Marcus Amaker is a karaoke singer, a Prince fan, an award-winning graphic designer and Charleston, South Carolina’s first poet laureate. He’s been mentioned in the New York Times and featured on PBS Newshour, Walter Edgar’s Journal, Alaska Beyond Magazine and more. He’s published seven books and produced more than 25 albums of original music, including empath – a collaboration with Quentin E. Baxter. He is also the lead graphic designer for the national music magazine No Depression, and the creator of Charleston Scene, the Post and Courier‘s weekly entertainment newspaper.
Next week, Zero George and Marcus Amaker are collaborating for an evening of poetic expression on the summer solstice, and on August 2nd, he will be staying at Zero George as our first ever poet in residence. Learn a little bit more about Marcus’s background and inspiration here.
1. Tell us about your background. Who or what influenced you to become a musician, poet, and graphic designer?
I was born in Las Vegas, NV and moved to England, Maryland, Japan and Texas before arriving in South Carolina. Throughout my travels, I was immersed in eclectic cultures. Life was always musical and colorful.
Music was always around my house. My parents were vinyl collectors, and the stereo was the central energy of our living room.
Music was the main inspiration for me to become an artist. Specifically, Prince and his Sign ‘O’ the Times album. I loved the artwork, the music, the photos, the design, the lyrics. That album inspired me to create my own work.
2. What was your inspiration for your newest book and album, empath?
empath grew from my desire to shine a light on connection. We are all connected in ways that we might not understand. Mother nature tells us this, every day. I started sketching ideas for a new project, and started to think about tree rings. Tree rings look like thumbprints. Thumbprints can look like hurricanes. The circular motion of it all is very intriguing.
I am an empath, because I am hypersensitive to energy and emotion. I started writing from that place – thinking of connectivity, Mother Nature and love.
3. How do all the different artistic fields you work in – music, poetry, graphic design, videography – overlap and influence one another?
Honestly, they all come from the same place. Thankfully, I feel like I have a natural sense of when something looks or sounds good. I trust that natural sense in everything I do.
See how music and poetry collide in Marcus’s performance at TEDx Charleston with Quentin E. Baxter here.
4. How does place inspire your poetry? Specifically, why Charleston?
Charleston’s history and cultural landscape is the source of infinite inspiration. The minute I came to Charleston, I felt a very strong energy pulling me toward the area. (Again, that’s the empath in me.) The history of brown people in this area is abundant. I find that it’s enlightening to dive into my culture and realize that a lot of it has ties to Charleston.
I also appreciate how Charleston – for better or for worse – won’t let go of its past. The City makes it a point to preserve the look and feel of its history.
I’m starting to see that preservation work in the favor of its African-American history, as well, but there’s still a long way to go. The Septima Clark historical marker and the Denmark Vessey statue, for example, are big steps in the right direction.
5. Where is your favorite place to write in Charleston?
At home, with my cat on my lap.
We’re celebrating the summer solstice at Zero George with a free poetry workshop and reading by Marcus Amaker. The workshop is sold out, but don’t worry – Marcus Amaker will be back at Zero George on August 2nd as our poet in residence. Each guest will receive a personalized poem from Marcus and the chance to hear some of his poetry live. Click below to book your stay on August 2nd to experience an evening at Zero George with a Poet in Residence.