EWU alumnus hopes to further the artistic community in Spokane

By Rebekah Frank, Eagle Life Writer

EWU alumnus Mark Anderson, who co-runs a poetry open mic, called the Broken Mic with alumnus Kurt Olson, never thought he would be hosting a poetry slam while he was a student at Eastern.

Anderson, who graduated with a degree in psychology, said while he was growing up he was not really into poetry. He wrote stories here and there, but nothing he thought was very good. After 2007, he started writing poems at the encouragement of his friends.

“I’d been writing a lot, … writing stories, they were terrible and weird. Then I started doing the poetry thing, started doing more poems and started writing like really terrible poems instead of really terrible stories,” Anderson said.

Anderson said at first he wrote poems that rhymed a lot and had an Emily Dickinson-esque feel to them. Some of his friends started to encourage Anderson to write more performance poetry and to change his writing a little bit. Anderson took their advice, wrote a poem for a slam and won.

“I did this terrible, terrible poem about being a love-lost romantic. It was the worst thing I have ever written and everyone loved it, of course,” Anderson said.

Since then, Anderson and his friends have been competitively pushing each other, encouraging each person to get better. Anderson kept writing and improving, but he was unaware that his new found passion for poetry was going to have such large ripple effects within the Spokane community.

“Back when I was a student at Eastern, just starting out, I stumbled onto this coffee shop called The Empyrean. … They had good coffee and good tea, and I used to do my homework and stuff there for a little while. They had a poetry open mic. … I started going to that and reading,” Anderson said.

Anderson made a connection at The Empyrean with the host of the open mic, Daniel Harrington. He said there came a point when the host could no longer take charge of the event, and Harrington passed it along to Anderson.

Anderson approached the owners of Neato Burrito in Spokane and asked them if they would be willing to host it. They agreed to a trial.

“We gave it a try, and it was sort of an immediate success,” Anderson said.

The number of attendees grew, according to Anderson, starting with 25, then climbing to 45 and levelling off around 60 people. For the last three years, Anderson has been co-hosting what is now known as Broken Mic. He said there has been a steady stream of performers and audience members.

“My favorite part of Broken Mic is the community. I really love seeing 50 people in a room just go crazy with applause and support for their fellow humans,” Olson said.

One regular at the Broken Mic is EWU junior Anastasia Aguon. Aguon said she loves the opportunities that Broken Mic offers to artists and community members.

“The best part about Broken Mic is that it provides a safe space for people to express themselves. The chance to hear stories from many different voices is rewarding. It is a community that looks to raise people and poets up,” Aguon said.

Anderson said he hopes that by passing the control back and forth with Olson, Broken Mic will sustain itself when he can no longer host it. He hopes it will continue to grow and to encourage other artist in Spokane to do the same.

“I really want to continue building the poetry community in and around Spokane. I think all the artist in Spokane are really trying to build it and make it a better place to be, not just for artists, but for everyone. Because you don’t really want to be in a place that just seems stale and without any art or flavor to it,” Anderson said.

“I think that the goal of Broken Mic has always been to maintain a place where people can feel welcome and celebrated for writing and listening to poetry,” Olson said. “Considering we live in an age that becomes more and more digital each day, I feel it’s important to maintain a physical space where people interact with each other.”

Aguon shares her passion for poetry every chance she gets, and not just at Broken Mic. To sum up her feelings about poetry she quoted Walter Hopps, “Art offers the possibility for love with strangers.”

“Spokane is a great place for the arts. I’ve spent a year on the poetry scene in Spokane. Broken Mic was where I first got to experience such an incredible art community. It’s a great place to grow as both an artist and an individual,” Aguon said.