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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Former Spokane poet laureate Mark Anderson releases debut collection

Mark Anderson has always been a writer. Before he could manage a pencil, he remembers dictating stories to his parents and illustrating them in handcrafted books bound with yarn and staples.

Anderson’s debut poetry collection, “Scarecrow Oracle,” is now available through Korrektiv Press.

He continued to write through school and after college, finally settling into a focus on poetry in his early 20s, when he started visiting poetry open mics. Performing his work and receiving feedback drew him in from the start.

“That experience of directly communicating to people, you know – when you’re just writing, it can be such a solitary experience,” he said. “But when you’re sharing it out loud, you can feel that immediate connection. And I think that I got hooked on that.”

Aiming to provide more opportunities for writers to share their work, Anderson went on to co-found the Broken Mic spoken word poetry series in 2011. The event still takes place weekly at Neato Burrito, 827 W. First Ave., at 6:30 p.m. Wedensdays.

Anderson also served as Spokane’s third poet laureate from 2017-2019, following Thom Caraway and Laura Read.

The most recent pieces in “Scarecrow Oracle” were completed in early 2021. But as a whole, the collection – Anderson’s first – is the result of nearly a decade of writing. With plenty of material to choose from, Anderson set about finding a logical order or grouping for the collection .

The first part is about childhood and innocence. The second focuses on loss and early adulthood. The third begins to reflect on the steps that come afterward.

It wasn’t an easy task to sort through 10 years of poetry, but the process gave him new insight into his work.

“One of the central difficulties … was trying to create a cohesive sense of self within the manuscript,” he said. “And I think … I learned a lot about … where the center of my writing has been. I learned how to tie together some of the disparate versions of myself that have occurred on the page.”

Finding a title was similarly difficult. He remembers a lengthy group text brainstorming session with Caraway and Jonathan Potter, another local poet published through Korrectiv Press.

Anderson wanted a title that was emblematic while still leaving enough room for interpretation to the reader.

Nearing the deadline to submit, the trio started combing through the text, waiting for keywords to jump out at them.

“And then somewhere in that text thread, ‘Scarecrow Oracle’ popped up,” Anderson said. “I had it narrowed down to that and two other titles … and my intuition told me this was the one that was correct.”

To aspiring poets, Andersen offers the following advice: Find poems and writers that you like and explore why you liked them. Come to live events, see other writers, meet other writers.

“Audiences in Spokane really love seeing people there for their very first time or just starting out,” he said. “It’s worth it to get up there.”

The first time especially can be terrifying, and that feeling might never go away completely.

“I’m always at least a little nervous, but then there’s that release that happens halfway through reading … once you do feel comfortable … you feel the connection happening.”

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