Marcus Amaker is a poet committed to living abundantly on this earth. These are big-hearted poems, rich with sound and story, enlivened by metaphor and magic. In “Why I Write Poems,” his speaker says, “a sharp turn of phrase / can sting like the edge of a blunt piece of paper.” This book both stings and heals.
— Beth Ann Fennelly (she/her), poet laureate of Mississippi, 2016—21
Hold What Makes You Whole is a gratifying meditative collection of poems accompanied by kaleidoscopic visual imagery that pulls you in, settles your mind, and makes way for one’s own reflections. A journey of words through the micro and macro elements of a life. Amaker has created a collection made perfectly for this moment in time.
— Lisa Willis (she/her), executive director of Cave Canem Foundation
Dedicated to his great-great aunt Ruth, Hold What Makes You Whole is a celebration of the ways we each contain all the elements in the universe. From our families and our home place to the larger sweep of history, Marcus reminds us about the things that make us whole. Sprinkling wisdom on every page, he reminds us that “joy doesn’t have / to go far / to find a home.” For Marcus Amaker, “writing a poem is world building,” and the worlds he brings us in this glorious collage of text and image is one where “You are free / to find heaven /even if / you don’t believe / heaven exits,” This book is a gift for all of us.
— Marjory Wentworth (she/her), poet laureate of South Carolina, 2003—21
In Hold What Makes You Whole, Marcus Amaker harnesses the slick and psychic echoes that our living creates. His handling of this mastery turns up an awareness of how choral and connected a self can be — across spaces, across times, across realities. And that whelming possibility is at the core of this poet’s grace, because, as Amaker hears it, “what could be / more spiritual / than realizing / your spirit / has outgrown / the body / it was given?” Bless this book.
— Geffrey Davis (he/him), author of “Night Angler”
One of the most multitalented poets in the country, Amaker turns his eye and ear to the body in his new collection, Hold What Makes You Whole. Combining poems, photography, and illustration, Amaker asks big questions of the vessels that carry us through life: How do our bodies hold grief? Identity? Loved ones? How is it that “My eyes are closed / and I can / still see you?” How can the exhaustion of fatherhood make one’s eyelids “heavy with daylight?” “I’ve come to be in bloom,” Amaker says, and for him, the flower has many kinds of petals. Conducting his way through a symphony in which he is also the instruments, Amaker harmonizes words with images with handwriting with typography. “Everything that has wings is kinfolk,” he says, and everything Amaker touches in this beautiful book begins to fly.
— P. Scott Cunningham (he/him), founder/director, O, Miami Poetry Festival