Photo credit: Ellen Michelson

Richard Michelson

b. 1953

Current City, State, Country

Northampton, Massachusetts, USA

Birth City, State, Country

United States


Richard Michelson’s books have been listed among the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and The New Yorker; and among the Best Dozen of the Decade by Michelson has received a National Jewish Book Award, two Sydney Taylor Gold Medals from the a Association of Jewish Libraries, three Skipping Stones Multicultural Book Awards, and a Samuel Minot Jones Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Michelson now lives in Western Massachusetts. He received a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in 2016 and his work was chosen to represent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival.

Michelson’s most recent collection of poetry More Money than God (U of Pittsburgh), was a finalist for the Paterson Prize. Earlier collections include Battles and Lullabies (U of Illinois) and Tap Dancing for the Relatives (U of Central Florida). Sleeping as Fast as I Can is forthcoming (2023) from Slant Books.

Michelson’s poems have appeared in Tikkun, Moment, Tablet, Jewish Currents, Harvard Review, Crazyhorse, Image: Art-Faith-Mystery, Massachusetts Review and many other publications. Among the anthologies featuring his poetry is the Norton Introduction to Poetry,  Beyond Lament: Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust; Unsettling America: Contemporary Multicultural Poetry. and the New Voices Project: Moral Lessons of the Holocaust.

Michelson served two terms as Poet Laureate of Northampton MA where he owns R. Michelson Galleries and hosts Northampton Poetry Radio.

What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?

I grew up in a secular family and had no Jewish education of any kind.  My mother was an avowed atheist, who rebelled against her own father’s orthodoxy (he became a gambler after immigrating and when his eldest daughter took ill as a child, he thought it punishment for his sins, and swore that if she got well, he would dedicate his life to serving God).  I did not realize how culturally Jewish I was until I married a Methodist. It wasn’t until my wife was pregnant with our first child and  decided—against my advice—to convert to Judaism (Jennifer went into labor while in the mikvah—but that is her story to tell) that I began to study my own people’s history and my relation to it. Because I am a writer, I don’t often know what I believe until I wrestle with my thoughts on the page. For over four decades, and more than two dozen books, the main focus of my work has been an exploration of Jewish historical, spiritual, and political struggles. No one could be more surprised by this poetic journey than I am.

Published Works

Sleeping as Fast as I Can (Slant Books, 2023)
More Money than God (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015)
Battles and Lullabies (University of Illinois Press, 2006)
Masks, Illustrated by Leonard Baskin (Gehenna Press,1999)
Semblant, Illustrated by Leonard Baskin (Gehenna Press, 1992)
Tap Dancing for the Relatives, Illustrated by Barry Moser (University of Central Florida Press, 1985)

Children’s Books
The Language of Angels: A Story about the Reinvention of Hebrew, Illustrated by Karla Gudeon (Charlesbridge, 2017).
Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy, Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez (Knopf, 2016)
S is for Sea Glass, Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger (Sleeping Bear Press, 2014)
Twice as Good, Illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Sleeping Bear Press, 2012)
Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King, Illustrated by Zachary Pullen (Sleeping Bear Press, 2011)
Busing Brewster, illustrated by R.G. Roth (Knopf, 2010)
A is For Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press, 2008)
Animals Anonymous, Illustrated by Scott Fischer (Simon & Schuster, 2008)
As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Towards Freedom, Illustrated by Raul Colon (Knopf, 2008)
Tuttle’s Red Barn, Illustrated by Mary Azarian (Putnam, 2007)
Oh, No, Not Ghosts! Illustrated by Adam McCauley (Harcourt, 2006)
Across the Alley, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Putnam, 2006)
Happy Feet: The Savoy Ballroom Lindy Hoppers, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Harcourt, 2005)
Too Young for Yiddish, Illustrated by Neil Waldman (Charlesbridge, 2002)
Ten Times Better Illustrated by Leonard Baskin (Marshall Cavendish, 2000)
Grandpa’s Gamble, Illustrated by Barry Moser (Marshall Cavendish, 1999)
A Book of Flies Real or Otherwise Illustrated by Leonard Baskin (l Cavendish, 1999)
Animals That Ought to Be: Poems about Imaginary Pets, Illustrated by Leonard Baskin (Simon & Schuster, 1996)
Did You Say Ghosts? Illustrated by Leonard Baskin (Macmillan, 1993)

Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading

Current Title

founder/owner R. Michelson Galleries


Vermont College of Fine Arts, MFA
University of new York at Albany, BA

Subject Matter