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The Maverick Room: Poems Paperback – December 23, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; First Edition edition (December 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555974147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555974145
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,179,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Readers have been waiting for this volume's appearance at least since Ellis's cofounding of the Dark Room Collective in the mid-'90s; if one counts Ellis's 1996 appearance in Graywolf's Take Three series, or the short 2001 book produced by Kent State, then this is not quite his debut. The book's five sections are directionally named for areas of Washington, D.C. ("NW"; "SE"; etc.), plus a dividing middle section named, like the book, for a major D.C. go-go music club of the mid '80s. The poems have a first book's trying-everything-out range, including updates of '60s taunts ("Africa disagrees/ with subject-verb agreement") and confessionals ("My father was an enormous man.../ His eyes were the worst kind/ Of jury - deliberate, distant, hard") as well as encomia to favorite musicians (Bootsy Collins, Sugar Bear) and family members. But unlike most debuts, they have a fully realized line and neologistic voice, one that, along with the city that frames them, makes it all cohere beautifully. Staccato rhythms slyly combine with delayed repetitions in ways that are hard to quote, but a good many stanzas are arresting on their own: "The whole bumpnoxious,/ Dark thang stanks/ Of jivation// And Electric Spank/ Glory, glory, glory/ hallastoopid." Other poems shift effortlessly into formal registers that give further resonances to Ellis's knowing switches of code and to this marvelous maverick book as a whole. (Jan.)
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From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Laid out in sections that mirror the quadrants of Ellis's native Washington, DC, and "The Maverick Room"-a go-go club that almost sacredly transcends geography-this first book of poems snaps with attitude, pops with energy, and crackles with anger and sadness. Ellis makes it clear that reading it is to be a participatory experience ("Raise your hands./Holler at me!"), and it is hard to imagine even reluctant readers resisting the call. The poems address growing up under a silent, violent father, the significance of nicknames, and the sense that even space will contain "rent-controlled/Black holes." But they keep returning to music, especially funk, and film. Ellis posits the pleasure of music as a place to come together, to dig in and participate, to celebrate one's blackness and heritage-but also a site where one can lose one's self too fully, where drug habits are "common as demos." Many of the poems are laments for fallen artists. While readers won't always recognize the names, they will recognize the need to lament. The rhythms are like a tightly stretched drum played with loosely held drumsticks or a loose-limbed dancer with tight moves and muscles. Ellis is also a master at hard-hitting puns and coinages like "Jim-Crowded," "graffilthy," and "Black Freekdom." Occasionally, he breaks for unadorned sentiments. Reading this collection, teens will be pushed, pulled, engaged, and, finally, reflective.-Emily Lloyd, Stephen J. Betze Library, Georgetown, DE
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
The debut collection of poetry by Thomas Sayers Ellis (co-founder of The Dark Room Collective, a gathering place for young African American poets), The Maverick Room showcases a new and original voice in American poetry, one marked by inner-city youth culture energy that is part lyrical narrative, part "Parliament Funkadelic", a blind of chaos and control through the sheer and simple power of words. The Roll Call: Any half-decent rapper/Can conjure the dead,//Can reach into graves/And accuse God//Of Indian-giving./The trick is ancestral,//No more magic than memory's/Hidden strings & chains.//Trust me,/We haven't forgotten a name.//Say them. Raise your hands./Holler at me!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Melanie H. on November 4, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thomas Sayers Ellis is an authentic voice straight out of DC. No pretension involved, just giving it to you like you want it...real, raw, and funky. I've always been proud of where I and my family come from and Ellis just makes me prouder. The Maverick Room sings while slappin' elitism in the face, laughs while laying out the innate rhythm of the Chocolate City before you on the page like steak & potatoes on a platter...substance is what this collection provides. You'll be full, but you'll still want more. I definitely recommend The Maverick Room to lovers of poetry and anyone who wants to experience a different, but equally important side of the Nation's Capitol.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Donovan Mullaney on December 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
Sayers Ellis is perhaps best known for founding the Dark Room Collective, a group of African-American writers living communally in a house on Inman Street in Cambridge. The Collective was born during the funeral of acclaimed writer and Harlem native, James Baldwin. Upon Baldwin's death, Sayers Ellis and others such as Sharan Strange and Kevin Young felt keenly a lack of "black literary voices" and sought to fill the void.

Sayers Ellis is a poet who turns musical scores into words and phrases with his pen. His work lives on rhythm. He says: "All it takes is two beats to dance. Da-Da. That's what I'm doing with my writing, making it get up. Get up, poem."

In college, Sayers Ellis focused on his poetic education, but "attempted to disrupt formal training by apprenticing [him]self to funk." He relates a story of being on the road with Grandmaster of Funk George Clinton. Clinton confided that he'd "arrived at funk by 'speeding up the blues.'" Sayers Ellis decided to do the same with The Maverick Room's "Atomic Bride"--a modern riff on a classic poetic form, the villanelle.

Much of The Maverick Room contains what Sayers Ellis calls "identity repair" poems such as "No Easy Task" and "The Dollar Signs of Autumn." He's spent decades figuring out how to be "black" in a poem: "First, you'll need a talk, then a kind of walk."

The Maverick Room is as kinesthetic as it is poetic. In poems like "Marcus Garvey Vitamins," Ellis replaces technical, formal devices with "trick moves" such as italics.

Although his work is racially conscious, to suggest that Sayers Ellis limits the political content of his poems to the issue of race is to fall into the trap of skin-deep analysis--something his writing works hard to defy.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on May 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Thomas Sayers Ellis' debut work, The Maverick Room, has "urban" written all over it. It is an edgy and thought-provoking collection of poems. In it Ellis acts as our tour guide as we travel with him -- and immerse ourselves in his view of the language of hip hop and pop art, the neighborhood, family, culture and much more.

I might not be the best person to review poetry but I was moved by his concise, almost stark manner of writing. His emotions shine through. I kept thinking of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (my favorite poet), and although their poetry is different in so many ways -- because both men's thoughts are for their own particular time, their messages are both timeless.

If you like gritty, urban, thought-provoking poems, this volume is for you.
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