Born: February 27, 1954
Ohio connection: Birth
Thylias Moss was born Thylias Rebecca Brasier, daughter of Calvin Theodore and Florida Missouri (Gaiter) Brasier, in 1954 in Cleveland, Ohio. She was an only child who describes her childhood as being a happy one, with doting parents. She wrote her first short story at the age of six and her first poem at the age of seven. She graduated from John Adams High School in Cleveland in 1971, after which she attended Syracuse University for two years, where she was seriously disturbed by racial tensions. In 1973, at age nineteen, she married John Lewis Moss. They have two sons, Dennis and Ansted. Thylias Moss worked at the May Company in Cleveland as an order checker, junior executive auditor, and data entry supervisor. She later returned to college, receiving a B.A. in creative writing from Oberlin College in 1981. She received an M.A. from the University of New Hampshire in 1983. She became an instructor at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and then moved on to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she has served as assistant professor, associate professor, and professor of English language and literature, from 1993 until the present. Moss published the first anthology of her poetry, Hosiery Seams on a Bowlegged Woman, in 1983. At that time, some critics felt her poems were overly angry and hostile, though others believed that she dealt with issues of race and politics in a sometimes caustic, but also strongly humanitarian manner. She has been a significant spokesperson for the rights of women and racial minorities. Her other poetry titles are Pyramid of Bone; At Redbones;Rainbow Remnants in Rock Bottom Ghetto Sky; and Small Congregations: New and Selected Poems; Last Chance for the Tarzan Holler: Poems. Moss’ poetry has taken on a more upbeat and even joyous tone in recent years, based largely on her faith and spiritual life. Some of her other works are The Dolls in the Basement and Talking to Myself (plays); I Want to Be; Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress, and Slave Moth: A Narrative in Verse. Thylias Moss lives in Michigan, continuing her work as professor of English at the University of Michigan.
Cleveland Public Library Poetry Contest, 1978, for “Coming of Age in Sandusky”; four grants, Kenan Charitable Trust, 1984-87; artist’s fellowship, Artist’s Foundation of Massachusetts, 1987; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1989; Pushcart Prize, 1990; Dewar’s Profiles Performance Artist Award in Poetry, 1991; Witter Bynner Prize, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1991; Whiting Writer’s award, 1991; Guggenheim fellowship, 1995; MacArthur fellowship, 1996.