Michael S. Harper (Michael Steven Harper) Biography
(1938– ), (Michael Steven Harper), Dear John, Dear Coltrane, History Is Your Own Heartbeat
African-American poet and critic, born in Brooklyn, educated at UCLA and the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. Among several important academic posts Harper was appointed Kapstein Professor at Brown University. His main interests are music, particularly jazz and blues, and history within both a national and a mythical framework; these themes he established in his first two volumes of poetry, Dear John, Dear Coltrane (1970) and History Is Your Own Heartbeat (1971). Other volumes include Photographs: Negatives: History as Apple Tree (1972), Song: I Want a Witness (1972), Debridement (1973), Nightmare Begins Responsibility (1974), Images of Kin: New and Selected Poems (1977), Rhode Island: Eight Poems (1981), and Healing Song for the Inner Ear (1985), and the recording Hear Where Coltrane Is (1971). The power of music to express the pain of racial history and to heal the psychological and spiritual wounds inflicted upon African-Americans provides Harper with a model for his art. His poetry seeks to witness and to remember the African-American experience in all its individual detail. Among the works he has edited are the anthology Heartblow: Black Veils (1975), The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown (1980), Chant of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art and Scholarship (1979) with Robert Stepto, and Every Eye Ain't Asleep: An Anthology of Poetry by Afro-Americans Since 1945 (1994) with Anthony Walton.