Use Trouble

Author: Michael S. Harper
Powerful new poems from one of America's most revered poets
Paper – $47
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/01/2009
Cloth: 04/20/2009
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format
Book Share

About the Book

For decades, Michael S. Harper has written poetry that speaks with many voices. His work teems with poetry configured as awe, poetry as courtship, and poetry as elegy and homage. Infused with tales and riddles, sass and satire and surprise, Harper’s poetry takes the form of psalms, jazz experiments, soft serenades, and radical provocations.

In Use Trouble, his first major collection since Songlines in Michaeltree, Harper renews poetry as the art of taking nothing for granted. In three groups--"The Fret Cycle," "Use Trouble," and "I Do Believe in People"--he draws on his seemingly inexhaustible resources to paint, sing, sympathize, and sorrow. Here are his tributes to his father and family, his irrepressible playfulness, and his lifelong romance between poetry and music.

About the Author

Michael S. Harper, University Professor and professor of English at Brown University, is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, including Songlines in Michaeltree; Dear John, Dear Coltrane; Honorable Amendments; Images of Kin; and History Is Your Own Heartbeat. He is Poet Laureate Emeritus of Rhode Island and has been honored with the Frost Medal of the Poetry Society of America, the Melville Cane Award of the Poetry Society of America, the Black Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and the Robert Hayden Poetry Award, among others.

Also by this author

Dear John, Dear Coltrane coverImages of Kin coverSonglines in Michaeltree cover


"This virtuosic, symphonic, embracive collection is a memoir, a reader's notebook, a professor's lesson plan, a family scrapbook, and a poet's book of gratitude."--Booklist

"Expansive, eloquent volume in which Harper locates and contacts his artistic ancestors in verse that is as richly textured as it is troubling.”--Rain Taxi

"A splendid hit."--Multicultural Review


"An amazingly rich and raw chronicle of family, friends, history, and creativity, Use Trouble is Michael S. Harper at the pinnacle of success and the depths of blues. This is poetry that goes way back into a lifetime of observation at the crossroads, of Robert Johnson-like deals with the devil, of writing through passion and pain, all with a sly wicked eye for seeing what needs knowing and telling. Harper uses the wisdom of his elders to transform trouble into his own hard-edged art, a soaring retrospective of personal witnessing."--Thadious M. Davis, author of Games of Property

"From tragic meditations on American public life and history to searingly perceptive ruminations on the griefs and epiphanies of a private soul, Michael S. Harper uses trouble to illuminate and document his complicated life's journey as a son, father, poet, American, and black man. His perceptions of trouble wind, float, and burn through the mind in a way that is echoed in the lines and forms of the poems themselves, forcing and allowing us as readers ever closer to the actual processes of poetic vision and interpretation."--Anthony Walton, author of Mississippi: An American Journey and coeditor of The Vintage Book Of African American Poetry


• Stephen Henderson Award, African American Literature and Culture Society (AALCS), 2013
• Author is a recipient of the Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement, Poetry Society of America, 2008