Afaa Michael Weaver 蔚雅風


About His Work

"Weaver...finds a place in the legacy of Whitman and the mid-nineteenth century when in the evolution of American poetry the glory of vernacular speech first became fused in verse with an inspired sense of the American self, sensuous and yet transcendent. Weaver's verse acknowledges the guidance of that tradition and honors it...His vision is local and focused, and as befits a poet of genuine depth and seriousness of purpose, it is as wide as the horizon itself." -- Arnold Rampersad (from his extended essay that is the preface to Multitudes)
“[Weaver] one of the most important poets of his generation.”

Poet, Playwright, Translator

Photo by Catherine Laine

Blues in Five/​Four, the Violence in Chicago

--awarded a Pushcart Prize for 2013
published in Ibbetson Street Press

In movies about the end of our civilization
toys fill the broken spaces of cities, flipping over
in streets where children are all hoodlums, big kids
painting themselves in neon colors, while the women
laugh, following the men into a love of madness.

Still shots show emptiness tearing the eyes of the last
of us who grew to be old, the ones the hoodlums
prop up in shadows, throwing garbage at us,
taping open our eyes, forcing us to study the dead
in photos torn from books in burned down libraries.

Chicago used to be Sundays at Gladys' Luncheonette
where church folk came and ate collard greens and chicken
after the sermons that rolled out in black churches, sparkling
tapestries of words from preachers' mouths, prayer books,
tongues from Tell Me, Alabama, and Walk On, Mississippi.

Now light has left us, the sun blocked out by shreds
of what history becomes when apathy shreds it,
becoming a name the bad children give themselves
as they laugh and threaten each other while we starve
for the laughter we were used to before the end came.

---Afaa M. Weaver 蔚雅風
Pushcart prize 2013
first published in Ibbetson Street Press
Editors: Doug Holder, Dianne Robitaille, Richard Wilhelm
Advisory Editor: Harris Gardner

(from The Government of Nature)

The lines that make you are infinite, but I count them
every day to hear the stories you carry. These are not secrets
but records, things we should know but ignore. If I commit
the sin of tearing you from the tree, I find another world
inside the torn vein, another lifetime of counting the records
of who walked here before, of what lovers lay here
holding each other through wars and starvation.

Some days I stand here until I lose focus and travel,
drifting off out of the moment, too full of it, and my legs
are now like trees, mindless but vigilant, held
into the earth by the rules of debt, what we owe
to nature for trying to tear ourselves away. I drift
and the pleasure of touch comes again, layers of green
in the mountainside a tickling in my palms.

The pleasure is that of being lost here in the crowd
of trunks and pulp, the ground thick with the death of you,
sinking under my feet as I go, touching one and another,
linking myself through until the place where I entered
is gone. When I am afraid, my breath is caught in my throat.
When I am not afraid, I lift both hands up under a bunch
of you to find the way the world felt on the first day.

published in Orion magazine


What the sages know is what Weaver submitted himself to learning from the time of his childhood, a black kid exposed to both city and country in the last days of segregation...The book (The Plum Flower Dance) is that rare bird, both weightless and profound...It simply understands, as St. Teresa of Avila understood when she counseled "let nothing perturb you," that there is no gain in desperation."
Ralph Jones
East Providence Post
November 30, 2007

"Weaver finds a place in the legacy of Whitman and the mid-nineteenth century when in the evolution of American poetry the glory of vernacular speech first became fused in verse with an inspired sense of the American self, sensuous and yet transcendent...(He) has made himself into a virtuoso in his manipulations of vernacular form. Poems such as "Mojo Mamba" and "Piggly Wiggly"--Rabelasian sendups of black American phallocentric humor...are composed so deftly that one is brought up short when the exaggeration and the laughter stop and the meditative voice and rhythms return to serve the poet's more intimate needs. His vision is local and focused, and as befits a poet of genuine depth and seriousness of purpose, it is as wide as the horizon itself. Weaver's depiction of black culture clearly emerges from a profound love of black people."
Arnold Rampersad
Stanford University
from preface to "Multitudes"

"Fanon said, ' speak is to assume a culture and to bear responsibility for a civilization.' Afaa Michael Weaver has done that in his poems. This poet has been to the "carnival in the city" and returned with the knowledge that the country is alive because of his benedictions."
Sonia Sanchez
writing on "Multitudes" 2000

"The Michael S. Weaver play “Rosa” magic on the soul...Eugene O”Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” kept coming to mind as this play unfolded...I think my connection had more to do with O’Neill’s sovereign sense of drama--a quality Weaver, a poet of some consequence, also evidenced in his writing here.”
Nels Nelson
The Philadelphia Daily News
June 8, 1993

“The spirit of the late William Inge inhabits the weather-beaten house, the rose-covered arbor, and the people in search of connection in Michael S. Weaver’s Rosa...”
Clifford A. Ridley
The Philadelphia Inquirer
June 5, 1993

The New England Poetry Club awarded Weaver the 2009 May Sarton Award for his service to the art of poetry and for serving as an inspiration to fellow poets. Weaver shared the award with Fred Marchant of Suffolk University.

"I grew up in East Baltimore in the neighborhood that includes the corner house in this photograph. This is the intersection of Federal Street and Montford Avenue. On this corner my love life began. In the summer of 1969, astronauts walked on the moon, and my wife to be and I sat on the steps of this house until her parents announced the curfew for the evening. Halfway down that block was the house where one of my mother’ sisters lived, and on the corner just east of her house there was Gibson's sub shop. Life was different at that time. It was the late sixties, before the state of the city depicted in "The Wire." In fact, Charles Dutton began filming “The Corner” at Oliver and Montford, one block from where I sat in the evenings with my wife to be. I was writing poetry that summer in ’69, and working in an ice house on Chase and Montford, just a few blocks south of where I met my wife. After starting at the University of Maryland in College Park when I was 16 years old in 1968, I dropped out in 1970 to work in factories and write for 15 years, until an NEA fellowship allowed me to leave that life in 1985 and enter Brown University for the M.F.A. in Creative Writing. I wanted to teach, and so I went to graduate school, but I had already established myself as a poet, having studied in the factories and neighborhoods of Baltimore. My first poet mentor was Lucille Clifton, who lived in the city for many years. My license to be a poet is one I inherited from black and poor people who built cultures out of a faith in stuggle and hope.” ******************************"Afaa Michael Weaver is one of the most significant poets writing today. With its blend of Chinese spiritualism and American groundedness, his poetry presents the reader (and the listener, for his body of work is meant to be read aloud) with challenging questions about identity, about how physicality and spirit act together or counteract each other to shape who we are in the world. His attention to the way language works is rare, and the effects of that attention on his poetry are distinctive and expansive." Dr. Henry Louis Gates -- Alphonse Fletcher University Professor -- Harvard University
"These poems of Afaa Michael Weaver take you by the hand, like a trusted grown-up takes a child, down a landscaped and stylized pathway of disturbing memories, family ghosts, and familiar, even endearing, internal landmarks." Denis Daly from his review in The Somerville News March 20, 2013

The Ten Lights of God (Inspired by the Kabbalah)

In Taiwan with Friends