Richard Michelson’s children’s books have been listed among the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and The New Yorker; and among the 12 Best Books of the Decade by Amazon.com. He has been a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award (2x), the Harlem Book Fest Wheatley Award, and the National Jewish Book Award (3x), as well as receiving two Skipping Stones Multicultural Book Awards, a National Parenting Publication Gold Medal and an International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice Award. In 2009 Michelson received both a Sydney Taylor Gold and Silver Medal from the Association of Jewish Librarians, the only author so honored in AJL’s 47 year history.
Michelson’s latest collection of poetry for adults is More Money than God (Pitt Poetry Series). Previous collections include Battles & Lullabies, Tap Dancing for Relatives and 2 fine press collaborations with the artist Leonard Baskin. Clemson University named Michelson their Calhoun Distinguished Reader in American Literature. Recent poems have appeared in The Harvard Review, The Massachusetts Review, Parnassus and elsewhere. Michelson is the owner of R. Michelson Galleries, the host of Northampton Poetry Radio, and the current Poet Laureate of Northampton Massachusetts.
Richard Michelson is a poet, children’s book author, and art dealer who does not generally speak of himself in the third person, so…
I was born on July 3rd, 1953 in East New York, Brooklyn, where my dad had a small hardware store. We were 100% secular, though the area was 90% Jewish. Within 12 years it would be 90% African-American, and spark my lifelong exploration of racial issues. I write about the neighborhood and my Dad’s death in some of my poetry, and essays; episodes from my childhood are touched on in my children’s books, so I will not repeat myself here.
When I was 19, I got a job traveling the country selling fine-art reproductions out of the back of my van. Previous to that, I had never stepped foot in a museum or an art gallery; nor was I much of a reader. I toured the mid-west for 3 years, and fell in love—with art, with literature, and with my wife—before I challenged my boss to the fateful game of ping-pong that would change my life (it’s a long story), and cause Kurt Vonnegut (I’ll drop more names later) to christen me “The Ping-Pong Hustler.” Suffice it to say I ended up with enough cash to start my first small gallery in 1976. Three years later I came back east and started
R. Michelson Galleries, which would grow from a 72 foot space in a hippie-mall corridor, to a 4-story monumental old bank building with 60′ ceilings and marble floors. It was here where I would first be introduced to the world of illustrated books.
I have been more than fortunate to have had such a great response to my poetry and my picture books. I wish I could thank each and every one of you individually. The full list of Awards garnered is below. I have gotten a chance to travel the world, and meet and hang out with (and represent) many of America’s greatest artists and illustrators and poets. (And no, I am not Leonard Nimoy’s long-lost son, no matter what you have heard).
I still write poetry full-time, and I write kids’ books full time, and I work full-time at the gallery. I also stress out about more than I should, and relax less than is healthy; but I have mostly managed to stay out of the way so my beautiful wife, Jennifer, could raise our two children properly (and yes, she did convert to Judaism—against my wishes and go into labor while in the mitkvah; but that is her story to tell.) Jennifer is currently an Interfaith Minister.
Our son, Samuel, is Director of Operations at a high end architectural hardware company called Nanz, so if you are building your dream mansion, give him a call.
Our daughter, Marisa, is an amazing composer and playwright, and if you haven’t heard her work yet, you will soon. To prove this isn’t just a Dad’s kvelling—though it is that, too—you can listen to her music here.
How to pronounce Richard Michelson: