Ellis, Thomas Sayers

Bio / Press / Discography / Projects

Thomas Sayer EllisPrimary Scene: New York

Poet, photographer, professor and bandleader Thomas Sayers Ellis is the author of The Maverick Room and Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems (Graywolf Press). He co-founded The Dark Room Collective in 1988 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including The Paris Review, Poetry The Nation, Tin House and the Best American Poetry (2007, 2011, 2010 and 2015). He has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo and is a recipient of The Whiting Writers’ Award. His photographs have appeared on numerous book covers, and in 2011 his images on the vanishing musical culture in Washington, D.C., were exhibited in a one-man show titled Unlock it: The Percussive People in the GoGo Pocket as well as in “DC As I See It” at the Leica Gallery in Washington, D.C. During his early years he was a percussionist on the DC GoGo Scene and, in 2013, he performed a short stint with Burnt Sugar. TSE has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, has been a Visiting Writer in the MFA Programs at The University of San Francisco, The University of Montana, The City College of New York and in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

In 2013, he co-founded (with saxophonist James Brandon Lewis) Heroes Are Gang Leaders, a band of poets and jazz musicians dedicated to the sound extensions of literary text and original noise. During this period he was also the Poetry Editor of The Baffler. Between 2014 and 2016 HAGL recorded The Amiri Baraka Sessions (an unreleased two-CD project) and released The Avant-Age Garde I AMs of the Gal Luxury and Higher Engines Near / Near Higher Engineers. In Fall 2016, HAGL will release Flukum, an original project dedicated to Etheridge Knight and Ntozake Shange.

A controversial and percussive figure who is also known as a literary activist, in 2015 TSE was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for poetry.