She later studied at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, earning degrees in English and Spanish in 1972. In 1980, she graduated from Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia, with a master"s degree in Latin American Studies. She graduated from the London School of Economics with a Doctor of Philosophy in Government.
Collins" parents are from Grenada, where they returned from Aruba shortly after her birth. Her primary education was in Street George"s, Grenada. She then taught history and Spanish in Grenada for two years and subsequently in Street Lucia.
Collins was deeply involved in the Grenadian Revolution and served as a government coordinator for research on Latin America and the Caribbean.
She left Grenada for England in 1983. From 1984 to 1995, Collins taught at the University of North London.
She is currently Professor of Comparative Literature and English at the University of Maryland. Her critical works include "Themes and Trends in Caribbean Writing Today" in From My Guy to Sciences-Fi: Genre and Women"s Writing in the Postmodern World (ed Helen Carr, Pandora Press, 1989), and "To be Free is Very Sweet" in Slavery and Abolition (Vol15, issue 3, 1994, pp 96–103).
In 1987, she published her first novel Angel, which follows the lives of Grenadians as they struggled for independence.
Her collection of short stories, Rain Darling, was produced in 1990, and a second collection of poetry, Rotten Pomerack, in 1992. Her second novel, The Colour of Forgetting, was published in 1995. A review of her 2003 poetry collection, Lady in a Boat, states: "Ranging from poems reveling in the nation language of her island to poems that capture the beauty of its flora, Collins presents her island and people going about the business of living.
They attempt to come to terms with the past and construct a future emerging out of the crucible of violence.
Lady in a Boat is a poignant retelling of a period in history when, for a brief moment, Caribbean ascendancy seemed possible. Merle Collins shows how the death of this moment continues to haunt the Caribbean imagination." Her most recent collection of stories, The Ladies Are Upstairs, was published in 2011.
Her first collection of poetry, Because the Dawn Breaks, was published in 1985, at which time she was a member of African Dawn, a performance group combining poetry, mime and African music