Shara McCallum

(1972 - Present)

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Jamaican father and a Venezuelan mother, Shara McCallum moved to the United States with her family at the age of nine. She holds a BA in English literature, from the University of Miami, an MFA in poetry from the University of Maryland, and a PhD in poetry and African American and Caribbean Literature from Binghamton University.

Six of McCallum’s books have been published in the US and UK, most recently No Ruined Stone (Alice James Books, Peepal Tree Press), winner of the 2022 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry and a finalist for the 2022 UNT Rilke Prize. Her other collections include Madwoman (Alice James, Peepal Tree, 2017), winner of the OCM Bocas Poetry Prize for Caribbean Literature and the Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize; The Face of Water (Peepal Tree, 2011); This Strange Land (Alice James, 2011); Song of Thieves (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003); and The Water Between Us, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize (U Pitt, 1999). An anthology of her poems, La historia es un cuarto/History is a Room, was translated into Spanish by Adalber Salas Hernández and published in Mexico (Mantis Editores, 2021).

McCallum’s poems have been published in journals such as The Atlantic, Callaloo, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, Ploughshares, and Prairie Schooner. Her essays have also been widely published. Anthologies and textbooks from the US, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Asia have featured her writing. Her poetry has been translated into six languages and set to music by composers Marta Gentilucci and Gity Razaz. Her honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Silver Musgrave Medal, a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, the Oran Robert Perry Burke Award for Nonfiction, a Cave Canem Fellowship, and an Academy of American Poets college prize, among others. From 2021 to 2022, she served as the Penn State Laureate.

McCallum reads, lectures, and runs writing workshops at universities, literary festivals, conferences, and other community settings in the US and internationally. She has taught creative writing and literature at a number of universities, and from 2003 to 2017, she served as the director of the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. She lives with her family in Pennsylvania, where she is currently an Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English at Penn State University and a faculty member in the Pacific Low-Residency MFA Program.


More Shara McCallum

Text: Read an excerpt from "Passage" by McCallum at Poem-a-Day

Video: Watch McCallum read at the Dodge Poetry Festival

Audio: McCallum appears on the Hive Poetry Collective podcast


Photo provided by University of Pittsburgh Press.