Ellis is also cofounder, with Sharan Strange, of the Dark Room Collective, whose mission was to form a community of emerging and established African American writers. Ellis and Strange founded the Collective in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1988, and the group included such celebrated poets as Major Jackson, Carl Phillips, Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Trethewey, and Kevin Young.
Ellis is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Fine Arts Work Center, the MacDowell Colony, the Ohio Arts Council, and Yaddo, as well as a Whiting Writers’ Award. In 2015, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry. He has also served as a contributing editor to Callaloo.