The Maverick Room by Thomas Sayers Ellis

Issue #97
Fall 2005

The Maverick Room, poems by Thomas Sayers Ellis (Graywolf): In this marvelous and accomplished volume of poems, Ellis works the page the way his musical subjects (crooners, masters of funk, DC-based Go-Go bands) work a room: with rhythm, sass, and self-deprecating wit. The sonic effects of these poems duplicate the experience of listening to live music; as Ellis observes in his poem "Sticks": "[W]ords are part of speech / with breaths and beats of their own. / Interjections like flams. Wham! Bam!" Demonstrating an immense range in subject matter and formal invention, this collection serves up an education in the cultural appreciation of a history that is at once personal, collective, and necessarily political. These are gregarious poems, always socially conscious, that never shortchange the intelligence of the reader as they dissect, intersect, embrace, and reject traditional tropes of African American literature. The linguistic swerve of this book, rooted in the poetics of Gertrude Stein, elevates the pun; weaving and reweaving repetition, Ellis insists on having fun with his reader, in all the many senses of the word. —Cate Marvin