Mark Sanders

Mark SandersMark Sanders is a Nebraska native, raised on the eastern rim of the Sandhills. He holds a PhD in Modern Poetry from the University of Nebraska, and is currently Professor of English and Director of the Publishing Arts Program at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. His poems, stories, and essays have been published in journals throughout the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, and his creative prose has appeared in such journals as Glimmer Train, North Dakota Quarterly, and Shenandoah. Sanders received the Mildred Bennett Award from the Nebraska Center for the Book in 2007. Here in the Big Empty is his second full-length collection of poems.

Books by Mark Sanders for the Backwaters Press

Here in the Big Empty Here in the Big Empty by Mark Sanders

Author: Mark Sanders
Format: Paperback, 96 pages
ISBN: 0976523140
Published: February 2006

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Critical Praise for Mark Sanders’ Here in the Big Empty

Here in the Big Empty is a marvelous collection, rich with image, meaning, music. The poems even smell of the plains (which are not empty, which are as chock full of life, human and otherwise, as anywhere in these United States). I am smarter for having read them: Mark Sanders has opened my eyes to the bighorn, petroglyphs, and the bottle of Yukon Jack left on a table; he has made me hear “a leafy, stemmy quiet.” Read these poems to know the world better. At the same time, there is an intimacy here that is arresting. Sanders’s poems go to the heart of the heartland. Yours, too.
Kelly Cherry – Author of History, Passion, Freedom, Death, and Hope: Prose About Poetry

“Plain speech for a plain people,” Mark Sanders writes in the opening poem of Here in the Big Empty, and that’s exactly what his powerful and moving new book offers. These are poems of people and landscape and weather, the things of this world in all their rich and sinewy beauty. From sensory and evocative childhood memories, through explorations of death and separation, to meditations on moral philosophical issues, the book resonates with emotional, intellectual, and spiritual clarity. “Knocking heads with loss” in “the fields of the unspeakable,” Sanders finds endurance and wisdom, sacrament and celebration. The book is a joy and a blessing.
Ronald Wallace – Felix Pollak Professor of Poetry, University of Wisconsin

It’s so hard to find really good poetry; and Sanders’s is—the real stuff. Part of it is really wild and discursive like the title poem; part of it strict and quiet like in “The Cranes” or “In July”. There’s a very Whitmanesque generosity in the book’s openness to experience. Probably the best comparison I could make to describe the poetry of Mark Sanders would be the poetry of the late Richard Hugo. Like Hugo, Sanders is always on a journey, always the tough-minded outsider and always looking for salvation through poetry. Seeing the range of forms in Sanders’s book, we begin to wonder if there’s anything he can’t do. If there is, I haven’t found it yet. Sanders’s voice is a major one.
Jonathan Holden – Poet Laureate of Kansas

Poems from Here in the Big Empty

Pancakes

The pancakes we tossed upon the garden plot,
batter-mushrooms on compost flat,
have flown away in the beaks of blue jays.
The birds were laughing there,
glad beggars breaking bread,
while a dove prayed like a brown-cloaked monk
and drank his communal wine
beneath a leaky garden spigot.
At the window, parting a sink-sea of suds,
we watched the manna pilgrims come in separate homage,
squirrel and cat, rat and crow,
nervous as they stalked the rubbish we left.
The hopeful hungry in the place of plenty.
Then made them flee, when, as from behind heaven’s veil,
we opened a door and banished them from backyard Eden,
and did so because, as gods, we could.

Custody

The man drove slowly away from his children,
watching them in his rearview mirror.
The daughter, tall for her age, waved and waved and waved.
And the man had hoped to see her frown,
as if the wave of the arm, the hand,
were a wiper on a windshield, slapping off the sky’s grief.
But everything was in reverse—
she seemed to smile, to be happier than he wanted.
But the mirror distorts like a mind does.

The older son made his way up the stairs
that led to his mother’s apartment. He had not looked back.
What could this mean? The stairs
should have been impossible—a mountain, craggy
and slippery. He should have been there
at the mountain’s bottom to catch the boy.
But, he kept climbing, looking upward,
making his way to the cave of himself.

The younger boy leapt off the bottom step
and, the man thought, went running toward the car.
The man saw his mouth was open.
He heard, beyond the engine’s noise
and the doo-da of the radio, his son’s voice
calling him back. Stop, Daddy, stop,
that voice called. It was the voice the small one
had used when his father had come into his room
to scare the ghosts away so that he could sleep.

How long ago had that been? Years, already.
The man stopped, put the car into reverse,
and backed. What is it? the man asked.
The son, perplexed, explained he was only running
to the neighbor’s house to play.
It was well, then. Well. Well—then.

The man drove to the exit of the apartment complex,
past wrought iron gates suspended
from brick pedestals. A wicked turn left,
a knoll, and, as way leads to way,
the knoll lifted him up, let him down,
and the complex disappeared.

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