Interview with Mahogany L. Browne

Mahogany L. Browne is a woman who brings her community beauty, courage, and hard work through her own writing and activism. While establishing the publishing company Penmanship Books, Poetry Program Directing the Nuyorican Poets Café, and having published several of her own books, Mahogany continues to make writing the center of her creative life. With her new chapbook Smudge  (now released by Button Poetry 2015) we had the wonderful pleasure to ask Mahogany a few questions about her creative endeavors and her work that continues to give back to the poetry community.

SPIT JOURNAL : We all know Mahogany L. Browne is a woman of many talents, from freelance music and entertainment journalism to performance poetry and publishing. Do you have a favorite talent? Or any other talents you would like to share or eventually try out for yourself?

MAHOGANY L. BROWNE : I have always wanted to write. Since the 4th grade. And I am grateful to have the opportunity now where my writing is woven into everything I do. Whether hosting and curating writing, or publishing and tweeting… Performing poems at rallies or in classrooms…writing is in the center of all I do. I think I’d like to have a literary cafe and bookstore one day. I love books. I love coffee. Why not put them together?



SJ: Within the realm of performance poetry, when was Penmanship Books born into this world?

BROWNE: Penmanship was created after years of touring the UK & Europe. I had plenty of chapbooks, but I never had a perfect bound book. And an audience member and teacher asked if there were any books available for their school libraries. I returned to the states excited to work on getting my manuscript picked up. And I received only silence. The one response I received said, “You don’t have an audience big enough.” This was after performing in front of several thousands of people. So I decided to put the book out on my own.

SJ: Penmanship is recognized as “the answer to the performance poet’s publishing problem.” Can you further explain the type of problems performance poets encounter in the publishing world?

BROWNE: The problem is publishing can be a political campaign. The best poets do not have work out because the publishers are not necessarily in the venues, but behind desks or at colleges. But there is talent everywhere. There is publishable talent everywhere.

SJ: Can you describe Penmanship’s authors in three words, go!

BROWNE: Daring. Hardworking. Fighters.

SJ: Let me say congratulations on your chapbook being selected for publication by Button Poetry. How exciting! Can you give us perhaps a synapse of the collection? 

BROWNE: The title is Smudge.
This is an investigation of sexuality, silence and female relationships.
This coming of age narrative explores social identities and gender politics while dissecting fear, sexual activity and race, in a humble effort to dispel the myths surrounding sexual awakenings and serve as a step in the “radical act of self-love.” These poems are a form of healing and allow a re-imagining of one’s whole self and the endless possibilities of self-worth.

SJ: What are the upcoming goals and plans for yourself as an artist (or for Penmanship Books) if any?

BROWNE: I am continuously working on the staged production of my completed manuscript Redbone (out in Fall 2015 with Willow Books) with a singer and two dancers. I am finishing my second year as a MFA Candidate with Pratt Institute’s Writing & Activism program. And I am focused on continuing the protest work that #BlackPoetsSpeakOut aimed to do in response to the non-indictments of Mike Brown, Eric Garner & the continuos acts of police brutality.


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