"When I grow up, I want to be a rock star like Prince." - (me, at 10 years old.)

photos by Ruta Smith


Marcus Amaker was named Charleston, SC’s first Poet Laureate in 2016. In 2021, he became an Academy of American Poets fellow. He’s also the award-winning graphic designer of a national music journal (No Depression), an electronic musician, the creator of a poetry festival, and a mentor.

His poetry has been recognized by The Kennedy Center, American Poets Magazine, The Washington National Opera, The Portland Opera, Button Poetry, NPR,  The Chicago Tribune, Edutopia, Washington Post, Departures Magazine, People’s WorldPBS Newshour, SC Public Radio, Charleston Magazine, Charleston City Paper, North Dakota Quarterly, Post and Courier, Charleston Scene and several other publications.

In 2019, he won a Governor’s Arts award in South Carolina, and was named the artist-in-residence of the Gaillard Center, a world-renowned performance and education venue.

His poetry has been studied in classrooms around the country, and has been interpreted for ballet, jazz, modern dance, opera and theater. Marcus has recorded three albums with Grammy Award winning drummer and producer Quentin E. Baxter.

His ninth book is Black Music Is, from Free Verse Press.

photo by Alice Keeney

The hard questions.

Q. What music are you listening to now?
A. Mogwai, St. Vincent, Skee Mask, LUMP, KMRU, Hiatus Kaiyote, Sons of Kemet, April + Vista, Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Q. What’s the two best albums of the last 10 years?
A. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead and Low – Double Negative.

Q. What is your favorite Prince album?
A. Sign ‘O’ The Times is probably his best album. But I also think LotusFlow3r is a masterpiece.The Love Symbol Album is one of the many underrated gems in his discography. And Lovesexy. And ARTOFFICIALAGE. And Parade. And …

Q. What is your favorite Star Wars movie?
A. Revenge of the Sith. So much happens in that movie that is important for Star Wars lore (the rise of Vader, the reason the Stormtroopers are bad, Yoda going into exile, the beginnings of the Empire, the birth of Luke and Leia, etc.)  I also love The Force Awakens and Rogue One. A lot.

Q. What artists have inspired you the most?
A. Ani Di Franco. Joni Mitchell (Hejira is a master work). Prince. PJ Harvey. Alice Coltrane. A Tribe Called Quest. Kate Bush. Nine Inch Nails. De La Soul. Mogwai.

Q. Name three albums that are underrated.
A. Julie Doiron & The Wooden Stars. The Love Movement. To the Faithful Departed.

Q. Name a few things you can’t resist …
A. Good headphones. Drum machines. Journals. Talking about Prince. The San Antonio Spurs. Biking. Anything made by Teenage Engineering.

Q. What are you most passionate about?
A. Being a dad. Making music.

photo by Alice Keeney