Charleston is well known for its blossoming culture and arts scene; from its well-preserved historic architecture, unique but approachable dining experiences, live music in cozy bars like the Thoroughbred Club, or the countless art galleries lining our historic streets, Charleston’s creativity resonates throughout the city. One art form in particular has come to the forefront of much of this creative spirit, and it is mostly due to Marcus Amaker, a creative who has spent his life dedicated to the arts and music. We reached out to Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s Inaugural Poet Laureate, to hear a little bit about what inspires him and some tips on how you can experience Charleston’s creativity.
How and when did you first get into poetry?
Vinyl. I first got into poetry the second that I heard music, as a child. My parents were very aware of giving me experiences with art and music. There was always vinyl around our house, and we were always going to concerts. Vinyl packaging was essential to my love of the written word, because lyrics were printed on all of my favorite album sleeves.
You are currently the City of Charleston’s Inaugural Poet Laureate. Why was this position created and what does it entail?
This position was created to promote literacy in our schools and to be an advocate of the arts. I am so honored to have the title. I’m now at the table for important decisions involving our arts scene. I’m asked to write poems for events and do a lot of workshops in schools. Connecting with students has been the most rewarding part.
You have had so many artistic endeavors over the course of your career. What inspires you to be constantly creating?
Everything goes back to music. Listening to it, creating it, seeing it live. Music is the key to everything I do. The poems I write are songs without instrumentation. The graphic design that I creative has visual keys and rhythm. I’m totally plugged into sound and song.
You have produced poetry books, videos, workshops of all kids, what do you have in the works currently?
I’m currently working on a few new albums and producing our city’s first poetry festival. The albums are experimental electronic works, using analogue machines. The poetry festival will be in the fall of this year and will involve workshops and public displays of poetry plus events for all ages.
How does Charleston inspire your creative process?
Once settled in Charleston, it was impossible to not be inspired by this city. I feel the stories of our ancestors every time I walk down the street. I am in touch with the ghosts of our past and aware that we have to keep history alive, while moving forward. I can thank Charleston for an awakening that I would not have had in any other city
How can visitors get involved in the art scene?
There are so many entry points to our art scene. I love Redux Contemporary Art Center. They are putting on progressive shows using all kinds of mediums. The Halsey Institute is also an amazing spot for anyone looking to check out the visual arts.
What is your favorite spot in the Charleston area right now and what would you suggest for visitors to do while they are here?
My favorite spot in Charleston is the Upper Deck Tavern. The best dive bar in town. I’d love for visitors to visit the upper peninsula and go to Hampton Park. It’s the most beautiful park in the city, and there’s a wealth of history there. The Denmark Vessey statue is remarkable.
Do you have a poem you would like to share with our readers?
“the last word”
someone will write
the last poem about injustice
and it will become
our new national anthem.
only history books
will hold the memory of hatred
and museums will be built
for the artifacts
of our awakening
someone will have
the last conversation about politics
because we realized
there were problems
that our politicians couldn’t fix.
policies not built
to cure our addiction to division,
no governing body
that compared to the bodies
of the enlightened.
this poem won’t be
a manifesto for dreamers.
we will wake up from nightmares
of our own making
and reject our attraction
our love affair
You can stay up-to-date on Amaker’s upcoming events and and projects at his website.
Pictured above: The second edition of Mantra featuring new graphic design, poetry and artwork. Among the new poems in the book is “Reimagining History” – written with Marjory Wentworth, Poet Laureate of South Carolina. “Reimagining History” was commissioned by Charleston, SC Mayor John Tecklenburg for his inauguration.