Marcus Amaker named city’s first poet laureate

Marcus Amaker

Marcus Amaker, a local poet, musician and graphic designer, was named Charleston’s first poet laureate Tuesday evening, a month after the position was established by City Council.

“We established the position of Poet Laureate to encourage the appreciation of poetry throughout Charleston,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said in a statement. “Marcus is a well-known artist in our community who has the drive, passion and talent to make poetry accessible to everyone.”

Amaker, who once edited Charleston Scene for The Post and Courier, is an active collaborator and a tireless performer, often organizing and participating in spoken word events. He is the author of seven books of poetry, and he has contributed poems to a variety of volumes.

“This honor is not just for me, it’s for every poet in Charleston,” Amaker said. “Poetry is such an important and vital art form. I’m looking forward to working with nonprofits, businesses and schools to give literacy a bigger platform. It’s going to be fun to come up with creative ways for poetry to be spread throughout Charleston. I’m also excited to be an advocate for the City through my words. Charleston has inspired me since the minute I decided to move here in 2003.”

Cities are increasingly embracing poetry. Across the U.S., cities large and small have named an official bard. Doing so clearly is a win-win: it gives poetry (and, by extension, poets) a boost, and it adds an artistic sheen to municipalities otherwise preoccupied with budgets, infrastructure, public services, construction and other matters of urban life.

As poet laureate of Charleston, Amaker will do much more than write and recite. He will work in conjunction with the Office of Cultural Affairs implementing a community outreach and education program to encourage the writing, reading and performance of poetry within the city. He will also participate in civic events, promote literacy through poetry in schools and foster the development of a youth poetry initiative.

And Amaker will commemorate the city by composing poetry that speaks to, for and of the region, to be presented at an annual city-sponsored event.

The ordinance establishing the post authorizes a small honorarium funded by private sources, according to city spokesman Jack O’Toole. That honorarium likely would amount to a few thousand dollars.

A poetry reading and reception featuring Amaker is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 29 at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. Armed with an old-fashioned typewriter, Amaker will be at the Charleston Farmers Market on June 25 with other local poets. He will also be presenting the inaugural Charleston Poetry Festival, in late October.

Reach Adam Parker at (843) 937-5902. Follow him at facebook.com/aparkerwriter.