T.S. Ellis

Poems by Thomas Sayers Ellis

A Kiss In The Dark

All Their Stanzas Look Alike

View Master

  T.S. Ellis

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., and educated at Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School, Thomas Sayers Ellis attended Harvard for a while, studying with Seamus Heaney and serving as a teaching assistant for Spike Lee, and working 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 take his MFA at Brown University in 1995.

Ellis’ powerhouse debut collection, The Maverick Room (Graywolf Press) earned him both a Mrs Giles 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. He works the page the way his musical subjects work a room.

Ellis has said that “funk meets formalism” in his work which blends poetic devices with creative riffing. These gregarious, socially conscious, and ever-surprising poems dissect, embrace and reject traditional tropes of African American literature, and then take a linguistic swerve toward Gertrude Stein.

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 On the Verge: Emerging Poets & Artists, and edited the forthcoming Quotes Community: Notes for Black Poets. Individual poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry, Grand Street, Tin House, Ploughshares, and The Best American Poetry, 1997 and 2001.

Ellis serves as contributing editor to Callaloo and Poets & Writers magazine, and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and the MFA program at Lesley University.






    Poetry Center Reading:
    Fall 2009