Skin, Inc.

Skin, Inc.
Identity Repair Poems
Thomas Sayers Ellis

Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems is Thomas Sayers Ellis’ stingingly intelligent, heart-thumpingly lovely collection of poems on the broad theme of race and identity.”—NPR

“No doubt, this is a major book.”Publishers Weekly, starred review

About the Book

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

Additional Reviews

“[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
“In the searing tradition of Ai, Ellis takes on the thorny questions of race and culture, and never mincing words about the damage racism has done: ‘If punctuation / were a punch, / I’d publish line breaks of fists’. . . . Ellis’s distinctive voice offers a new model for written orature, and his audience steadily widens.”Booklist
"[Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems] draws from and addresses American culture in a way few collections do."Flavorwire, "10 Must-Read Books for August"
Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems is a bristlingly clever, obnoxious, didactic, and passionately sincere book. . . . There are many ways to approach the topic of American race (most poets choose by simply ignoring it) but Ellis is at once the most confrontationally bitter and the most idealistic poet of several decades. The paradoxical mixture—of openness and defiant ire—makes Skin a dead serious, challenging collection, smoldering with resentment and manically brave in its racial politics.”—Tony Hoagland, American Poetry Review
"Skin, Inc. is a nuanced, fascinating book that takes on race, language, and pop culture in an attempt to update the conversation surrounding race, language, and pop culture. . . . The poems in Skin, Inc. tackle the subject and politics of writing in complex and energetic ways. . . . [Ellis has] set himself up to be one of the important writers of our time."Hazel & Wren