My first question for mark was one that I didn’t even think of asking (because I hadn’t noticed) until I reread his first collection Tender Mercies. What’s with the lowercase m in his given name, ‘mark,’ and Uppercase S in his family name?
“I firmly believe that the Work is far more important than I am. However, I do not wish to show any disrespect to my family as they are quite important. Not only to me, but in their own right and accomplishments. So, I honor them and leave my given name lower case.”
mark began his writing journey as a self-proclaimed “angsty” teenager, but argues that back then, he “had nothing to say that hadn’t been said before.” He got more serious about writing in 2008, and continues to write today because it has become habitual and “more importantly,” explains mark, “it’s become needful for me to do so.”
James Brush, author of the blog ‘Coyote Mercury,’ wrote about mark Stratton’s writing style in his recent review of Tender Mercies:
I don’t always get what mark’s getting at, but the ride, the language, is a pleasure, and sometimes a line or two finds a place in my mind, takes root and won’t leave me alone. So the book goes back in the bag and I carry it around some more, sometimes forgetting it’s there only to be happily surprised again.
The most challenging part of writing Tender Mercies for mark was trusting the poems, trusting “when they were telling me they were connected as I was making them,” he explains. The greatest reward, now that the book has been out a while, has been “learning that the poems have resonated with readers.”
He enjoys being a part of online writing communities on Twitter and Facebook, but it puzzles him at times. “The very fact that people from all over the world have read my little scribbles fascinates me and humbles me at the same time,” he says.
mark’s most recent chapbook Postmarks is, as he says, “a total DIY job, handmade and assembled by me.” mark even took the cover photo.
One of the poems, ‘Frank,’ takes on the persona of a dead speaker: I’ll see them when/they get here, They’ll hate it too./And we’ll laugh. /Like being dead isn’t such a big deal after all.
A sign of the times, perhaps, is that ‘Frank’ was sparked by a discussion on Twitter. “The “trigger” for this was a discussion on Persona Poems on the Twitter #poetparty,” says mark. “The story in the poem is true, except for the parts I made up. It was an exercise in writing outside of my own voice, and I was fairly pleased with the result.”
It doesn’t surprise mark that poetry survives, and in some places, thrives, today. “Poetry, in some for or another, will thrive and survive because it was in our souls, bone deep, to express ourselves. The form and patterns may change, but poetry will survive as long as human kind does. Poetry truly is a way to express in words that which cannot be said any other way.”