Shara McCallum was born in Jamaica to an African Jamaican father and a Venezuelan mother and moved to the United States with her family when she was nine. She earned a BA from the University of Miami, an MFA from the University of Maryland, and a PhD from Binghamton University. Her collections of poetry, published in the US and UK, include The Water Between Us (1999), Song of Thieves (2003), This Strange Land (2011), The Face of Water: New and Selected Poems (2011), and Madwoman (2017). Her work considers the intersections of race, gender, history, and personal identity; in an interview, she noted that "poetry helps me explore the ways we understand complex notions of identity, whether that's personal, familial, or cultural.”
She is a Liberal Arts Professor of English at Penn State University and, from 2003-17, served as the director of the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. McCallum has received a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress, and other distinctions. In 2018, she was awarded the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for poetry.