342: Ellen Bass on the Power of Poetry


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By Eric Zimmer|Wondery. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Ellen Bass is a poet, non-fiction author, and teacher. She is the author of many collections and books including Like a Beggar, The Human Line, and Mules of Love. Ellen’s poems also appear frequently in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, and many other journals. She’s been awarded three Pushcart Prizes, The Lambda Literary Award, The Pablo Neruda Prize, and The New Letters Prize. Ellen also teaches in the MFA Writing Program at Pacific University. Her newest collection of poetry is entitled Indigo. This is Ellen’s second time as a guest on the show.

In this episode, Ellen and Eric discuss the power of poetry – how it can change us and deepen our experience of and attention to the world around us. Ellen reads some of her incredibly beautiful poetry and as a result, we are indeed changed.

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In This Interview, Ellen Bass and I Discuss the Power of Poetry and…

  • Her new book of poetry, Indigo
  • How gratitude and love help her combat fear
  • Her practice as a poet is to take suffering and make art
  • The poem that took her 12 years to write
  • That worthwhile things are hard to do – even for experts
  • Wanting to be changed after writing or reading a poem
  • Her poem, Taking My Old Dog Out To Pee Before Bed
  • Her poem, Enough
  • What she thinks about when she hears someone else read her poetry as well as how poetry is to be read and heard “out loud”
  • Her poem, The Long Recovery
  • Trying not to resist the life we have and instead, hurl ourself more deeply into it
  • Great poets and their poetry teach us to observe the world more closely and see it as sacred and beautiful
  • Her poem, Any Common Desolation

Ellen Bass Links:





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If you enjoyed this conversation with Ellen Bass on the power of poetry, you might also enjoy these other episodes:

Ellen Bass (2018 Interview)

Marilyn Nelson

446 episodes