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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 Spirit Boxing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017); 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. Weaver retired from Simmons College, where he held the Alumnae Endowed Chair for twenty years, and is a member of the core faculty in the Drew MFA program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation. He lives in West Cornwall, Connecticut. 


Selected Bibliography
Spirit Boxing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017)
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)

Losing the 440-Yard Dash

If he hits the curve before you do, all is lost
is all I remember when the coach yelled out
to start, to kick it down the short straightaway

into the curve, the curve a devil’s handiwork,
with Worsenski ahead of me, two hundred sixty
pounds, one hundred pounds more than me,

and all I could see were the Converse soles
of a boy I dusted in my dreams on the bus
out here to make the track team, letters

for my sweater, girls going goo-goo over me,
coaches from big-league schools with papers
to say I was headed for glory, my unkempt

disappointment in me now sealed by winged
feet beating me in the curve, Worsenski as big
as the USS Enterprise sliding through Pacific

waters, parting the air in front of him that
sucked back behind just to hold me in my grip
of deep shame until I wished I were not there.

I wanted more than being human, a warrior
of field and track would be bursting out now
ripping open my chest with masculinity

to make Jesse Owens proud or jealous,
or inspired or something other than me
the pulling-up caboose slower than mud

running like an old man really walking,
all the most valuable parts of me inside
my brain in wishes, in dreams, in things

not yet born into the world, in calculations
of beauty, in yearning for love, for the word
of love, for some adoration from Wanda,

the most beautiful girl in the whole block,
black like me and wondering just what
life had to give those of us who can fly.

Copyright © 2015 Afaa Michael Weaver. Originally published in the Winter 2015 issue of Prairie Schooner. Used with permission of Prairie Schooner

Copyright © 2015 Afaa Michael Weaver. Originally published in the Winter 2015 issue of Prairie Schooner. Used with permission of Prairie Schooner

Afaa Michael Weaver

Afaa Michael Weaver

Born in 1951, Afaa Michael Weaver is the author of several collections of poetry, including Spirit Boxing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017).

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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,

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