Thomas Sayers Ellis to speak for Writing Program Reading Series Nov. 8

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

The talk — part of The Writing Program’s fall Reading Series — is free and open to the public and takes place in Hurst Lounge, Room 201, Duncker Hall, on the university’s Danforth Campus. Duncker Hall is located at the northwest corner of Brookings Quadrangle, near the intersection of Brookings and Hoyt drives. For more information, call (314) 935-7130 or email

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 an MFA 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,” says Mary Jo Bang, professor of creative writing and director of the Writing Program. “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 adds. “The language of race is as much his subject as race itself. And like the very best poems, his speak 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 currently an assistant professor of creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and a faculty member of Lesley University’s low-residency M.F.A program.

Calendar Summary

WHO: Poet Thomas Sayers Ellis

WHAT: Reading from his work

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8

WHERE: Hurst Lounge, Room 201 Duncker Hall

COST: Free and open to the public

SPONSOR: Washington University’s Writing Program Reading Series

INFORMATION: (314) 935-7130 or