Thylias Moss (born February 27, 1954 in Cleveland, Ohio) is an American poet, writer, experimental filmmaker, sound artist and playwright, of African-American, Native American, and European heritage, who has published a number of poetry collections, children’s books, essays, and multimedia work she calls poam s, products of acts of making, related to her work in Limited Fork Theory. Among her awards are a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Artist's Fellowship from the Massachusetts Arts Council, an NEA grant, and the Witter Bynner Poetry Prize Witter Bynner award for poetry.
Moss was born Thylias Rebecca Brasier, in a working-class family in Ohio. Her Native American 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 (who 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. "I never said a word of this to anybody," she later said. "I was there witnessing things that only happened when I left that house."
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. It was during this time she gave more attention to writing poetry, an activity she had begun two years earlier.
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. 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.
- Tokyo Butter: Poems (Persea Books, 2006)
- Slave Moth: A Narrative in Verse (Persea Books, 2004)
- Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler (1998)
- Small Congregations: New and Selected Poems (1993)
- Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky (1991)
- At Redbones (1990)
- Pyramid of Bone (1989)
- Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman (1983).
- Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress (1998), a memoir
- Talking to Myself (1984), a play
- The Dolls in the Basement (1984), a play
- I Want to Be (Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995)
- Bloom-Ed, Harold (2010). African American Poets. New York: Chelsea House. p. 4. ISBN 978-1604138108.
- A collection of Moss's video poams
- "Shadows, Boxes, Forks, and POAMs" an interview on the Poetry Foundation website.
- Examples of Moss's recent print poams published in Frigg.
- An online collection of Thylias Moss's poems
- Modern American Poetry information page on Moss's life and poetry.
- University of Michigan Department of English page