Marcus Amaker’s “Empath” is Moving and Profound


Exploring the path Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s first Poet Laureate, took to find love, fight for social justice and embrace Charleston and his ancestors in one palm-sized poetry book is a must-read.

He released his newest project Empath which includes the poetry book, an empty journal and jazz music and poetry album — on vinyl, C.D. and digital download. He worked with the twice Grammy-nominated producer Quentin E. Baxter.

Amaker’s words — poetry, lists, instructions — in Empath are moving and eye-opening. He focuses on unrecognized details like how a tree people pass by every day used to be home to lynchings and oppression in the poem “empath (bones).”

You can almost hear his voice performing his free-verse poetry as you read it. The breaks in lines and rhythm of the words add a special element than just reading the words straight on the page.

He displays his poetry in six parts — finding love in marriage, racial justice and awareness, the muse of Charleston, gratitude to his ancestors, handwritten poems and the central theme of empathy has several poems dispersed in the six parts of the poetry collection.

The emphasis on subjects shows the importance of them to Amaker and the significance to our society.
The first poem “(concept)” shows his purpose for writing and encouraging empathy among all people. Some lines include “mother nature/is full of/persistent parallels/begging for/empathy.”

The collection includes humorous and sweet love poems and lists to and about his wife such as in the poem “how we got here in 24 steps (or) champagne and cats.” It also shows an activist side, displaying Amaker’s advocacy for feminism, LGBTQ rights and black rights.

His smooth impactful words are paired with black and white illustrations of tree rings and fingerprints, as well as black and white images of his ancestors and people he venerated. Part 5: plug in is a collection of handwritten poems scanned in to the computer to show Amaker’s handwriting which is an interesting and unique addition to the captivating book.

As the first Poet Laureate of Charleston, Amaker has created an incredible collection and ode to Charleston as we kick off the new year, having been released on Jan. 1.

Empath is, again, a must-read. It is truly inspiring reading the words of a local poet who wants to make a difference in the world.

Amaker’s moving words achieve their purpose by reaching you in all moments of your life, leaving a trail of thoughts in the back of your mind to be an empath as you carry on in everyday life.