Professor Afaa Michael Weaver Awarded Fellowship

January 05, 2015

Afaa Weaver

Weaver will spend one month at the Jentel Artist Residency in Wyoming.

Alumnae Professor of English Afaa Michael Weaver has been awarded a month-long fellowship by the Jentel Artist Residency Program.

During the Jentel residency, Weaver will have access to communal spaces for research, recreation and dining, as well as his own private room and workspace. Jentel is located on a working cattle ranch in the Lower Piney Creek Valley in Wyoming.

“I hope to leave Jentel with... a sizable move forward in the poetry manuscript I am calling ‘Eight Trigram Spirit Boxing,’ as I am seeing it as a bigger book, one that is as ‘American Working Class’ as I can make it and which continues the display of the influence of Chinese culture on my work and my life,” said Weaver.

“Eight Trigram Spirit Boxing” is a new manuscript of poems that draws on Weaver’s fifteen year career as a factory worker. Weaver is also working on a memoir entitled “This Child, this Gift,” which draws on his previous life in the factory and his development as a poet with childhood abuse issues.

“I want the memoir to be of help to a wide range of readers, so it’s taking time. I did the first draft when I was on sabbatical in the year 2012, when I wrote right through the Mayan end of the world,” said Weaver.

At Jentel, Weaver may also work on GRIP, a new play set in Baltimore in the Fall of 2000. As the elections approach, the audience meets a diverse family of an African American grandfather, his son, his white daughter-in-law, and his biracial granddaughter. His son and daughter-in-law work together in an urban revitalization project for Baltimore until an old friend returns to force the grandfather to reveal the truth behind a lie he has been living.

“We call it kitchen sink realism,” said Weaver. “The play is in its second draft, and I'm hoping it will be the first of a series of plays, some of them more historical than others, all of them set in Baltimore.”

Weaver’s advice to student poets would be to take a poetry workshop, but also take some of the literature courses in poetry through the English Department or the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

“That includes Shakespeare,” said Weaver. “His opus is a necessary preparation for any poet. In the [poetry] workshop, some knowledge of twentieth century American and world poetry is really essential to your progress. Take a studio course in Art and Music.”

Weaver’s last piece of advice?

Go to poetry readings. There are enough poetry readings in the Boston area to give you excellent choices. You need to ‘hear’ poetry being read by the poet.”

Weaver has been teaching at Simmons College since 1997, and has been awarded three Pushcart Prizes and the 2014 Kingsley Tufts Award. His most recent works include City of Eternal Spring, the final book in the Plum Flower Trilogy, and A Hard Summation.