City Paper file photo, provided

Charleston Poet Laureate Marcus Amaker is one of a handful of poets laureate nationwide awarded a fellowship by the Academy of American Poets.

Amaker receives the award as part of the Academy’s Poet Laureate Fellowship program. Established in 2019, the program awards grants of $50,000 to poets of merit in civic positions in various communities around the country. Poets are expected to undertake projects that prove meaningful as well as educational and advance the advocacy of poetry to a wide audience. Twenty-three fellowships have been granted this year.

“These 23 Poets Laureate Fellows will lead an extraordinary range of public poetry programs,” said Elizabeth Alexander, poet and president of the Mellon Foundation, which supports the program. “We are delighted to support them as they create their own poems, collaborate with other artists, and center poetry in their engagement with communities across our vast country – from urban to rural counties – while we collectively begin to process and reflect on the exceptional crises of the past year.”

The Academy of American Poets was founded in 1934 to support American poets at all stages of their careers, and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry. They produce Poets.org, National Poetry Month, and provide awards and fellowships that enable artists all over the country to continue their work.

Amaker was named Charleston’s first poet laureate in 2016. He also won a South Carolina Governor’s Arts Award in 2019 and was named the artist-in-residence of Charleston’s Gaillard Center. Amaker has written eight books. His most recent, 2020’s The Birth of All Things, is about Black fatherhood, joy, racism, anxiety, Bjork, Star Wars and love. Amaker is also an electronic musician and an award-winning graphic designer for his work on the national music journal No Depression.

Amaker will start a Poets in Schools program in South Carolina, pairing a poet with a school. This will culminate in the publication of an anthology of poems by participating students. The fellowship will support the poets for their time in the schools, their lesson planning, and allow for the free distribution of the published anthology to participating schools.