Reviews for Like a Beggar

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Reviews for Like a Beggar 2016-10-26T19:07:55+00:00

“Bass’s deftness as a poet is breathtaking in Like a Beggar. By which I mean: I am left breathless reading these poems and witnessing her control of the line. Then, I am equally awed by my own breathlessness, which Bass, of course, has elicited artfully through her control. Reading each poem I feel as though I have been walking up and down the hills of Esalen with her. Like a Beggar, sings with the clarity of a single voice alone in a large concert hall and with the gravitas of a full chorus in the finale of a sold out opera. These poems are large in their ambitions and precise in their observations.”—The Rumpus

“Ellen Bass, co-editor of the ground- breaking anthology of women’s poetry No More Masks! and self-help best-seller The Courage to Heal, reminds us of the vast universe that poets create from small, sharply-observed moments. In her third collection, Like a Beggar, Bass builds the epic from the ordinary and celebrates the ordinary as exceptional. Filled with odes and lyrical, prayer-like meditations, Like a Beggar ‘love

[s] the truth.’ In the first poem ‘Relax,’ Bass warned, ‘Bad things are going to happen;’ and they do, in this book, in life, but Bass renders them livable and beautiful. After gruesome details describing the killing of a chicken, Bass reminds us, ‘looking straight at the terrible,’ of the ‘one-sided accord we make with the living of this world.’ Like a Beggar is an exuberant celebration of living in the world.” —Lilith

“In her fifth book of poetry, Bass addresses everything from Saturn’s rings and Newton’s law of gravitation to wasps and Pablo Neruda. Her words are nostalgic, vivid, and visceral. In contemplation of slaughtered chickens, a fly, jellyfish, and the ‘thousand-pound heart’ of the blue whale, Bass arrives at the truth of human carnality rooted in the extraordinary need and promise of the individual. Through Bass’ eyes, a pearly orchid is not unlike the milky thighs of a woman—’blood blooming through her veins’—and the thorax of the wasp ‘expanding and contracting’ has the power to make us aware of our ‘own shallow breath.’ In the exoskeleton of a wasp and in the earth that once fell ‘ever so slightly . . . toward the apple,’ Bass shows us that we are as radiant as we are ephemeral, that in transience glistens resilient history and the remarkable fluidity of connection. By the collection’s end—following her musings on suicide and generosity, desire and repetition—it becomes lucidly clear that Bass is not only a poet but also a philosopher and a storyteller.” —Briana Shemroske, Booklist

“The poetic voice of Ellen Bass seems to elicit a humble, inviting covenant between poet and reader: Come as you are, learn from me what you will. Drawing inspiration from the intimate tone of this book, I’m inclined to treat this not as a formal review, but rather as an opportunity to talk about a work that I found, read and loved—or perhaps, just perhaps, one that found, read and loved me. . . . Like a Beggar, is described as the ‘ongoing exploration of life’s essential question: how do we go on?’ These poems show a myriad of answers; some might be the poet’s, others might be shared, but the fundamental elements are recognized in the human condition. . . . There is a power to hope and a power to admit: ‘But to this angel of wishes I’ve worshiped / so long, I ask now to admit / the world as it is.’ In all its complexity, it is life bared to the bone, seen through the eyes of a poet who removes distance to give us what she can of tools for survival.” –Nicole M. Bouchard, The Write Place At the Write Time

“Exquisitely wrought in language and imagery, Ellen Bass’s third collection meditates on sequencing images.  Her poems open in one place and close elsewhere. . . . The reader follows Bass through each line to arrive at the closing image, a place made more beautiful in facing what came before. . . .Bass’s work reminds us of the hard jobs, the frigid waiting to catch sight of something magnificent, but Like a Beggar suggests that sometimes we catch what we already had in our hands. We feast there, on her ending images that resonate outward with the wisdom of gratitude. . . .The imagery in Like a Beggar is gorgeous.” —Laura Madeline Wiseman, Ploughshares

Like a Beggar is Ellen Bass’s most recent collection. It is, hands down, the most engaging, compelling and emotionally moving collection of poems I’ve read this past year. Every so often, I have the good fortune to read poems that resonate so deeply, they are living things that leap right off the page and sing the language of my soul. Like a Beggar does that for me. . . .This book is written with the heart and soul of a virtuoso artist and the sensibilities of a highly skilled artisan. (Stealing an image from one of her poems) Ellen Bass uses plain language to create scintillating imagery that sparkles and shines in the way a blacksmith might pound glowing red, nearly molten metal into sturdy but beautiful wrought-iron implements that endure daily use and the test of time with grace.” —Michael Gillian Maxwell, MadHat Drive-By Book Reviews

“Ellen Bass’s poems are at once crushing and uplifting. The feeling you take away after reading her newest collection, Like a Beggar, is one of welcome amazement. In her consistently unsettling and unflappable voice, Bass shepherds her readers through the disorder of disparate images and shimmering, lovely lines. We are confronted again and again with pain and loss and disappointment lashed together, surprisingly and yet comfortingly, with still, simple pleasures and deep gratitude.”—Maggie Trapp, dailydoseoflit.com