We were thrilled to have Ellen Bass as the featured reader of the Willow Glen Poetry Project on November 20, 2014. Poet Christine Richardson, who co-hosts the WGPP readings with her husband Dennis Richardson, introduced the featured reader, Ellen Bass, with these words:
To introduce tonight’s featured reader, we have the 2011-2012 Poet Laureate of the United States, Philip Levine. Well, he couldn’t actually be here, but we do have what he has said about Ellen Bass when he was asked by the poetry editor of the New Yorker, Paul Muldoon, to select a poem of his and one of another poet published in the magazine for their first poetry podcast. Philip Levine chose Ellen’s poem,” What Did I Love” printed in February 2013.
Here are some of his comments: ” I was startled to see the poem by Ellen Bass. I hadn’t seen any work by her in years. I remember from the 60’s, but I didn’t know she was still writing. I didn’t know what the hell she was doing. And then when I read the poem I found it so powerful and complex. The feelings it was able to raise in me… It was so exquisitely done. Everything was so precisely viewed. ”
Mr. Levine reads Ellen’s poem and then he and Mr. Muldoon discuss it. They call it an extraordinary poem with a” sense of ritual and clarity of purpose”, “beautifully paced”, “in dialogue with the tradition of American poetry.” They include her poem with the likes William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, and Walt Whitman. Mr. Muldoon even mentions William Shakespeare! I don’t even know how Ellen Bass can stay seated in her chair and not be still floating in air.
Philip Levine then says, ” I was – what’s the word- envious. I was truly envious.” And “I am glad this woman has come back from god knows where to write a poem like this. I’m sorry I haven’t kept up with her. I thought she was vanished. She’s a poet of terrific power.”
Well, we know where she’s been and that she has not stopped writing. Her three books of poetry and other texts as well as numerous poems in numerous journals attest to that. Not only is her voice a strong and unique one in American poetry, she has helped so many others through her teaching and mentorship find theirs.
We are so fortunate tonight that Ellen Bass has come over the hill from Santa Cruz where she’s always been to share her extraordinary poems with us. And I know if it were possible, Phillip Levine would be right here in the front row as eager to listen as we are.
Please welcome Ellen Bass.