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 collection and left factory life to attend Brown University’s graduate writing program on a full university fellowship, where he completed an MA with a focus on theater and playwriting. Concurrently, he completed his BA in literature in English at 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 City of Eternal Spring (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014); The Government of Nature (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013), for which he received the Kingsley Tufts Award; The Plum Flower Dance: Poems 1985 to 2005 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007); Multitudes (Sarabande Books, 2000); and The Ten Lights of God (Bucknell University Press, 2000). His full-length play Rosa was produced in 1993 at Venture Theater in Philadelphia. His short fiction appears Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to the Present (Little, Brown, 1997), edited by Gloria Naylor, and Identity Lessons: Contemporary Writing About Learning to Be American (Penguin Books, 1999), edited by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan .
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. He teaches at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.