‘Dazzling’ poet Thomas Sayers Ellis will read from his work for Writing Program

Poet Thomas Sayers Ellis will read from his work at 8 p.m. Nov. 8 for Washington University’s Writing Program in Arts & Sciences.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Ellis attended Harvard University and in 1988 co-founded The Dark Room Collective, the Boston area’s only reading series dedicated to writers of color. In 1995 he earned a master’s of fine arts from Brown University and the following year published his first collection, “The Good Junk,” which was included in the Agni/Graywolf series, “Take Three.”

Ellis’ most recent collection, “The Maverick Room” (2005), explores the social, geographical and historical neighborhoods of his native Washington. “Breakfast and Blackfist: Notes for Black Poets” is forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press’ Poets on Poetry Series.

“To say that race is the dominant theme of Thomas Sayers Ellis’s poems risks simplifying the many things his poems do,” said Mary Jo Bang, professor of English and director of the Writing Program, both in Arts & Sciences. “They dazzle in their pacing, in their extravagant use of sound, and in their willingness to confront received ideas of how a poem should be put together and what it should include and exclude.

“They speak inventively about how race is drawn through history, but also how it is drawn through language,” Bang said. “The language of race is as much his subject as race itself. And like the very best poems, he speaks about the past as something not static and not ‘over’ but as part of the dynamic present.”

Ellis’ work has appeared in “Poetry,” “Grand Street,” “Tin House” and “Ploughshares,” among others, as well as in the 1997 and 2001 editions of “Best American Poetry.” Other publications include a chapbook, “The Genuine Negro Hero” (2001), and a chaplet, “Song On” (2005). In 1993 he co-edited the collection “On the Verge: Emerging Poets and Artists.”

Ellis has received fellowships and grants from The Fine Arts Work Center, the Ohio Arts Council, Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony, among others. A contributing editor to “Callaloo” and “Poets and Writers,” he is an assistant professor of creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and a faculty member of Lesley University’s low-residency master of fine arts program.

The talk, part of the Writing Program’s Fall Reading Series, is free and open to the public and takes place in Duncker Hall, Rm. 201, Hurst Lounge.

For more information, call 935-7130 or e-mail dschuman@wustl.edu.