Thylias Moss

b. 1954
Thylias Moss
Thylias Moss’s poetry collections include Tokyo Butter (2006), Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler (1999), Small Congregations: New and Selected Poems (1993), Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky (1991), At Redbones (1990), Pyramid of Bone (1989), and Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman (1983). Known for expansive poems full of details ranging from art, history, and laundry detergents to ants and Disney characters, she has garnered multiple awards, including the Witter Bynner Prize, an NEA grant, and fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim Foundation.

Although many of Moss’s poems discuss race and gender, these subjects are, explains scholar Langdon Hammer, simply “starting points for her work…her poetry makes such facts of identity seem unfamiliar, their meanings not to be predicted, unavailable to the naked eye.” Known for startling metaphors and vivid imagery, Moss’s later work demonstrates an expansive imagination that seeks to connect at times wildly disparate subjects. In a piece for the Boston Review, Moss described her writing process: “I prefer that unanticipated discovery lead me to and through a poem; for me there is some rapture if the dance of dust mirrored in the hoof of some unspecified beast offers delight and insight that perhaps I would miss were I regularly more interested in imposing certain agendas on my poems.”

Since 1993, Moss has been a professor at the University of Michigan. She has authored a memoir, Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress (1998), about her childhood in Cleveland, Ohio, and has also published several children’s books. She holds degrees from Oberlin College and the University of New Hampshire, where she studied with Charles Simic.

Winner of the Dewar’s Profiles Performance Artist Award (1991), Moss is well known for the dramatic nature of her readings. Her emphasis on poetry’s oral qualities led her to establish Limited Fork Poetics, an interdisciplinary field of film, sound, poetry, and computer science that produces what she terms “poams,” an acronym for products of acts of making. In an interview with the poet Richard Siken, Moss explained her search to make her poetry both new and relevant: “If motion is how we acquire information and also the way in which we experience existence, then I needed to seek ways to make that were sensitive to that. I set out to study interactions among language systems—among the visual, the sonic, the olfactory, and the tactile.”

Career

Poet and educator. The May Company, Cleveland, OH, order checker, 1973-74, junior executive auditor, 1975-79, data entry supervisor, 1974-75; Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, instructor, 1984-92; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, assistant professor, 1993-94, associate professor, 1994-98, professor, 1998—. University of New Hampshire, Durham, visiting professor, 1991-92; Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, Fannie Hurst Poet, 1992.

Bibliography

POETRY
  • Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman, Cleveland State University Press (Cleveland, OH), 1983.
  • Pyramid of Bone, University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, VA), 1989.
  • At Redbones, Cleveland State University Press (Cleveland, OH), 1990.
  • Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky, Persea (New York City), 1991.
  • Small Congregations: New and Selected Poems, Ecco Press (Hopewell, NJ), 1993.
  • Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler: Poems, Persea (New York City), 1997.
  • Slave Moth: A Narrative in Verse, Persea Books (New York, NY), 2003.
  • Tokyo Butter, Persea (New York City), 2006.
OTHER
  • The Dolls in the Basement (play), produced by New England Theatre Conference, 1984.
  • Talking to Myself (play), produced in Durham, NH, 1984.
  • I Want to Be (for children), illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Dial (New York, NY), 1993.
  • Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress (memoir), Avon Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Larry Levis and Thylias Moss Reading Their Poems (sound recording), 1991.

Further Reading

BOOKS
  • Bloom, Harold, The American Religion, Simon & Schuster (New York City), 1992.
  • Contemporary Women Poets, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
  • Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 120: American Poets since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
  • Moss, Thylias, At Redbones, Cleveland State University Press (Cleveland, OH), 1990.
  • Moss, Thylias, Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky, Persea (New York, NY), 1991.
  • Moss, Thylias, Small Congregations: New and Selected Poems, Ecco Press (Hopewell, NJ), 1993.
  • Moss, Thylias, I Want to Be, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Dial (New York, NY), 1993.
  • Moss, Thylias, Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress, Avon Books (New York City), 1998.
PERIODICALS
  • American Book Review, February, 1992, p. 29.
  • Belles Lettres, spring, 1991, p. 2; summer, 1992, pp. 62-65.
  • Bloomsbury Review, fall, 1994, p. 34; January, 1995, p. 19.
  • Booklist, October 1, 1993, pp. 353-354; January 1, 1998; February 15, 1998.
  • Boston Review, February, 1991, p. 28.
  • Callaloo, fall, 1990, p. 912.
  • Choice, February, 1984, p. 829; February, 1992, p. 896.
  • Essence, February, 1994, p. 120.
  • Hudson Review, spring, 1992, pp. 163-164; spring, 1994, pp. 159-160.
  • Kenyon Review, fall, 1991, pp. 214-226.
  • Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1993, p. 1006; March 15, 1998, p. 368; June 1, 1998, p. 799.
  • Kliatt, July, 1995, p. 19.
  • Library Journal, May 15, 1991, p. 86; February 15, 1998; April 1, 1998.
  • Luce, July, 1998.
  • Michigan Quarterly Review, spring, 1996, p. 399.
  • Multi Cultural Review, April 1992, p. 73.
  • Nature, December 30, 1991, p. 861.
  • New York Times Book Review, September 13, 1998.
  • Parnassus, January, 1992, p. 65; no. 1, 1996, p. 341.
  • Poetry Flash, June 29, 1992.
  • Prairie Schooner, summer, 1994, p. 156.
  • Publishers Weekly, January 20, 1989, p. 143; April 5, 1991, p. 141; July 5, 1993, p. 7.
  • School Library Journal, September, 1993, p. 216.
  • Small Press, summer, 1993, p. 81.
  • Tribune Books (Chicago), August 2, 1995, p. 11.
  • Village Voice, February 25, 1992, p. 67.
  • Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1989, p. 100.
  • Washington Post, April 5, 1998, p. X08.
  • Women's Review of Books, March, 1994, pp. 11-12.

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LIFE SPAN 1954–

Thylias Moss

Biography

Thylias Moss’s poetry collections include Tokyo Butter (2006), Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler (1999), Small Congregations: New and Selected Poems (1993), Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky (1991), At Redbones (1990), Pyramid of Bone (1989), and Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman (1983). Known for expansive poems full of details ranging from art, history, and laundry detergents to ants and Disney characters, she has . . .

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