Ellen Bass

Award-winning Poet & Educator
Bestselling Nonfiction Author
Lambda Literary Award

Readings &
Lecture Topics
  • The Art of Metaphor: What IS it Like?
  • Controlled Chaos: The Long-Armed Poem
  • Poetry As Prayer: Awakening to the Moment
  • Workshop: 13 Ways to Make a Poem from Your Life
  • Transformation: Poetry as a Path to Change
  • An Evening with Ellen Bass


“Ellen Bass is a poet who writes out of an exuberant love of life and of language. She is no stranger to either pain or joy, and is unafraid of either.” —Alicia Ostriker

“Good poets help us to see the world in a new way; great ones open the mind to new ways of conceiving that world and our connections to it. Ellen Bass does this for me.” —Toi Derricotte

“Bass’s deftness as a poet is breathtaking.” —The Rumpus

Bestselling writer, poet, and educator Ellen Bass is the author of ten poetry collections and three nonfiction books. Her poetry collections include Indigo (Copper Canyon Press, 2020); Like a Beggar (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), which was a finalist for The Paterson Poetry Prize, The Publishers Triangle Award, The Milt Kessler Poetry Award, The Lambda Literary Award, and the Northern California Book Award; The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), which was named a Notable Book by the San Francisco Chronicle; and Mules of Love (BOA Editions, 2002), which won The Lambda Literary Award. In 1973, Bass co-edited with Florence Howe the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks!.

The New York Times describes Like a Beggar as a collection that “pulses with sex, humor and compassion.” And poet Marie Howe’s praise elaborates further: “Ellen Bass has written these poems in service and celebration of Eros, the life force that can wake us, the weary citizens of this all too broken world. The poems know what they contend with; they don’t flinch. Then they sing their joy.”

Bass’s works of nonfiction include the bestselling The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, co-authored with Laura Davis (HarperCollins 1988, 20th anniversary edition 2008). The book has sold over a million copies and been translated into twelve languages. As a pioneer in the field of healing from child sexual abuse, Bass has given countless keynotes at conferences and other gatherings in support of survivors and to help educate professionals. Her other nonfiction titles include Beginning to Heal: A First Book for Men and Women Who Were Sexually Abused as Children (2003, revised edition 2008) and Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth—and Their Allies (HarperCollins, 1996), which she wrote with Kate Kaufman.

A beloved teacher, Bass leads poetry writing workshops across the country. In her poetry writing and teaching, Bass’s style is direct; she says, “I work to speak in a voice that is meaningful communication. Poetry is the most intimate of all writing. When I write, first I am talking to myself. I’m grappling with something, trying to understand or discover something, trying to find a way to hold my experience within the human experience. And then I hope that I’m talking to the reader, meeting them across time and distance in a way that matters in their life.” A recent student, Pamela Davis, author of Lunette (which won the ABZ Prize for Poetry), praised Bass’s teaching: “The greatest strides I’ve made in my creative journey have been the direct result of studying with Ellen. She brings every aspect of craft to the table and has an astute understanding of what makes a poem work, with attention to word, line, tone, and shape. She listens with mind and heart, and responds with precision. Ellen takes the work seriously, but keeps the mood fun and light. If you’re just beginning, blocked, or an advanced poet seeking to stretch in new directions, I recommend you get to know Ellen Bass.”

The New Yorker has published ten of Bass’s poems throughout the years, and two have been chosen for The New Yorker podcast. Her poems have frequently appeared in numerous other journals including The American Poetry Review, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and The Sun, as well as being widely anthologized. She has received Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. She received the Elliston Book Award for Poetry from the University of Cincinnati, Nimrod/Hardman’s Pablo Neruda Prize, The Missouri Review’s Larry Levis Award, the Greensboro Poetry Prize, the New Letters Poetry Prize, the Chautauqua Poetry Prize, and three Pushcart Prizes. In 2021, Bass was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry.

Bass earned an MA in creative writing from Boston University, where she studied with Anne Sexton. She founded poetry workshops at Salinas Valley State Prison and the Santa Cruz, CA jails. She currently teaches in the low residency MFA writing program at Pacific University. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Bass grew up in New Jersey and lives in Santa Cruz, California.

Short Bio

Poet and educator Ellen Bass is a Chancellor Emerita of the Academy of American Poets. Her most recent book of poetry, Indigo, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2020. Previous books include Like a Beggar, The Human Line, and Mules of Love. Bass was co-editor with Florence Howe of the first major anthology of women’s poetry, No More Masks! has also written works of nonfiction, including, with Laura Davis, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, which has sold over a million copies and has been translated into twelve languages. Among her awards are Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, four Pushcart Prizes and the Lambda Literary Award. She teaches in the MFA program at Pacific University and lives in Santa Cruz, California.

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