Rafael Campo was born in Dover, New Jersey, on November 24, 1964. He is of Cuban and Italian descent and grew up in a Spanish-speaking household. His paternal grandfather fled Franco-ruled Spain and immigrated to Cuba, where he was imprisoned during the Castro-led Cuban revolution. The elder Campo fled again, this time to New Jersey. Campo attended Amherst College, where he majored in neuroscience and studied poetry with the literary scholar Eve Sedgwick. Campo studied at Harvard Medical School before publishing his first collection of poems, The Other Man Was Me: A Voyage to the New World (Arte Público Press, 1994), which won the National Poetry Series Open Competition in 1993.
Since then, Campo has published several books, including Comfort Measures Only: New and Selected Poems, 1994–2016 (Duke University Press, 2018); The Enemy, (Duke University Press, 2007); Landscape with Human Figure (Duke University Press, 2002); Diva (Duke University Press, 1999), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and What the Body Told (Duke University Press, 1996), winner of a Lambda Literary Award. He is also the author of two prose collections, including The Healing Art: A Doctor’s Black Bag of Poetry (W. W. Norton & Company, 2003) and The Poetry of Healing (W. W. Norton, 1996), which also received a Lambda Literary Award for Memoir.
About Campo’s work, the poet Mark Doty has said,
Rafael Campo’s rhymes and iambs construct their music against the edgy, recognizble world his poems inhabit: the landscape of birth and of dying, sorrow and sex, shame, and brave human persistence—first and last things, center stage in these large-hearted, open, deeply felt poems.
Campo is a PEN Center West Literary Award finalist and a recipient of the National Hispanic Academy of Arts and Sciences Annual Achievement Award. He recently received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Echoing Green Foundation.
Campo is a practicing physician at Harvard Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.