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

photos by Alice Keeney

Who is Marcus?

Marcus Amaker (he/him) is a husband, a dad, a son, a music nerd, a Spirit in drag, and a Star Wars obsessive. He was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. Marcus lived in England, Maryland, Japan, and Texas before making a home in North Charleston, SC.

Family life 

Marcus is married to Jordan Amaker, the director of Advocacy and Communications of Lowcountry Local First. Their daughter, Rei, likes to swing and feel the wind in her curly hair. Their cat, Mr. Wu, was named after the Wu-Tang Clan. Of course.

He is a poet laureate, and is in the SC Literary Hall of Fame?

Yes. Marcus served as the first Poet Laureate of Charleston, South Carolina, from 2016—22. In 2024, the South Carolina Academy of Authors inducted him into the South Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

Marcus has published ten collections of his poetry, including 2023’s Hold What Makes You Whole, which the Pittsburgh Post Gazette said “questions our assumptions and forces us to confront the very expressions we take for granted,” (Adriana E. Ramírez, April 2023).

In 2021, Marcus was awarded an Academy of American Poets fellowship. In 2019, he won a Governor’s Arts award in South Carolina.

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

ok, so … he also does music? more than 40 albums? 🤯

Yep. Marcus has been making and recording music since he was 10 years old. He records under the alias “tape loop,” and uses that project to experiment with noise, beats, video, and field recordings.

His 40th album, a machine and its threads, was released by a released by an electronic music label based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

One of his poems is on two Grammy-nominated albums, and Marcus has recorded three albums with Grammy Award winning drummer and producer Quentin E. Baxter.

I heard he writes operas? And his work was used for a presidential inauguration? 

You are correct! Marcus’ original opera with composer Gillian Rae Perry, The Weight of Light, premiered for the Chicago Opera Theater in 2024.

Before “The Weight of Light,” Marcus wrote a song cycle about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, DC. The composition, a collaboration with GRAMMY®-nominated composer Shawn Okpebholo, was covered by PBS Newshour and The Washington Post, among others.

His re-written version of My Country Tis of Thee was used by the Washington National Opera for President Biden’s inauguration in 2021.

Marcus’ first collaboration with Opebhlo, Two Black Churches, was included on Will Liverman’s Dreams of a New Day. Liverman’s album was covered by NPR, The Guardian, New York Times, and more. The album was nominated for a GRAMMY and reached number one on the Billboard Charts.

Will Liverman recently sang Marcus’ poem “The Rain” at the premiere of Two Black Churches with the Lexington Philharmonic.

Does Marcus ever sleep? 

Yes, he takes daily naps.

Excellent. What about graphic design? 

Marcus is the graphic designer of the national music magazine No Depression. He also designed its website, with the help of Ivan Lima Design.

He’s designed websites, logos, posters, books, and more throughout his career. His design work for the Post & Courier won several journalism awards.

What about events, school visits, and speaking engagements?

Marcus loves visiting schools to teach poetry workshops. He offers one-on-one mentoring, school-wide presentations, hour-long workshops, and more! He created a Poets in Schools program to publish a book of student poems in 2022. 

In 2019, he was named the artist-in-residence of the Gaillard Center, a world-renowned performance and education venue.

He’s performed for the Charleston Literary Festival, Spoleto Festival, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, MOJA festival, Charleston Jazz Festival, and more. Through his friendship with Michael Mauldin, he’s shared the stage with heavyweights Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Killer Mike, and many more Black celebrities.

Marcus has also done motivational speaking for various companies and organizations. Contact him if you are interested!

eh … anything else?

Marcus loves pancakes. And the San Antonio Spurs. June 3, 2021, was named “Marcus Amaker Day” by John Tecklenburg, mayor of Charleston, SC. 

photo by Diana Deaver

The hard questions.

Q. What music are you listening to now?
A. The Smile, Cusp, Gouge Away, Amaro Freitas, Brittany Howard, billy woods and kenny segal, Matthew Halsall, Makaya McCraven, Liv.e, L’Rain, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Skee Mask, Bjork, Florist, Brutus, Chelsea Wolfe, Astrid Sonne, and Dua Lipa.

Q. What is your favorite song of all time?
A. Quite possibly this one

Q. What do you think of AI and poetry?
A. We are already existing in the scary future of technology. And we are still here: the poets, the musicians, the weirdos, the people who are scared of tech, the people who love tech. We’ll always be here. With or without AI. Let’s find a way to play with this technology … I think it could inspire some amazing creations.

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 DiFranco is a master songwriter and was the source of my inspiration for many, many years. Prince was the spark. His music is the reason I became an artist. I’m also incredibly inspired by Trent Reznor, Bjork, and Alice Coltrane.

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 Daniel Green

photo by by Sean Money and Elizabeth Fey Photography