Born Thylias Rebecca Brasier into a working-class family in Cleveland, Ohio, Moss's mother was a maid and her father was a recapper for the Cardinal Tire Company. She enrolled at Syracuse University but left when she found the racial tension there unpleasant. She married John Moss in 1973, raised two sons, and then returned to school, earning degrees from Oberlin College and the University of New Hampshire. Her professors encouraged her writing but they were also unprepared for its political anger. Nevertheless, she published her first book in 1983 and since then has taught at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and now teaches at the University of Michigan. She has continued to write poems of great passion about her family experience and about American history, but she is equally at home writing about the intensity of religious conviction, about all forms of cultural mystification, and about the critical moments of human life. She is often almost theatrically inventive with both diction and sound in her work. In addition to her poetry, she has written a memoir, Tale of a Sky-Blue Dress (1998).