Thomas Sayers Ellis
Biography of Thomas Sayers Ellis
Thomas Sayers Ellis (born Washington, D.C.) is a poet, photographer, and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York.
He was raised in Washington, D.C. and attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. In 1988 he co-founded the Dark Room Collective in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an organization that celebrated and gave greater visibility to emerging and established writers of color Ellis received his M.F.A. from Brown University in 1995.
Ellis is known in the poetry community as a literary activist and innovator, whose poems "resist limitations and rigorously embrace wholeness." His poems have appeared in magazines such as AGNI Callaloo, Grand Street, Harvard Review, Tin House, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, and anthologized in The Best American Poetry (1997, 2001, and 2010) and in Take Three: AGNI New Poets Series (Graywolf Press, 1996), an anthology series featuring the work of three emerging poets in each volume. He has received fellowships and grants from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Ohio Arts Council, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony.
Thomas Sayers Ellis is a contributing editor to Callaloo and a consulting editor to A Public Space. He compiled and edited Quotes Community: Notes for Black Poets (University of Michigan Press, Poets on Poetry Series).
His first full-length collection, The Maverick Room, was published by Graywolf Press and won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares.
The book takes as its subject the social, geographical and historical neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., bringing different tones of voice to bear on the various quadrants of the city.
He is also the author of a chapbook The Genuine Negro Hero (Kent State University Press, 2001) and the chaplet Song On (Wintered Press 2005).
Thomas Sayers Ellis Poems
Or Oreo, or worse. Or ordinary. Or your choice
Take Me Out to the Go-Go
Nikita zips across stage Trailed by a troop of white-gloved One-wheelers: Killer Joes, The 12 & Under Crew
My father was an enormous man Who believed kindness and lack of size Were nothing more than sissified Signs of weakness. Narrow-minded,
My father was an enormous man
Who believed kindness and lack of size
Were nothing more than sissified
Signs of weakness. Narrow-minded,
His eyes were the worst kind
Of jury — deliberate, distant, hard.
No one could out-shout him
Or make bigger fists. The few