Marcus Amaker says ‘Now is when we need art and artists the most’
Each time you get to know one aspect of Marcus Amaker, there’s another layer waiting to be discovered.
He’s an award-winning graphic designer, electronic musician, web designer, former journalist, husband, new father, and Charleston, South Carolina’s first poet laureate.
As a kid, music was his expression of choice. He wanted to be the next Prince. His family — a military family — moved from Las Vegas to England, to Maryland and Japan. Then to San Antonio, only to finally settle in South Carolina. Somewhere along the way, a friend called his beautifully written song lyrics poems. “I said, ‘OK, I guess I’m a poet now.”
Today, Amaker relies on his repertoire of artistic mediums to navigate his new role as a father and the complicated feelings surrounding the global pandemic. His love for music, design, and the written word can be seen woven throughout his new book, The Birth of All Things.
The book is available for pre-sale now, and will be released by Free Verse Press on June 2, at time when the world most needs a good dose of hope and inspiration.
“I truly believe in the power of poetry. In times of confusion, crisis and joy, poetry has been there for me. I’m blessed to be able to share that experience with you,” Amaker says in a video about the new book.
“Now is when we need art and artists the most. To help us when there is chaos and disorder. But to also deepen our understanding of love.”
Artistic Fuel: When did you realize you enjoyed writing and had a talent for it?
Amaker: I remember being very young and always wanting to be a musician, so I was always writing songs. I was very much inspired by Prince. And I noticed on the back of the Prince record it said produced, written and performed by Prince. The fact that he could do everything really appealed to me. So I really wanted to be like Prince.
Then in high school my voice changed, but I kept writing songs. Someone called my songs poems. So I said, ‘OK, I guess I’m a poet now.”
I remember the first time I saw someone have an emotional connection to something I wrote. It was over a decade ago, after a show, I read a poem about a friend who passed away. A guy came up to me after with tears in his eyes and said I had a friend who died and I never been able to express how I felt about it. This poem expresses it for me. … Moments like that helped me to realize that people really enjoyed the work and the work had some merit to it.
A|F: What prompted your most recent book, The Birth of All Things?
Amaker: I always compose books like it’s an album because I’m such a music fan. I think of it as a concept album. So awhile back I started thinking about what the concept might be. I thought I’d base it around poems of becoming a dad. I started writing it when my wife was pregnant. So a lot of those pieces came to me naturally and quickly.
But then the shutdowns from coronavirus came. I found myself inspired by a lot of things that were happening. The stillness of being home, the anxiety of it all, not knowing any of the answers. So I was really inspired to continue to write and add some depth to the book that wouldn’t have been there without this era. Everything came together pretty naturally after that. It ended being a much stronger book, framing it at this time.
A|F: Did you hesitate to release a book amid a pandemic?
Amaker: I felt a little anxiety about announcing it at this time, but I’m glad I did. Because I think people need relief. They need art. They need something else besides fear-based news. After I meditated on that, it was easy for me to announce it.
A|F: What’s the vibe in Charleston right now?
Amaker: People are anxious to get going. Around this time of year is when a lot of festivals are in mid-swing, and now they’ve been canceled. So that was a big reality check for a lot of people. That’s usually millions and millions of dollars and international people coming in. I don’t think it’s different than what other places are feeling. But we’re all just eager to get out again.
A|F: What do you think you’ll tell your 5-month-old daughter about this time?
Amaker: I know it will be an interesting story to tell her. I think everything is happening as it should. But I found myself wanting that things weren’t this way for her, so we could take her out more and she could have more social interaction. But this is happening for a reason. I’m not sure how we’ll tell her, but it’s been a blessing to have her here during this time.
A|F: What prompted you to start your own publishing company, Free Verse Press Imprint?
Amaker: I haven’t been really impressed by other small companies that my friends have been published through. I’m a graphic designer, so I’ve always thought that books should be a complete work. It has to look good. The company will eventually publish books from other Charleston authors. I spend as much time on the design as I do on the writing. I think that’s so important, and it’s something I can give to other writers.
Follow Marcus Amaker’s work and pre-order his book at marcusamakerstore.com.
Journalist and author Danielle Nadler grew up in South Dakota, where a patient writing teacher fostered in her a love for stories told well. She's worked for newspapers in the Midwest, on the West Coast and the East Coast, and recently launched a storytelling company called Tales and Ales.