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Richard Michelson


Richard Michelson was born on July 3, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in East New York, a neighborhood whose racial population would dramatically shift in the years when he lived there—a topic Michelson explores in his writing.

When Michelson was nineteen, he got a job traveling the country selling fine art reproductions. He toured the Midwest for three years, during which time he engaged more with art and literature. He then started his own small art gallery in 1976. In 1979, he settled in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he started R.Michelson Galleries, which he continues to run today.

Michelson is the author of four poetry collections: More Money than God (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), Battles & Lullabies (University of Illinois Press, 2006), Masks (The Gehenna Press, 1999), and Tap Dancing for the Relatives (University of Central Florida Press, 1985). In addition to his poetry collections, Michelson has also published over a dozen award-winning children’s books.

In his review of More Money than God, Martín Espada writes, “Some poets wrestle with ghosts. Richard Michelson invites them to sit at the kitchen table, crack jokes, give advice, live and die all over again. By turns philosophical, political, tender, outraged, and funny as hell, Richard Michelson is a poet to remember.”

Michelson is the host of Northampton Poetry Radio and the former poet laureate of Northampton.

Selected Bibliography


More Money than God (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015)
Battles & Lullabies (University of Illinois Press, 2006)
Masks (The Gehenna Press, 1999)
Tap Dancing for the Relatives (University of Central Florida Press, 1985)


Richard Michelson
Photo credit: Ellen Michelson

By This Poet


More Money than God

my father said, again and again, shaking his head
in disbelief at any ostentation; the neighbor’s gold-
plated knocker (we still banged fists) or my own lust
to own the seductive canvas or the waxed bronze bust.
It is not only the idea—which should hold all the pleasure—
but the poet’s pencil marks on paper which we treasure
above the memorized poem. And so I fan my flushed face,
signaling the fast-talking auctioneer, who has traced 
the provenance, and picks up the pace, multiplying offers.  
And who now does my father’s bidding? Heaven’s coffers,
perhaps, are for the destitute; but why did he have to die 
to escape the shitty crime-ridden, never-to-be-gentrified          
neighborhood of both our births? The cost of living,      
he would argue, is not the worth of being alive.
But still he checked each lottery ticket which littered             
the empty lot next door, praised their silver latex glitter,
praying to the beautiful unscratched, like little gods.  
Money talks, he taught me. But nobody beats the odds.

Elijah vs. Santa

Weight advantage: Santa. Sugar and milk
at every stop, the stout man shimmies
down one more chimney, sack of desire
chuting behind, while Elijah, skinny
and empty-handed, slips in invisible as
a once favored, since disgraced uncle,
through the propped open side door.
Inside, I’ve been awaiting a miracle
since 1962, my 9 year-old self slouching
on this slip-covered sofa, Manischewitz
stashed beneath the cushion. Where
are the fire-tinged horses, the chariots
to transport me? Where is the whirlwind
and brimstone? Instead, our dull-bladed
sleigh rusts in the storage bin beneath
the building’s soot-covered flight   
of cellar stairs. Come back to me father,
during December’s perfect snowfall
and pull me once more up Schenck
and down Pitkin, where the line wraps
around Church Hall. Show me, again,
the snapshot of the skull-capped boy
on Santa’s lap. Let me laugh this time
and levitate like a magician’s assistant,
awed by my own weightlessness. Give me
the imagination to climb the fire escape
and look up toward the Godless Heavens
and to marvel at the ordinary sky.

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