MIchael S. Harper

Michael S. Harper. Courtesy Education Update Online.

Michael Steven Harper (born March 18, 1938) is an African-American poet, who has published ten books of poetry. A great deal of his poetry is influenced by jazz and history.[1]


Born in Brooklyn, New York City, Harper earned his B.A. and M.A. from California State University, Los Angeles, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa.

As of 2011, Harper lives in Barrington, Rhode Island. He is the longest serving professor of English at Brown University, where he continues to teach poetry workshops to undergraduates.Template:Cn

Many of his poems have been included as important examples of African American literature and jazz poetry in various anthologies. Harper often writes about his wife, Shirley (commonly referred to as "Shirl"), their children, their ancestors, as well as friends and various black historical and cultural figures.


In 1993, Nathan A. Scott in the "Afro-American Poetry" article of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics wrote, "Harper has created a body of work which, though it has won much respect and admiration, deserves to be far more widely known than it is."[2]


Harper served as the Poet Laureate of Rhode Island from 1988 to 1993. Two of his poetry collections, Dear John, Dear Coltrane (1970) and Images of Kin (1977), have been nominated for a National Book Award.



  • Dear John, Dear Coltrane. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1970; Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1985.
  • History Is Your Own Heartbeat. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1971.
  • Photographs, Negatives: History as apple tree. San Francisco, CA: Scarab Press, 1972.
  • Song: I Want a Witness (includes Photographs, Negatives: History as Apple Tree). Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972.
  • Debridement. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973.
  • Nightmare Begins Responsibility. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1974, 1995.
  • Images of Kin: New and selected poems. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1977.
  • Rhode Island: Eight poems. Pym-Randall, 1981.
  • Healing Song for the Inner Ear. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1985.
  • Songlines: Mosaics (limited edition). Providence, RI: Ziggurat Press/Brown University, 1991.
  • Honorable Amendments: Poems. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1995.
  • Songlines in Michaeltree: New and collected poems. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
  • Selected Poems. Todmorden, UK: Arc Publicatons, 2002.
  • Debridement/Song: I want a witness. Providence, RI: Paradigm Press, 2002.
  • Use Trouble. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009.


  • Ralph Dickey, Leaving Eden: Poems. Bonewhistle Press, 1974.
  • Robert Hayden, American Journal (limited edition). Effendi Press, 1978.
  • Chant of Saints: A gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art, and Scholarship (Edited with Robert B. Stepto). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1979.
  • Sterling Allen Brown, The Collected Poems. New York: Harper and Row, 1980; Evanston, IL: TriQuarterly Books, 1996.
  • The Vintage Book of African-American Poetry (edited with Anthony Walton). New York: Vintage Books, 2000.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[3]

Audio / videoEdit

Dear John, Dear Coltrane A poem by Michael S02:05

Dear John, Dear Coltrane A poem by Michael S. Harper

He has released one CD, of poetry accompanied by jazz music:

  • 2004: Double Take: Jazz - Poetry Conversations, Paul Austerlitz, bass clarinetist/composer, innova Records, made through the American Composers Forum's Recording Assistance Program, underwritten by the McKnight Foundation.

See alsoEdit


  • Lerner, Ben (ed.).To Cut Is To Heal: A Critical Companion to Michael S. Harper's "Debridement". Providence, RI: Paradigm Press, 2000. 9780945926573


  1. "Michael S. Harper", Academy of American Poets,, Web, April 23, 2008
  2. Preminger, Alex and T.V.F. Brogan, et al., editors, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 1993, Princeton University Press and MJF Books, "Afro-American Poetry" article, by Nathan A. Scott Jr., p 25
  3. Michael S. Harper b. 1938, Poetry Foundation, Web, Sep. 30, 2012.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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