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Thomas Sayers Ellis

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Kari Techentin

on 4 March 2014

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Transcript of Thomas Sayers Ellis

Who is Thomas Sayers Ellis?
- He was born and raised in Washington, D.C.
- Attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School
- In 1988 he co-founded The Dark Room Collective in Cambridge, Massacusetts,
- it was an organization that celecbrated and gave greater visibility to emberging and established writers of color
Or Oreo, or or theory or discourse
worse. Or ordinary. or oral territory.
Or your choice Oregon or Georgia
of category or Florida Zora

or or
Color Opportunity

or any color or born poor
other than Colored or Corporate. Or Moor.
or Colored Only. Or a Noir Orpheus
Or "Of Color" or Senghor

or or
Other Diaspora

or a horrendous or fear of . . .
and tore-up journey. of terror or border.
Or performance. Or allegory's armor Or all organized
of ignorant comfort minorities.


or reform or a sore chorus
Or electoral Corruption
or important ports
of Yoruba or worry

About Skin, Inc. : Identity Repair Poems
- published by Graywolf in 2010
- its an ambitious argument in sound and image for America who identity is in need of repair
- In lyric sequences and his own photographs, Ellis traverses the African-American and American literary landscapes
Thomas Sayers Ellis
Thomas Sayers Ellis
Q & A
"or Colored Only. Or 'Of Color'"
"...or born poor or Corporate."

"a Noir Orpheus"
Orpheus was a Greek hero with musical skills
Jean-Paul Sartre wrote "Orphee Noir"
considered poetry to be "orphic" because of the descent of the black man into himself
"which causes me to think of Orpheus going to reclaim Eurycide from Pluto"
edited by Leopold S. Senghor
- Ellis received his M.F.A from Brown University in 1995
- His first full collection was The Meverick Room, which was published by Graywolf Press in 2005
- For this he received a Mrs. Giles Whiting Writers' award
- also for this he won 2006 John C. Zacharis First Book award
presented by : Kari Techentin, Kori Cotteleer, Christina Holaday and Dan Poppen
Why Write about Race?
The Identity Repairman


A native or inhabitant of Africa. Belonging to the black people of Africa.

A person who is property of and of wholly subject to another person.

A black person.

Pertaining to black people.

Pertaining or belonging to any of the various populations characterized by dark skin pigmentation.

African American-
A black American of African Decent
I am weary of working
to prove myself equal.
I will use education
to make my children superior.
I am rooted.
Ask the Land.
I am lyric.
Ask the sea.
America is where
I became and animal.
America is where
I became a nigger.

Trapped here
in Segregation.
Trapped here
in Integration.
My heart is a fist.
I fix Blackness.
My fist is a heart.
I beat Whiteness.
African American

Before I was born,
I absorbed struggle.
Just looking
at history hurts.
Clearly race
Clearly Identity.
What is he saying with these specific words?

The New Perform-A-Form
James Petcoff
"It has taken me several weeks reading and rereading the poems of Thomas Sayer Ellis and I am now beginning to see the light. Poetry, like music, must be heard to have its fullest impact. Words on a piece of paper, just like musical notation, are nothing without a delivery system. It is the immediate connection between the poet reading aloud to an audience that gives poetry life, and it is in the response of the audience from the delivery system that creates the poetic experience."
"The old style of representing 'likeness' is over and perform-a-formers, though appreciative of metaphor and simile, no longer need either to express nuance in poetry."
"Against the narrowness of linearity, a perform-a-former will subject its own composer-sition to the rigor of audience participation. You can't workshop a perform-a-form but you can participate in its creation and correction."
Thomas Sayers Ellis
-Poems written to be read
-A comprehensive road-map to performance
-Engaging the audience, and twisting form on its head

Writing is not king.
Full transcript