Listen to Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate Philip Levine discuss with Paul Muldoon Ellen Bass’s “What Did I Love” from Like a Beggar on the New Yorker podcast. “There is such a sense of ritual and such a clarity of purpose. . . . I found it so powerful and complex . . . and it was so exquisitely done. . . . She is a poet with terrific power.”—Philip Levine
About the Book
If, as Rilke writes, the poet’s work is to praise, to praise even those “dark, deadly, devastating ways,” then Ellen Bass is doing her job.
Like a Beggar is the work of a mature poet grappling with the most essential question—how do we go on? In the face of sorrow and suffering, with the ever-present awareness of our mortality and the increasing threat of environmental devastation, how do we find the courage to fully inhabit the moments of our lives? Mixing revelation and humor, despair and awe, whimsy and intelligence, Bass holds a mirror of unflinching compassion in which we see our flawed and exquisitely beautiful selves.
As in her previous books, Bass vividly describes the ordinary moments of our lives in ways that allow us to see through the crack in the everyday into the divine. Her poems are a microscope through which the commonplace is revealed in its exquisite detail and, like Blake, we see a world in a grain of sand, eternity in an hour.
Bass’s poems are approachable. More, they reach out to you and draw you in with their disarming clarity, their startling intimacy. Bass speaks to us through unforgettable images, striking metaphors, and surprising associations. Like a Beggar is rich in the music of the human voice—one voice calling to another across the miles and across the years, telling the life of the heart.
These poems will disturb you, comfort you, charm and delight you. They will break you open with their fierce insistence on joy. They are poems that make you want to call up a friend and say, “Listen to this.” These are unforgettable poems.