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Photo: Annie Kim

Michael Waters has published fourteen books of poetry, most recently Sinnerman (Etruscan Press, 2023), Caw (BOA Editions, 2020), and The Dean of Discipline (U Pittsburgh P, 2018). Pagan Sky: New & Selected Poems 2000-2025 is forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2026. Darling Vulgarity (BOA Editions, 2006) was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems (BOA Editions, 2001) was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize. The Bicycle and the Soul: Prose on Poetry appeared from Tiger Bark Press in 2024.


He has co-edited several anthologies, including Border Lines: Poems of Migration (Knopf, 2020), Reel Verse: Poems About the Movies (Knopf, 2019), Contemporary American Poetry (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), and Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois UP, 2003).


His poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, including five editions of The Pushcart Prize and in Best American Poetry 2024. In 2004, Waters chaired the poetry panel of the National Book Awards.


A 2017 Guggenheim Fellow, he has also been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Fulbright Foundation, MD State Arts Council and NJ State Council on the Arts, and residency fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Rockvale Writers' Colony, St. James Cavalier Centre (Malta), Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland), and Chateau de Lavigny (Switzerland). Waters lives without a cell phone in Ocean, NJ.


Pagan Sky: New & Selected Poems 2000-2025. BOA Editions. Forthcoming 2026.

Sinnerman. Etruscan Press. 2023.

Caw. BOA Editions. 2020. Shoestring Press (UK). 2021.

The Dean of Discipline. University of Pittsburgh Press. 2018.

Celestial Joyride. BOA Editions. 2016. Shoestring Press (UK). 2017.

Selected Poems. Shoestring Press (UK). 2011.

Gospel Night. BOA Editions. 2011.

Darling Vulgarity. BOA Editions. 2006.

Parthenopi: New & Selected Poems. BOA Editions. 2001.

Green Ash, Red Maple, Black Gum. BOA Editions. 1997.

Bountiful. Carnegie Mellon University Press. 1992.

The Burden Lifters. Carnegie Mellon University Press. 1989.

Anniversary of the Air. Carnegie Mellon University Press. 1985.

Not Just Any Death. BOA Editions. 1979.

Fish Light. Ithaca House. 1975.

The Bicycle and the Soul: Prose on Poetry. Tiger Bark Press. 2024.


Fruits of the Earth: Poems (co-editor). Knopf. Forthcoming 2025.

Border Lines: Poems of Migration (co-editor). Knopf, 2020.

Reel Verse: Poems About the Movies (co-editor). Knopf, 2019.

The Pushcart Prize XXXVI: Best of the Small Presses (poetry co-editor). Pushcart Press,     


Contemporary American Poetry (co-editor). Houghton Mifflin. 8th Edition. 2006.

     7th Edition. 2001.

Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali (co-editor). Southern Illinois UP.


Selected Poems by A. Poulin, Jr. (editor). BOA Editions. 2001.

Dissolve to Island: On the Poetry of John Logan (editor). Ford-Brown & Company. 1984.



Journals (selected)

Poetry; American Poetry Review; Paris Review; Kenyon Review; Yale Review; Georgia Review; Southern Review; Missouri Review; Iowa Review; Gettysburg Review; Michigan Quarterly Review; Ploughshares; Field; Rolling Stone; TriQuarterly; North American Review; Massachusetts Review; Mississippi Review; Florida Review; Arkansas International; Shenandoah; Crazyhorse; Antioch Review; Arts & Letters; Hopkins Review; Poetry International; Pleiades; Carolina Quarterly; New Letters; America; Prairie Schooner; North Dakota Quarterly; Seneca Review; Chelsea; Gargoyle; Christianity & Literature; Southern Humanities Review; Southern Indiana Review; South Carolina Review; Greensboro Review, Poet Lore; Cimarron Review; The Progressive; Poetry Northwest; Alaska Quarterly Review; Bennington Review; Anglican Theological Review; Wallace Stevens Journal; Copper Nickel; Plume; Phi Kappa Phi Forum.

from Reviews (selected)

"Waters is a poet of wit, candor, and grace, and his prosodic skills are second to none in his generation."

-Floyd Collins, The Living Artifact (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2021)

"It is difficult to imagine poetry could be more finely crafted and compelling than the work of Michael Waters, who has been quietly writing some of the best poetry in the United States for the past three decades."

—Stephan Delbos, Prague Post

"In lines that are often metrically formal—the decasyllabic line appears in many of [his poems]—there is often a quite wild range of emotion, from the overtly sexual to the politically conscious, the plaintively domestic to the brashly cosmopolitan. This is highly energized verse."

—Michael Broek, Poetry International

"Waters seeks to capture the different kinds of negative space which interpenetrate American public life, history, and even the most intimate of moments ‘between two bodies’—what he calls 'the loneliness of two people / together.'"

—Jonathan Taylor, Times Literary Supplement

"A significant American voice… testifies eloquently to the persistence of the lyric in a time and history that would seek to obliterate it."

—John Mann, World Literature Today

"Waters excels at stark-eyed, honest elegies… all rendered in the strong free verse that is [his] signature. He is a poet of detail, but also one of directness, pursuing strong feeling wherever it dives or climbs."

Publishers Weekly

"Waters seeks and appropriates a rich, malleable language that allows him to express the subtleties of human emotion and the realities of the human condition… Michael Waters is perhaps the best poet of his generation."

—Floyd Collins, The Gettysburg Review

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