The Maverick Room

With its defiance for any one tradition or voice, Thomas Sayers Ellis's debut becomes a powerful argument against monotony " A dream. A democracy. A savage liberty. " And yet another anthem and yet another heaven "and yet another party wants you. " Wants you wants you wants you. --from "Groovallegiance" In one poem, Thomas Sayers Ellis prognosticates, "Pretty soon, the Age of the Talk Show / Will slip on a peel left in the avant- gutter." The result is "The Maverick Room, the testing ground of determination and serendipity, where call-and-response becomes Steinian echo becomes Post-Soul percussive pleasure becomes a bootlegged recording hustled out of a D.C. go-go club.
Thomas Sayers Ellis was born and raised in Washington, D.C. His poetry has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, and he is a contributing editor of Callaloo. In 1993, Ellis co-edited On the Verge: Emerging Poets and Artists. His chapbook, The Genuine Negro Hero, was published by Kent State University Press in 2001. Ellis teaches at Case Western Reserve University and lives in Cleveland. At one point in this powerhouse debut poetry collection, Ellis prognosticates, "Pretty soon, the Age of the Talk Show / Will slip on a peel left in the avant-gutter." The Maverick Room is a testing ground of determination and serendipity, where call and response becomes Steinian echo, where hip-hop becomes a bootlegged recording hustled out of a D.C. go-go club. With its all-out defiance of accepting any one tradition or single voice, this book reads like a powerful argument against monotonyjust when "all their stanzas look alike," just when language fails in the face of catastrophe, just when, as Ellis confesses, "the twin terrors at the center of the word dollar / have made me and my craft liar-cowards." The Maverick Room introduces a brave, intelligent, original new voice to American poetry. "The wondrous Maverick Room, Ellis's opus of sonic site-specific artistry, reminds us of Ralph Ellison's sampling of Emerson's observation that 'geography is fate.'"Michael Eric Dyson "This linguistic tome maps the segments of the District, the nation's capital. These quadrants condition the self, an inward geography: riffs, nicknames, the cunning fragments constructed from the language of pop art, hip-hop, the threshold of family, the death of the father, the sustenance and strength of the mother, the testimony of the son. Ellis is our tour guide: his poetry is about the neighborhood, native speech, a probing intellect, innovative prosody, experimental wit, a parlance of the street, gardens and maps, the upper and lower frequencies as registry of song."Michael S. Harper "Ellis's work is always fascinating; he seems to do it without mirrorsdescribing something without looking directly at itthe language taking the idea, carefully wrapped, in the casual stance of somebody still not uptight about whether the poem has to say everything he knows and be that and himself for all times. There is a seeming 'languor' cooling his words across you: arch, self-tickled, sharp, signifying, yet not backed against the wall of any absolute, including himself."Amiri Baraka
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