THE MAVERICK ROOM

Thomas Sayers Ellis, Author
Thomas Sayers Ellis, Author . Graywolf $14 (120p) ISBN 978-1-55597-414-5
Prebound-Glued - 121 pages - 978-1-4176-8199-0
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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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