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Skin, Inc.

Identity Repair Poems
Thomas Sayers Ellis
Naturally, this will scare
the civil rights out of some
and, for a mad-moment, empower
a great many wrong-cultured others.

—from “The Return of Colored Only

Skin, Inc. is Thomas Sayers Ellis’s big, ambitious argument in sound and image for an America whose identity is in need of repair. In lyric sequences and with his own photographs, Ellis traverses the African American and American literary landscapes—along the way adding race fearlessness to past and present literary styles and themes, and perform-a-forming tributes for the Godfather of Soul, James Brown; the King of Pop, Michael Jackson; and the election of President Barack Obama. Part manifesto, part identity repair kit, part plea for poetic wholeness, this collection worries and self-defends, eulogizes and casts a vote, raises a fist and, often, an intimidating song. One sequence is written as a sonic/ visual diagram of pronouns and vowels; another quotes from editors’ rejections of his own poetry included in the book; another poem, “Race Change Operation,” begins: “When I awake I will be white, the color of law.” Skin, Inc. is the latest work by one of the most audacious and provocative poets now writing.

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The ambitious, combative, and spot-on new poetry book by Thomas Sayers Ellis, author of the award-winning The Maverick Room

About the Author

Thomas Sayers Ellis
Credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Thomas Sayers Ellis was born and raised in Washington, D.C. He is the author of The Maverick Room, winner of the John C. Zacharis First Book Award, and Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems. Ellis teaches in the Lesley University low-residency MFA program, and he works as a photographer for UFCW Local 342 in New York City. He currently divides his time between Brooklyn, New York, and Washington, D.C.
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  • “No doubt, this is a major book.”Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “[A] strong sense of play infuses Thomas Sayers Ellis’s Skin, Inc: Identity Repair Poems. . . . [Ellis draws] from black vernaculars, games, music, literature, and art across the Americas and Africa.”Bookforum
  • “In an edgy, urgent explosion of verse blended effectively with Ellis’s own photographs, Ellis challenges the very concept of literary culture—and of post racial society.”Library Journal
  • “[T]here’s an appealing slyness to Ellis’s best poetry that recalls the cagey work of Gwendolyn Brooks. . . . Ellis’s approach, however, is utterly distinctive.”Poetry Magazine


This book is made possible, in part, through the Jerome Foundation, which supports new works by emerging artists in New York City and Minnesota, and by the generosity of Graywolf Press donors like you.
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