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poet

Afaa Michael Weaver

1951- , Baltimore , MD , United States
Afaa Michael Weaver

In 1951 in Baltimore, Maryland, Afaa Michael Weaver, formerly known as Michael S. Weaver, was born to working class parents. He attended public schools and graduated as a National Merit finalist at the age of sixteen. After two years at the University of Maryland, he entered the world of factory life alongside his father and uncles and remained a factory worker for fifteen years. These years were a literary apprenticeship during which he wrote and published poetry, short fiction, and freelance journalism. During that time he also started 7th Son Press and Blind Alleys, a literary journal.

His first book of poetry, Water Song, was published in 1985 as part of the Callaloo series. He received a NEA fellowship for poetry six months after signing the contract for the collections and left factory life to accept admission into Brown University’s graduate writing program on a full university fellowship, where he completed the MA with a focus on theater and playwriting. Concurrently, he completed his BA in Literature in English through Excelsior College.

Tess Onwueme, the Nigerian playwright, gave him the Ibo name "Afaa," meaning "oracle," while Dr. Perng Ching-hsi, of National Taiwan University has given him the Chinese name "Wei Yafeng," derived from "Wei" for flourishing or blossoming, and "Yafeng," the title of a section of poems from the Book of Songs, the oldest anthology of Chinese poetry.

Since Water Song, Weaver has published several more collections of poetry, including The Plum Flower Dance: Poems 1985 to 2005 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007); Multitudes; Sandy Point; and The Ten Lights of God, all of which appeared in 2000. His full length play Rosa was produced in 1993 at Venture Theater in Philadelphia under a small-Equity contract. His short fiction appears in Gloria Naylor’s Children of the Night and in Maria Gillan’s Identity Lessons.

Weaver has been a Pew fellow in poetry and taught in National Taiwan University and Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan as a Fulbright Scholar.

At Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, he is the Alumnae Professor of English and director of the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Center. In addition, he is Chairman of the Simmons International Chinese Poetry Conference.

by this poet

poem

I am a city of bones
deep inside my marrow,
a song in electric chords,
decrescendo to mute, rise
to white noise, half silences
in a blank harmony as all
comes to nothing, my eyes
the central fire of my soul,
yellow, orange, red—gone
in an instant and then back
poem
                in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary

In general population, census
is consensus—ain't nowhere to run
to in these walls, walls like a mind—
We visitors stand in a yellow circle
so the tower can frisk us with light,
finger the barrels on thirsty rifles.

I got rambling, rambling on my mind

In
poem
Black women keep secrets tied up in hankies
they stuff in their bras, secrets of how their necks
are connected to their spines in the precise gyration
of a jelly sweetened in nights they had to keep
to themselves, nights prowlers came in to change
the faces of their children, secrets like the good
googa mooga