pieces of paper. And I go through my Instagram starting from January 1st. Or I just go through my photos and I like type in January 1st till December 31st. And as I scroll through there, every photo I write down anything pops in my mind. And I either plop the memory on two good fields, that fields. And she goes through the whole year and loads up those pieces of paper with every memory that comes from flipping through that photo album. And then I was like, "What's the third paper for?", and she was like, "Goals. You just write down things after you see all that stuff. What you imagine the next year will be like not like huge I'm going to be a millionaire like really attainable things. The morning, have New Years, burn all the bad fields. And then you put up on a bulletin board all the good fields. Remember like, that next year when you make the list, see if the good fields list can be longer than the bad fields and I was like, "Oh my. God damn it"


Eden Dawn  30:46

I love that.  I've been doing that for two years.


Fiona McCann  30:49

That's amazing. Brianna's a genius, Brianna, by the way, if anyone else thinks this is somehow marketable, she's the one, go back to her. But one of the things I was interested to see, you kind of approached a moment in your life, everything went terrible for a second and then you...


Derrick Brown  31:06

Beyond just relationship, like everything was terrible. Oh, like...


Fiona McCann  31:10

What year was this?


Derrick Brown  31:12

2021 October.


Fiona McCann  31:16

And that was not a good year.


Derrick Brown  31:18

We're still in pandemic funds.


Fiona McCann  31:20

But you, because when I think of the timeline of that, that you went through a devastating break up in the middle of you know, what was kind of the worst year in the world. Or it felt like it for us, at least in our lifetime. I know everyone's had worse years, but like that was a terrible time. Plus you had a breakup. I just feel for you.


Eden Dawn  31:40

And also October at Portland. I love my city I'm very proud of my city at the beginning of an alternate beginning of October is beautiful here but like once Halloween hits, along with it comes the realization that the grayness has begun.


Derrick Brown  31:54

I left on Halloween night.


Fiona McCann  31:56

I do not blame you.


Eden Dawn  31:58

That was good for your mental health.


Fiona McCann  31:59

That's true. That year was desperate.


Eden Dawn  32:02

Because right, now we're in that bit where we're like, just give us a little moment just


Fiona McCann  32:08

Even just like a slight brightness would be fine.


Eden Dawn  32:11

Just two seconds of it and if it hits 58 degrees this week, every Portlander we'll be outside in a tank top and shorts shorts laying in the sun. That's what we need.


Derrick Brown  32:21

Are you guys on the D pills? Vitamin D pills?


Eden Dawn  32:25

Oh D pills? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I think so deep hills, which I was like, "Yeah, I know that lingo".


Fiona McCann  32:29

I mean, sometimes I give my kids gummies in that times? Sure. Sure. Um, but so that was a moment where everything was terrible. And then somehow out of it, you've made a book, you're in the middle of a record, right?


Derrick Brown  32:44

Yeah. I've been, in 2009, a neat thing happened where David Cross saw me do a poetry show in Brooklyn. At the time he was dating Amber Tamblyn, my friend and Ambrose like, "Brought him to a photo show." And he said, "I don't know if I could be with this woman. I think I hate poetry. This is the most boring, annoying self serving show I've ever seen in my life". And then she was, "I'm only taking one more, let me take it one more". She brought him to my show. And I do some humor and some heavy and he was like, "That was great. You should do the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival with me. I think it's going to be Animal Collective, Flamed Lips, Reggie Watts, a bunch of.." And I was like, "What? What do you want me to do?" And he's like, "Just to do the comedy stage to me." And I was like, "Oh, shoot. I don't really do much stand up comedy like twice." He's like, "That'd be great." And so I shaped my set to be half funny-half pretty. And it went great. And I was like,


Fiona McCann  33:53

Just to be clear, you can be funny. I'm pretty sure. Just want to put that out.


Eden Dawn  33:56

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for looking me directly in the eye when you said it.


Fiona McCann  34:02

I just wanted to get it in the record once.


Derrick Brown  34:05

Julia Roberts.


Fiona McCann  34:07

Go on Derrick. Sorry to interrupt, but that was very important public announcement. 


Derrick Brown  34:13

So that changed my life and I was like, "Okay, I'm going to do some comedy shows, and maybe sneak in a little piece of a poem. And then I'm going to do poetry shows and maybe do a couple of setups that sound like stories from the comedy set." And I've been blending it for years and then went on tour with Eugene Mirman. He's like, "This would be great to open up for me doing the thing you're doing". And we did a show in Boston last year and it went great. And then they hit me up, Pretty Good Friends Records said, "We gotta do Sub Pop to be the comedy arm of Sub Pop. We want you to do a comedy record". And I was like, "Hell yeah, let's try."


Fiona McCann  34:51



Derrick Brown  34:52

So I booked comedy shows now and sneaking a little poetry. And it's been hard to be honest because anytime someone hears like, "Oh, he's a poet? Is he going to come to our comedy show and do a bunch of annoying ass poetry?". I'm like, "Please let me give it a shot. It will not be annoying".  So I've been on like, a campaign to convince people that poetry doesn't have to be annoying. And Eugene Mirman was one who said, "Just keep telling people that you're a poet who does comedy, and it'll be, it'll be interesting some day to bring you into comedy festival as a unique sort of thing. But it'll be a war for a long time." So I feel like this record will help in that campaign.


Eden Dawn  35:34

It's a good thing you're a former soldier. You have...


Derrick Brown  35:39

I will hang in there, Sir.


Fiona McCann  35:41

You got this.


Eden Dawn  35:43

Picture you saluting Eugene Mirman.


Derrick Brown  35:46

I've been beat up by battle Sir. Nobody wanted me for years.


Eden Dawn  35:51

I love that Sub Pop has that comedy arm. I remember seeing Flight of the Conchords for Sub Pop like a, 20th anniversary,  10th anniversary, I can't remember. Anyways, I was just so entertained that there's record label that if you grew up in the Pacific Northwest, just means so much, right? Like Sub Pop growing up here was the, just like the beacon of cool for a record label. And then they started adding comedy to it. I was like, "What can't these guys do?"


Fiona McCann  36:16

I mean, they really are here now. The people are cool there 'coz they're Sub Pop.


Eden Dawn  36:19

You're funny, pretty and you're cool. Get out of our room.


Fiona McCann  36:23

It's true. So that was a story in a way about a moment in your life where everything was like really kind of looked like it was on a downward trajectory. And yet somehow, that life changing moment ended up being on an upswing. Was there ever a time in your life when the opposite happened?


Derrick Brown  36:40

Oh yeah. There's there's been many times in my life where I have thought that, because this good thing was happening everything and after that was going to be good. I was gonna blow up. Maybe the goal is to get on TV. Maybe the goal is to open up for a big band and then get 10s of 1000s of fans or whatever. So I get this gig opening for Cold War Kids. When they're out for some, it was blowing up. The venues were like 500 1000 seaters. It was so intimidating and fun. And then after we did that tour, they're like, "Hey, we're going to be on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Would you open up for us as we start a song?" I was like, "Oh my God. Yes. This is this is it".


Eden Dawn  37:24

And you're doing poetry and comedy opening for the show?


Derrick Brown  37:28

Yeah, yeah. So I kind of had to learn how to be an asshole when I went on stage. A relatable asshole to try and get everyone on my side and quiet down a little bit. And I was like, "Alright, shut up assholes. I've got some solid gold for you. This isn't a fucking privatized concert". And then some people laugh, so some people get focused and come in closer. And the people are, "I don't give a shit", and then they go to the back and that was good for me. But...


Eden Dawn  38:03

And then bright eye is in the audience like, "Why you went against me?"


Derrick Brown  38:07

I was like, actually, this would be a perfect combination, Sir. If I would open up for your tenderoni audience please. But anyways, so the tonight show happens. I get there and like, "Hey. Slight change of plans. We're just going to have you type your poems on a typewriter and we'll project it behind the band". And I'm like, "Great, great".  And then like about an hour, an hour later, they're like, "Hey, slight change of plans. The censors are worried that you might accidentally type a dirty word or something. And if it's taken the whole screen,  we can't have nothing, we don't have anything to cut to. So slight change. And then we're just going to put an easel with some paper behind the piano and have you back there, writing the poem with a marker." So I'm on TV, pretty much my back to the cameras, for my first time. Of course when my bio like, "You may have seen him on The Tonight Show". Never it's like, "I've looked up on YouTube. I don't see this clip anywhere else." I was like, "They might have taken it down."


Eden Dawn  39:12

You're like, "See that ass?. You recognize that ass? That's my ass."


Derrick Brown  39:15

My hand moving quickly. You can't really read them writing because I couldn't wait to that. And then I was taking the papers. I was clubbing. I'm throwing them at the band, like a weirdo, like, kind of bummed. And afterwards, we come off the stage and Jessica Alba was one of the guests. She pulls the bassist and I aside and she goes,  "I have to tell you I've done some really tough movies this year and it's been a really rough year for me but your album really is pulled me. I'd listen to my trailer all the time. It's really lifted me up when I needed the most". I was like, "Oh my God."


Fiona McCann  39:47

You're welcome.


Derrick Brown  39:49

"You're so welcome. Thank you for saying. It's my honor that you listen to us. Can I take up...


Fiona McCann  39:56

We worked hard on that.


Derrick Brown  39:57

prom picture with you?" I still have this picture of us posing together backstage, never telling her that I was not in the band. I was just a guy with my back to the piece of paper but I did think that everything was going to change. I was like, I'm probably going to be on a bunch of late night shows. After that. I'm just going to apply and say you might have seen me on nothing, nothing blew up.


Eden Dawn  40:20

You might be hung on the wall and just how not that you need to know with a little sign underneath. It was like hold or kiss and me.


Derrick Brown  40:29

But hit her up say, "Did you feel a thing? I know your mom, you're married and all that but I felt a thing.


Fiona McCann  40:35

You felt that right? But what was a great lesson was that that's happened when I've opened up for Rival Sons or Afghan Whigs, which I ended up opening up for. That was really cool. That I thought everything was gonna change and was the love of the lesson that like, I just need to enjoy what I get and be like, super grateful. And not waiting for it to kind of, yeah, to turn into something. Because when you set up the expectations so high, and then you're like better bang I'm gonna be the one first ever famous poet.


Derrick Brown  41:06

And this is the thing, this will be the key that unlocks at all. Maybe not, maybe not. Maybe she just enjoyed what you love deep down her gut which is writing.


Eden Dawn  41:14

But I like that you opened for, I just feel like it's such an unusual, although Cold War Kids especially makes sense because that pan feels very like almost spoken wordy especially that first record. But in general, I like don't picture you just because I don't know rock fans are unpredictable.


Derrick Brown  41:31

Yeah For example, opening up for Rival Sons, I remember I told them as like, "You guys are kind of like, you guys just opened up for Black Sabbath. Do you think my fans..


Eden Dawn  41:47

Will be your fans?


Derrick Brown  41:48

"Do you think your fans will like my work?"


Fiona McCann  41:51

Do we have an overlap here?


Derrick Brown  41:53

And they're like, "I don't know. But we like it and we want you to do it and we'll pay you this much". And I was like, "I'll try". They're like,  "Great. You have to come on the road for us for a month". So I agree. And like the first five shows go great. And we're in Europe, and then in Frankfurt. I'm like, "Hello. I'm going to share a couple of poems with you tonight for my new book how the body works the dark." This pint glass comes up my head and I ninja out of the way as the pint glass hits the drum riser behind me. And then the lead singer would watch my set sometimes. He's a wonderful dude that I love named Jay Buchanan. And he comes out he's like, "Hey, everyone, chill the fuck out", and everyone claps for him and stuff. And then he sits on the drum riser so no more pint glasses on my face while I finished. I was like, "You should go". And he's like, "Keep doing your set.". I was like, "They don't like it. They want rock and roll. This is not rock and roll". He's like, "Do it. Keep going. Keep going". It's like this next polling is about my dad. I just, it was very hard but he's like, "Power through, power through." And I just stayed up there and kept going. I was like, trying to look glance at the book and look out there and see what was coming at me. And it was hard and it was it was a great lesson to like just try and see if you can make it through.


Fiona McCann  43:15

Well, Derrick so you have an album coming out, a book out in the world. When can we get our hands on either or?


Derrick Brown  43:21

March 24th, the book comes out in About BookAnywhere, Love Ends in a Tandem Kayak. I wrote on a film that's supposed to come out I think this winter? It's called The Gorge with Miles Teller, Anya Taylor Joy and Sigourney Weaver. And then..


Fiona McCann  43:37

Who's that third one? Sorry?


Eden Dawn  43:40

Sigourney Weaver.


Fiona McCann  43:41

Oh, yeah, that rings a bell.


Derrick Brown  43:44

And then the record records May 9th and 10th. I'm not sure when it comes out.


Fiona McCann  43:50

Wow. Okay. You've been kind of busy. It turns out breakups are good for you Derrick,


Derrick Brown  43:55

I want more.


Fiona McCann  43:56

More breakups please. We heard it all here.


Eden Dawn  43:59

Dump you right now. We're breaking up with you or breaking up with radar.


Fiona McCann  44:04

So grateful to you for joining us. Thank you so much.


Derrick Brown  44:07

This does feel like a breakup what you're saying right now. Like this podcast.


Fiona McCann  44:11

Like, if it's not you. It's us.


Eden Dawn  44:13

I feel like Fiona needs to declare but she was being sarcastic and does know Sigourney Weaver. I don't think it came across. She was very excited for you.


Derrick Brown  44:23

Like she thought she was some kind of Aliens.


Fiona McCann  44:25

I could see. I was like, "Did y'all just get that? Sigourney Weaver like massive big deal and even was looking at me like. I can never tell what Lee in fairness but I do actually know who she was. I just wanted to really underscore that point because it seems like a big deal. Anyway, thank you Derrick for coming in and allowing us to break up with you. Derrick's website is You can follow him on Instagram @EricBrownpoetry and snap up one of his many books. And that's it from We Can't Print This for today. See more information about episodes that wecantprint Follow us on all the socials @wecantprintthis and stay away from boats,  as what I would I


Eden Dawn  45:09

Thank you to our producer Miranda Shafer and to our friend Dave Depper for our music. This podcast was recorded at the Writer's Block in Downtown Portland. And a big thank you to our third officemate, Rachel Ritchie for making us Old Fashioneds and copy editing all of our stuff for free.


Fiona McCann  45:26

Yes, and if you're a writer with a great behind the story story, please write to us at And just so you know we are not sponsored or backed by anybody as of yet so you can always send us your love with dollarsigns


Eden Dawn  45:43

Did you sell enough? Good job girl.


Derrick Brown  45:46

And thank you to the six people out there who got my Sigourney Weaver Aliens reference.


Eden Dawn  45:52

That's nice. We have a lot of niche jokes here. Not that aliens is a niche joke but I'm just saying. Maybe willing six people listening to anything. Let's cut this off and go finish our wines.


Fiona McCann  46:03

Okay, we're done.


Eden Dawn  46:04

I didn't get this accordingly. She started alien. It's what she's probably most famous for, like "Did he say it's okay?" We'll tell you offline. Okay. Bye.

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