Michael S. Harper

Born: 1938

Acclaimed poet and teacher Michael S. Harper was born in 1938, in Brooklyn, New York. He earned his BA and MA from California State University and his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Known for his innovative use of jazz rhythms, cultural allusion, historical referent, and personal narrative, Harper was “a deeply complex poet whose mission is to unite the fractured, inhumane technologies of our time with the abiding deep well of Negro folk traditions,” wrote John Callahan in the New Republic. Poetry reviewer Paul Breslin noted that Harper did this by drawing “upon black history, literature, and myth.” However, Harper was distinctive in that he often sought to bridge the traditional separation between black America and white America, writing poems that speak across the divide and draw upon elements of the racial, historical, and personal past of all Americans. Source