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Thomas Sayers Ellis

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Thomas Sayers Ellis
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Thomas Sayers Ellis was born October 5, 1963, in Washington, D.C. He earned an MFA from Brown University in 1995, and in 2005, Graywolf Press published his first complete poetry collection, The Maverick Room, for which he received the 2006 John C. Zacharis First Book Award. His most recent collection is Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems (Graywolf Press, 2010).

Ellis is also cofounder, with Sharan Strange, of the Dark Room Collective, whose mission was to form a community of emerging and established African American writers. Ellis and Strange founded the Collective in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1988, and the group included such celebrated poets as Major Jackson, Carl Phillips, Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Trethewey, and Kevin Young.

Ellis is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Fine Arts Work Center, the MacDowell Colony, the Ohio Arts Council, and Yaddo, as well as a Whiting Writers’ Award. In 2015, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry. Currently a contributing editor to Callaloo, he is an assistant professor of creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and a faculty member of Lesley University’s low-residency MFA program. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.



Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems (Graywolf Press, 2010)
The Maverick Room (Graywolf Press, 2005)

by this poet

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

Who tried got taken for bad,
Beat down, their bodies