Erika Jo Brown

About Erika Jo Brown

Originally from New York, Erika Jo Brown is the author of I’m Your Huckleberry (Brooklyn Arts Press). She's currently a PhD candidate at the University of Houston, where she serves as an assistant poetry editor for Gulf Coast.

10 Year’s Young: Glass Mountain Celebrates Its Anniversary and New Boldface Conference Line-Up

March 16, 2017, by

IMG_3594Glass Mountain magazine is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The upcoming issue, which will be released at a launch party on April 19, is a landmark event for this undergraduate literary publication. The journal’s name is inspired by a story from local legend Donald Barthelme.

Glass Mountain’s staff and editors in fiction, art, reviews, nonfiction, and poetry are all undergraduate students at UH, who receive submissions from the local community and internationally.  Singular in its mission, it exists exclusively for writers who do *not* have an MFA or other higher degree in creative writing.

The team runs a popular monthly reading series and open mic at Bohemeo’s. They also produce the weeklong Boldface Conference for Emerging Writers that will run May 22-26. The conference includes twice-daily workshops, craft talks, readings, panels, and the chance for private manuscript consultations with visiting writers—Bill Broun in fiction, Leah Lax in nonfiction, and Hayan Charara in poetry. The conference is open to everyone. Please note that discounted early bird registration ends on March 22, regular registration is available through May. Continue reading

Poet Sharon Olds made it back to Houston this fall

December 15, 2016, by

up right IMG_7651As 2016 comes to close, Inprint marvels at all the wonderful literary events that took place over the fall months. In November, Brazos Bookstore hosted a reading by poet Sharon Olds.

Olds was scheduled to appear in the 2015/2016 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series with poet and University of Houston Creative Writing Program faculty member Tony Hoagland. Due to the Tax Day Flood in April, the reading had to be cancelled. A video was made that day during a break in the rain, featuring a reading and conversation between Olds and Hoagland, and Houston poet Martha Serpas in a private home. You can watch that reading here as part of the Inprint Archive of Readings. We were thrilled that Sharon Olds made it back to Houston this fall via Brazos Bookstore so her fans could  see her in real time. Here Inprint blogger Erika Jo Brown tells us about this memorable evening.

Appropriately, Sharon Olds’ reading at Christ Church Cathedral was preceded by the choir practice of tweens. Olds is revered—and occasionally controversial—for her delicate and unconventional poems about female sexual awakening and motherhood, among other topics.

On this night, she was introduced by Houston novelist Chris Cander, who extoled Olds’ “incomparable gifts of description” and lauded her latest collection, Odes, as a meditation on “what it feels like to occupy a mature woman’s body, mind and spirit.”

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Poetry students experience the thrill of writing poems for the public

November 22, 2016, by

Upright IMG_7475One of Inprint’s most innovative and highly popular programs is the Inprint Poetry Buskers program. A collective of talented local writers and graduate students and alumni from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, the Inprint Poetry Buskers write free poems on requested themes for attendees at festivals and special events throughout the city. The program demystifies poetry for the public and makes it more accessible, in a joyous and interactive way. Poet, Inprint blogger, and University of Houston Creative Writing Program graduate student Erika Jo Brown helped her undergraduate students appreciate the power of serving as an Inprint Poetry Busker.

A few weeks ago, intrepid students in my Introduction to Creative Writing Poetry class at the University of Houston felt the thrill and caliber of being an Inprint Poetry Busker at the Red Block Bash, coordinated by the Blaffer Student Association. They busily worked while emcees freestyled and drawing students sketched caricatures in the arts district courtyard.

These are their stories:

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Monster Manuscripts

October 19, 2016, by

Jack-o'-Lantern_2003-10-31I asked several local literary tastemakers for their recommendations of spooky stories and haunting poems, inspired by this month’s Halloween celebration. After all, is there really a way to know that the person in the Ken Bone costume at your next party is not the man himself?

The next time you’d like to get your mind off the horror of this election season, consider grabbing a copy of work by Angela Carter (like “The Bloody Chamber”), Stephen King, Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson (“The Witch,” “The Lottery,” The Haunting of Hill House), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, the Ripliad), Helen Oyeyemi (White is for Witching), Edgar Allen Poe, or any of the below:

Robin Davidson, Houston Poet Laureate

The first story that comes to mind for me is William Butler Yeats’ piece “Red Hanrahan,” a story of Samhain Eve (Gaelic for what we call Hallowe’en but is the evening prior to the Celtic New Year, November 1, when the doors to the other world are open and spirits are said to be a’travellin’) in his collection of Irish/Gaelic folklore called Mythologies. I’ve used the story often with my students as a creative writing prompt at Halloween… Continue reading

Failure to Identify and Tintero Readings came together to present Rodrigo Toscano & Charles Alexander

October 10, 2016, by

UprightIMG_7239On one of the first cool nights of Houston’s autumn, September 27, Rodrigo Toscano flew in from New Orleans and Charles Alexander came from Victoria, Texas to deliver their singular and meditative poetry at Kaboom Books. They were brought together by a partnership between Failure to Identify and Tintero Readings.

Failure to Identify bills itself as an “Occasional, Itinerant, Sporadic, Vagabond, Versatile, Irregular, Incidental, Intermittent, Roundabout, Accidental, Stray, Raro, Combustible series of arts & writing events.” Tintero Readings is the events arm of Tintero Projects, run by married couple Lupe and Jasminne Mendez, which “aims to promote writing and reading opportunities for emerging Latinx poets and writers in the Houston” and beyond.

Toscano works for the Labor Institute, “a non-profit organization that provides labor unions and community groups with education on health and safety”—and this has inspired his work, which recalls Muriel Rukeyser in its activist intentions. He read from his newest book Explosion Rocks Springfield, inspired by an “actual event in Springfield, MA,” in which a gas leak combusted “almost four square blocks of property,” including a daycare, where the kids were fortuitously on a school trip, and a strip club, which was evacuated in the nick of time by a quick-thinking manager.  Continue reading

Mary Beard as our Virgil

September 21, 2016, by

Smaller Mary Beard photo 1 IMG_7189On first meeting celebrated historian Mary Beard, I was struck by two observations. 1) She has the most impeccable, chirpy, and patrician British accent I’ve ever heard, and 2) she wears the flyest kicks—gold-colored, metal-studded sneakers—I’ve ever seen. Her life’s work bears this dual legacy. She is an Oxbridge-trained professor of classics and author of over a dozen well-received books, as well as an approachable public intellectual, who writes a popular blog and frequently appears on “telly” as a commentator on all manner of news stories.

Mary Beard read at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston on Sunday, September 18, as part of a partnership with Brazos Bookstore. Before there were such categories as “creative nonfiction” or “memoir,” there were chronicles of the time, and Romans documented activities both contemporaneous and ancient. She presented an engaging talk, complete with photo documentation, on the subject of her newest history SPQR.

Beard first described her personal investment in Roman history by detailing a visit in 1973 to the eternal city. What struck her most was not the ancient remains or the Renaissance art, but the SPQR emblem still stamped on manhole covers, door handles, and garbage cans. Representing the Latin phrase for the Roman Senate and People, it is the longest running acronym in the history of the world. Continue reading

Fred Moten packs the El Dorado Ballroom

April 4, 2016, by

IMG_5411On March 21st, a diverse community packed the historic El Dorado Ballroom to hear the words of Fred Moten. Moten, professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, is a celebrated scholar, who’s authored the critical books The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study and In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. In addition, his distinguished poetry collections include Hughson’s Tavern, B Jenkins, The Little Edges, and The Feel Trio, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2014.

Moten is known for his densely-packed lyricism, tackling social issues with wordplay, and complicating the conventional notions of radical poetic lineages. After an introduction by UH professor Michael Snedicker, Moten remarked that he “wanted to bring other voices” into the reading and played a “musical epigraph.” Some piano riffs, finger snaps, vocals, flute trills, and bass thrums later, the song, played uninterrupted in its entirety, was revealed as Carmen McRae’s version of the jazz standard “Sometimes I’m Happy (Sometimes I’m Blue).”

Earlier in the day, Moten delivered a talk on “Hesistant Sociology: Blackness and Poetry” at the University of Houston. There too, he employed musical epigraphs. One was a recording from a section from Zong!, the innovative masterwork by M. NourbeSe Philip, which linguistically and phonetically deconstructs the legal ruling of slave ship sailors who threw 150 humans overboard in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in order to cash in on lucrative insurance. The other was a solo Thelonius Monk practicing his tune “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.” Continue reading

Indie book presses are continuing to find great new talent

January 11, 2016, by

Indie book night imageAnother exciting evening of literary fun awaits Houstonians tonight as Brazos Bookstore presents Indie Book Night. Inprint blogger Erika Jo Brown interviewed Brazos’ Ben Rybeck to get a sneak peak on tonight’s event.

ERIKA: What can an attendee expect from Indie Press Night? What’s on the program?

BEN: For this event, editors from five different independent publishers (Archipelago, New Directions, Open Letter, Restless Books, Tyrant Books) will gather to drink beer, eat snacks, and talk with attendees about upcoming releases. Will there be hobnobbing? You bet. Networking? Duh. Jump rope? No. As ever, we’ll have books for sale—but wait (as they say), there’s more! The publishers will have some giveaways and prizes too. So basically, attendees can expect, to paraphrase Mark Twain, a hella wicked time.

ERIKA: How might attending this event satisfy a New Year’s resolution?

BEN: Come meet some editors—and then, years later, when you run into them at AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference) as you hunt around for a home for your novel in which somebody walks and thinks for 200 pages…well, maybe the editor will remember your name! So if your New Year’s Resolution is to get a book published (or at least get a personalized “no”)—but I guess I shouldn’t make any promises. Just come! Continue reading

Reflections on Geraldine Brook’s The Secret Chord

October 19, 2015, by

This is the second of a two-part review of special events at Christ Church Cathedral, in partnership with Brazos Bookstore.

24611425In his witty introduction to Geraldine Brooks’s reading, Benjamin Rybeck jokingly accused her of not actually writing her own books. More likely, she traveled back in time to chronicle the rich historical backdrops and singular adventures of her characters.

When she approached the stage, Brooks gamely replied: “I wish I were a time traveler then I could go to Scotland and meet a hunky guy in a kilt.” It was just the sort of improvisation that you attend readings for—to witness the spirited mind of your favorite author (and to hear it in her slight Australian accent).

Brooks started with a few words about reading at a church, mentioning that she was rereading Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, one of her favorite books, which centers on the minister John Ames. She also noted that temple is the place where King David, the main character of her new book The Secret Chord finds “solace and peace.”

In researching the second Iron Age in Israel, Brooks endeavored to replicate aspects of life as it would have been lived—and experienced the origins of several Biblical idioms. She literally “separated the sheep from the goats” and learned how to “be a good shepherd.” Continue reading

David Eagleman talks about the The Brain: The Story of You

October 15, 2015, by

IMG_4450Last week brought two bright stars of the literary world—David Eagleman and Geraldine Brooks—to Christ Church Cathedral, in partnership with Brazos Bookstore.

From one perspective, the writers could not be more different. Eagleman is a neuroscientist who directs a research laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine. Brooks is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of historical fiction. Yet both explore notions of society, time, vision, and humanism in their writing. And their books have been translated into dozens of languages.

This is the first of a two-part review of the special events.

In Reverend Art Callahan’s welcome to David Eagleman’s reading, he quipped that “at church, we do not leave our brains at the door.” This was a perfect prologue to a fast-paced, multimedia event that held the audience (and their brains) rapt.

Eagleman is clearly passionate about the public understanding of science. He’s written for The New York Times, Discover Magazine, Atlantic, Slate, Wired, discussed new trends on NPR and BBC, and serves as an editor for several scholarly journals. Continue reading