Checking in with Browning Porter


What were you doing right before we called?
I was working on a CD cover for a local musician, Ian Lawler.


When not engaged in alliterative activities like penning poems or telling tales, Browning Porter has designed posters or album covers for Devon Sproule, Carleigh Nesbit and the Naked Puritans.

What are you working on right now?
I make my living as a graphic designer and I have several projects I’m finishing up, or gearing up to do. Ian’s is one of three CDs that I’m in different stages with, and I’m doing a T-shirt as a fundraiser for the grad school where I got an MFA in poetry many years ago. I’m also doing a poster for an Off-Broadway musical in New York as part of a benefit for Haiti.


What’s your first artistic memory?
So far, I’ve been talking about my day job as a graphic designer but I think I’m better known around town as a poet and a storyteller and, for many years, as a musician, so it depends on which one you are talking about. I can remember making up my own nursery rhymes when I was very small and figuring out how rhyme worked, getting the feeling that it wasn’t something that had been handed down by the powers-that-be—it was something that people made. It seems profound now but when you’re a kid it seems sort of obvious.


What’s your blind date dealbreaker?
It’s been so long since I had any kind of date, you know, with my wife now of 15 years. I get very uncomfortable if someone wants me to pray with them. I don’t know if I would call it a dealbreaker, but it would make me very uncomfortable. It would be difficult to proceed optimistically with a blind date under those circumstances.


What’s your favorite building?
My favorite building would have to be my childhood home—the Bull Run House—which my father built when I was about 2 years old and that I grew up in until I was about a teenager. It’s in a little town called Catharpin, which is on the outskirts of Manassas on Bull Run Creek, which is why we called it the Bull Run House.


Tell us about a book/painting/record/piece of art that you wish was in your private collection?
There are actually several paintings that my dad did that I wish were in my private collection. There are some paintings that he did that everyone remembers very fondly but were sold many, many years ago and either no one knows where they are, or the people who own them are not willing to sell them back.


Locally, who would you like to collaborate with?
I have the ambition to collaborate with Paul Curreri and John D’earth to add new original music to one of my monologues. I would love to follow through with that project and make a recording and eventually do a live performance. I think it would be great on the radio, but I did it at the old Gravity Lounge originally as the opening act for a Brady Earnhart concert and I was very pleased with the results…I’ve wanted to work with John for 20 years. I saw him doing live jazz with poets at the old Live Arts in the Old Michie Building years ago, and thought, “I want to do that.”


Favorite artist outside your medium?
At the moment there are some people who are working in a medium that’s related to mine but I do think it’s different and those are the guys who do Radio Lab, on NPR. I’m totally in love with that show. I want to run away and join it, like the circus. They make it sound as though it’s just coming directly out of their brain, it sounds very stream of consciousness, very natural. At the same time, it’s not natural. It’s fantastic editing and they clearly have really good personalities to do that kind of show.