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March 19, 2008 The Academy Offices From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Afaa Michael Weaver was born Michael S. Weaver in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951. The son of 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 took a factory job alongside his father and uncles and remained a factory worker for fifteen years. During this period, he wrote and published poetry, short fiction, and freelance journalism; he also founded 7th Son Press and Blind Alleys, a literary journal.

Weaver’s first book of poetry, Water Song (Callaloo Journal), was published in 1985. Six months after signing the contract, he received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and left the factory to attend Brown University’s graduate writing program on a full university fellowship. He received an MA in theater and playwriting at Brown, while simultaneously completing a BA in literature at Excelsior College.

Since Water Song, Weaver has published several additional 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; 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 in multiple anthologies, including Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, 1967 to the Present (Little, Brown, 1997), edited by Gloria Naylor.

Weaver took the name Afaa in 1997, after the death of his first child; the name, given to him by the Nigerian playwright Tess Onwueme, is an Ibo word meaning “oracle."

Weaver has received numerous fellowships and awards, including a 1995 fellowship from the Pennsylvania State Arts Council, a 1998 Pew Fellowship, and a 2002 Fulbright Scholar appointment to Taiwan, where he taught at the National Taiwan University and Taipei National University of the Arts. He teaches at Drew University in New Jersey and Simmons College in Massachusetts. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.


Selected Bibliography
City of Eternal Spring (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014)
The Government of Nature (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013)
The Plum Flower Dance: Poems 1985 to 2005 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007)
Multitudes (Sarabande Books, 2000)
The Ten Lights of God (Bucknell University Press, 2000)
Water Song (Callaloo Journal, 1985)

Lamentations #1 (audio only)

 

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Afaa Michael Weaver

Afaa Michael Weaver

Born in 1951, Afaa Michael Weaver is the author of several collections of poetry, including City of Eternal Spring (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014), and a full length play.

by this poet

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
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

This wall is a great stairway, walls
are things that shoot up, keep out, line
the places where we mark the halls

that carry our names. The busts
of this one and that one, this history
is in the hard labor of hearts, thrusts

of piston and valve. I sit down
at the first house,