Thylias Moss (born February 27, 1954) is an African-American poet, experimental filmmaker, sound artist, playwright, and academic of mixed African-American, Indian, and European heritage. She has published a number of poetry collections, children’s books, essays, and multimedia work she calls "poams" (products of acts of making), related to her work in Limited Fork Theory]].
Moss was born Rebecca Brasier to a working class family in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father was a tire recapper, and her mother a maid. Moss has said that her father chose the name Thylias because he decided she needed a name that hadn’t existed before. According to Moss, her first few years of life were happy, with Moss and her family living in the upstairs rooms of an older Jewish couple named Feldman (whom Moss believes were Holocaust survivors). The Feldmans treated Moss like a grandchild.
When Moss was five, the Feldmans sold their house and moved away. Her parents continued to live in the house with the new homeowners and their 13-year-old daughter, Lytta, who began to baby-sit Thylias after school. Lytta tormented Moss on a daily basis.
In addition to this, as a child Moss experienced several horrific events, such as seeing a friend jump from a window to escape a would-be rapist and witnessing a boy on a bicycle get killed by a truck.(Citation needed) "I never said a word of this to anybody," she later said.(Citation needed) "I was there witnessing things that only happened when I left that house."(Citation needed)
When Moss was nine her family relocated, causing her to be sent to school in a mostly white district. Treated badly by both her teachers and classmates for a number of reasons, some of them because of her race, she withdrew from social interaction at school and did not speak freely in classes until many years later in college.(Citation needed) It was during this time she gave more attention to writing poetry, an activity she had begun two years earlier.(Citation needed)
She attended Syracuse University. After several years of working, she enrolled in Oberlin College in 1979 and graduated in 1981. Moss later received a Master of Arts in English, with an emphasis on writing, from the University of New Hampshire. Moss is now Professor of English and Professor of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with her husband and two sons. Her work has become more experimental and combines genres, multiple fields of study, and computer technology. Many of her Limited Fork Theory poems can be found online in podcasts, journals, and on Youtube.
Among her awards are a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Artist's Fellowship from the Massachusetts Arts Council, a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant, and the Witter Bynner Poetry Prize.
- Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1983.
- Pyramid of Bone. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1989.
- At Redbones. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1990.
- Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky. New York: Persea Books, 1991.
- Small Congregations: New and selected poems. Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press, 1993.
- Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler. New York: Persea Books, 1998.
- Slave Moth: A narrative in verse. New York: Persea Books, 2004.
- Tokyo Butter: A search for forms of Deirdre: Poems. New York: Persea Books, 2006.
- Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress (memoir). New York: Bard, 1998.
- I Want To Be (illustrated by Jerry Pinkney). New York: Dial Books, 1993.
- Talking to Myself (1984)
- The Dolls in the Basement (1984)
- Thylias Moss profile & 2 poems at the Academy of American Poets
- Thylias Moss at Lily: "Heads Wrapped in Flowers," "Postscript Culture of Head Wraps," "The Warmth of Hot Chocolate"
- Thylias Moss b. 1954 at the Poetry Foundation
- On-Line Poems by Thylias Moss
- Audio / video
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