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Nov. 12, 2009


Editor’s note: For a photo of Thomas Sayers Ellis, call (413) 585-2190 or e-mail

Thomas Sayers EllisNORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Smith College will present a reading by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, in Stoddard Hall Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., and educated at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School, Ellis attended Harvard University, where he studied with Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, served as a teaching assistant for filmmaker Spike Lee, and worked at the Harvard Film Archive and the Grolier Poetry Bookshop. While living in Cambridge, Ellis cofounded the Dark Room Collective, a network of African American poets that included Kevin Young, Natasha Trethaway, Tracy K. Smith and Major Jackson. He went on to earn a master’s in fine art at Brown University in 1995.

Ellis’ powerhouse debut collection, “The Maverick Room,” earned him both a Whiting Writers’ Award and the 2006 John C. Zacharis First Book Award. Exploding with inner-city youth culture energy—noted for its “percussive prosody,” as he calls it—“The Maverick Room” takes its name from a now-defunct go-go club Ellis frequented as a teen, and it brims with rhythm, sass and self-deprecating wit.

Recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony and the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Ellis has also published two chapbooks, “The Good Junk” and “The Genuine Negro Hero” and co-edited the anthology “Standing On the Verge: Emerging Poets” and edited the forthcoming “Quotes Community: Notes for Black Poets.” Ellis serves as contributing editor to Callaloo and Poets & Writers magazine and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and Lesley University.

Ellis’ reading will be followed by a book sale and signing. For further information, call Michaela Cahillane in Smith’s Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen Doré Watson, director, at (413) 585-3368.

For disability access information or to request accommodations, call (413) 585-2407. To request a sign language interpreter specifically, call (413) 585-2071 (voice or TTY) or e-mail All requests must be made at least 10 days prior to the event.

Smith College
Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
(413) 585-2190

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