Derrick Brown will probably want to put his Chong in your Cheech—but he'll mean that in the best way possible. He'll be talking about love. Also: music, and French-kissing ham sandwiches. And he might play the xylophone with his eyes shut.
The poet/musician (formerly John Wilkes Kissing Booth and Glockundspiel, currently All Black Cinema) is trucking in from Nashville, Tennessee, to Long Beach for a one-night-only declaration-of-love love fest at Open Bookstore. Yes, Tennessee. Venues have changed for the doe-eyed poet who once worked as a gondolier in the Naples area of Long Beach—but his singular weirdness survives intact.
Brown continues to find inspiration in animals bludgeoned in the road; in courageous, bloated women; blood that is bright; and guitar strings. Hot kissing. The downhearted. Empty buildings. The sound of machines. Fireworks lit by hand. He leaves your head zinging. His children's book, Hot Hands and Ralph in the Weirdo Winter, is an ode to a friend's giving birth—and we know it must be strange.
Brown's litany of language wakes you—even if you're already awake—with a naked honesty and an ability to make you as vulnerable as he. Just his book titles make you smile: If Lovin' You Is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Wrong, Born in the Year of the Butterfly Knife and I'm Easier Said Than Done. And he claims to leave wit to the British.
Which may be because wit was to blame for his Dating Game ousting: humiliation in the face of Chuck Woolery. When the bachelorette asked, "You've been shrunken and are 2 feet tall, why are you happy?" he replied, "First of all, lady, I'm not happy because I cannot get on a lot of roller coasters now, and all my shorts have become pants, but I can finally kiss you in the shins." He lost. But the poetry world won.
"The world for traveling poets is open," Brown says, "and it is a raw world."
Marc Smith, founder of the National Poetry Slam, says Brown is one of the top five poets in America; others compare him to witticist David Sedaris. Author Aimee Bender says Brown will get in your head and rearrange your slang. Your slang could use it.
DERRICK BROWN AT OPEN BOOKSTORE, 144 LINDEN AVE., LONG BEACH, (562) 499-OPEN; WWW.BROWNPOETRY.COM. FRI., 8:30 P.M. CALL FOR COVER.