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Shara McCallum


Shara McCallum was born on October 18, 1972, in Jamaica to Afro-Jamaican and Venezuelan parents and moved to the United States at the age of nine. She received a BA from the University of Miami, an MFA from the University of Maryland, and a PhD in poetry and African American and Caribbean literature from Binghamton University in New York.

Her most recent collection, Madwoman (Alice James Books, 2017), won the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in poetry. She is also the author of The Face of Water: New and Selected Poems (Peepal Tree Press, 2011), This Strange Land (Alice James Books, 2011), Song of Thieves (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), and The Water Between Us (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999), winner of the 1998 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize.

McCallum is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Witter Bynner Foundation, among others. She has also received a college prize from the Academy of American Poets, and her work has appeared in the Best American Poetry series.

From 2003 to 2017, McCallum served as the director of the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. She has also taught at Drew University, the University of Memphis, the University of Southern Maine, and the University of West Indies in Barbados. She currently teaches at Penn State University and lives in Pennsylvania.


Madwoman (Alice James Books, 2017)
The Face of Water: New and Selected Poems (Peepal Tree Press, 2011)
This Strange Land (Alice James Books, 2011)
Song of Thieves (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003)
The Water Between Us (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999)

Shara McCallum

By This Poet


What I'm telling you [excerpt]

Reincarnation, life everlasting--
call it whatever you will--

it will not change
the facts: we are ashes of stellar death.

And, in the end, wishing on shooting stars
is like pinning your hopes

on the last sound of the whistle
trailing off, last chord of the train

sparking on the tracks
then fading into the dark.

Miss Sally on Love

In my time, I was a girl who like to spree.
The whole world would open fi mi

if I shift mi hips to strain
the fabric of mi skirt, just so.

Still, I did learn mi lesson
where love concern: if snake bite yu,

when yu see even lizard, crawling
with him belly on ground, yu run.

Now the gal come to mi, say she fall in love
with man who have a plan fi change.

But she nuh notice him also carry gun?
And, lawd, how she nuh see

who running the show and who
keeping house same way?

No Ruined Stone

When the dead return
they will come to you in dream
and in waking, will be the bird
knocking, knocking against glass, seeking
a way in, will masquerade
as the wind, its voice made audible
by the tongues of leaves, greedily
lapping, as the waves’ self-made fugue
is a turning and returning, the dead
will not then nor ever again
desert you, their unrest
will be the coat cloaking you,
the farther you journey
from them the more
that distance will maw in you,
time and place gulching
when the dead return to demand
accounting, wanting
and wanting and wanting
everything you have to give and nothing
will quench or unhunger them
as they take all you make as offering.
Then tell you to begin again.

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