Photo Credit: Irene Young

Ellen Bass

b. 1947

Current City, State, Country

Santa Cruz, California, USA

Birth City, State, Country

United States


Among Ellen Bass’s poetry collections are Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), Mules of Love (BOA 2002). Among her awards are Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Lambda Literary Award, and four Pushcart Prizes. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Poetry, and many other journals. With Florence Howe, she co-edited the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks! (Doubleday, 1973), and she co-authored the groundbreaking, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (HarperCollins, 1988) and Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth—and Their Allies (HarperCollins). A Chancellor Emerita of the Academy of American Poets, Bass founded poetry workshops at Salinas Valley State Prison and the Santa Cruz jails, and teaches in Pacific University’s MFA program.

What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?

I am somewhere between first and second generation American (my mother’s parents came from Lithuania and my father came from what is now Russia). Although we lit the menorah at Chanukah and said the blessing and gathered at my Grandmother’s for Passover and we went to the synagogue on Yom Kippur and my mother fasted, we lived mostly as secular Jews. But my mother was a story-teller and I was a hungry listener and many of the stories had an element in them of our being Jewish. The longer I write, the more I find there is to explore of my childhood and although Judaism and Jewish culture may not always be front and center, it appears in many poems in one way or another, even if it’s just a Yiddish phase. I have a grandbaby now to whom I read books and the poet and children’s book author, Lesléa Newman, has generously sent some books to us. One of the things I am grateful for is that Jewish people appear in her books even if the story is not about being Jewish. In one book there’s a menorah in the background, in another they’re baking babka, in another a child is getting a kiss on the keppie. Although I sometimes address Jewish themes directly in my poems (I’ve written several concerning the Holocaust), more often Jewish culture appears as it does in these children’s books—as part of the fabric of my life.

Published Works

Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, 2020)
Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)
The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007)
Mules of Love (BOA Editions, 2002)
Our Stunning Harvest (New Society Publishers, 1985)
For Earthly Survival (chapbook; Moving Parts Press, 1980)
Of Separateness and Merging (Autumn Press, 1977)
I’m Not Your Laughing Daughter (University of Massachusetts Press, 1973)
No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women; co-edited with Florence Howe (Doubleday, 1973)

Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth—And Their Allies; co-authored with Kate Kaufman (HarperCollins, 1996)
The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse; co-authored with Laura Davis (HarperCollins, 1988, 1994, 2008)
Beginning to Heal: A First Book for Men and Women Who Were Sexually Abused As Children; co-authored with Laura Davis (HarperCollins, 1993, 2003)
I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse; co-edited with Louise Thornton and others (HarperCollins, 1983, 1991)

Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading

Current Title

Faculty, Pacific University MFA in Writing


Goucher College, B.A., 1968, English Literature
Boston University, M.A., 1970, Creative Writing (Poetry)

Subject Matter