Introducing Derrick Brown, Poetry Faculty

In what ways does the concept of convergence play a role in your writing life &/or writing process?

Convergence has played a significant role in my life. From the time I could form words, write my name, and then finally convey feeling, emotion and consciousness both on the stage and page, there was always a type of dual conversation occurring between my own natural voice and the voices of others that have shaped the writer that I am today. Every time I read a poem, listen to music, or otherwise engage with others, I’m always mindful the influences, the mentors, the teachers and influences that sit just underneath.

In the African-American tradition, acknowledging those who’ve come before you, be they actual blood ancestors or artistic ancestors, is a very important and sacred act. Although I have strived to make sure my writing voice is uniquely my own, I make it a point to deliberately acknowledge the artists whose work has influenced or rather is the foundation on which my own voice sits.

Whether we writers acknowledge it or not our own voices converge with the voices of writers past. Conversations started generations ago through oral tradition continue on. If you look closely, if you know where to look, you’ll notice great works of Fiction, Poetry, Prose, and Theatre that speak to one another, whether through subject matter or timely events, these separate voices join together to create a chord of ideas, a new tune both familiar and yet complex.

One of the best suggestions my mentor, the poet Dr. Tony Medina, shared with me, as I was assembling the poems that would eventually become the manuscript that became my debut book, was that I should arrange the poems by the ways in which they spoke to each other. And so I did. I utilized the tradition of call and response, purposefully bringing together poems that may not have visually or mechanically seemed to match, but their voices surely did. Convergence in conversation is an amazing thing. So now, in the tradition of acknowledging the past, I offer you the same advice offered me. Bring your voice, I’ll add mine. Let’s create a brand new chord.

Derrick Weston Brown, a native of Charlotte, NC, holds an MFA in creative writing from American University. A graduate of the Cave Canem and VONA Voices summer workshops, his work has appeared in The Little Patuxent Review, Mythium, The Tidal Basin Review, and Vinyl online. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012, he worked as a bookseller and book buyer for a bookstore which is operated by the nonprofit Teaching for Change. He founded The Nine on the Ninth, a ten-year-old monthly poetry series at the 14th & V street location of Busboys and Poets. He’s performed at The Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe and the Bowery, and appeared on Al-Jazeera and NPR. His debut collection of poetry, Wisdom Teeth, was released in April 2011 on Busboys and Poets Press/PM Press.