Michael Collier Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Michael Collier grew up during the boom years of post-World War II prosperity in a comfortable upper-middle-class Catholic family, the son of a homemaker and a military pilot who became a salesman. Collier attended a parochial school in Arizona and a Jesuit high school. After graduating from Connecticut College in 1976, where he had studied with poet William Meredith, Collier received his master’s degree from the University of Arizona in 1979.

During his education, Collier held a number of odd jobs, including house painting and plumbing, that contributed both to his compassion for ordinary people and to his fascination with technology, specifically the intricate systems of everyday machines. For two years following graduation, he lived in London and traveled to “exotic” lands. He experienced strikingly different cultures, visiting Africa, Japan, and even Siberia.

After returning to the United States, Collier moved to the East Coast in the early 1980’s to serve as the director of poetry programs for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., before joining the English Department of the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1984. He became that institution’s director of creative writing. He began publishing poetry in the mid-1980’s and met with immediate critical praise for a distinctive verse style recognized for its maturity, exquisite music, and graceful subtleties. While at Maryland, he accepted a number of visiting professorships at universities, including Johns Hopkins and Yale. In 1992, he joined the faculty of the creative writing program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

In 1992, Collier began his association with the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and was named its sixth director in 1995, a post previously held by, among others, Robert Frost and John Ciardi. As editor of three critically lauded anthologies of contemporary American poetry, Collier has established himself as an important critical voice. He became the editorial consultant for poetry for publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He married Kathleen Branch, a librarian, in 1981, and together they had two sons.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Michael Collier was born in 1953 to Robert and Lucille Collier. In 1981 he married Katherine Branch, and together they had two children, Robert and David. Collier attended Connecticut College, receiving his B.A. in 1976. At Connecticut College, he studied with the poet William Meredith; Meredith and Collier developed a lifelong friendship, and Meredith’s influence is apparent in much of Collier’s work. Collier received his M.F.A. at the University of Arizona in 1979.

Collier received numerous awards for his poetry, including National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in 1984 and 1994, the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America in 1988, a Pushcart Prize (1990), the Nation/Discovery Award (1981), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1995). He was named Poet Laureate of Maryland in February, 2001.

His career includes a variety of academic and arts administration positions. He was the director of poetry programs at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., from 1983 to 1984. Collier began teaching creative writing at the University of Maryland at College Park in 1984 and became the director of the creative writing program in the early 1990’s. He also held academic positions at The Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, and Warren Wilson College. Collier became the director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 1995 and was praised for reinvigorating the conference’s lineup of visiting writers as well as reestablishing the conference’s reputation and seriousness of purpose.

Collier’s aesthetic places him in the vibrant center of postmodern American poetics. If two extremes of late twentieth century poetry reside in the experimentalism of the Language Poets and the structure and reverence of formalism, one can say that Collier stands squarely in the middle of such extremes, using a plain-speaking American voice that relies on honesty, accuracy of...

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