Tag Archives: Copper Canyon Press

Ellen Bass: Three Poems

Ellen Bass

 
Ellen Bass’s most recent book of poems, The Human Line, was published by Copper Canyon Press in June 2007. She co-edited (with Florence Howe) the groundbreaking No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday, 1973), has published several volumes of poetry, including Mules of Love (BOA, 2002) which won the Lambda Literary Award.
   
Her poems have appeared in many magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, The Progressive, The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Sun. She was awarded 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, a Pushcart Prize, and a Fellowship from the California Arts Council.
  
She is also co-author of Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth (HarperCollins 1996) and The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (Harper Collins 1988, 1994), which has sold over a million copies and has been translated into ten languages. She teaches in many beautiful locations and at Pacific University’s Low-Residency MFA Program.
     
     
  
Ode to Dr. Ladd’s Black Slit Skirt
Ellen Bass

   
Praise to the little girl whose grandmother taught her to embroider,
slip the tip of the needle through the taut cloth and scallop
       the clouds,
fasten the feathers to blue bird wings.
 
And praise to the student who gulped muddy coffee
and memorized maps of muscles, puzzle of bones,
slid tendons through their shafts, curling and uncurling
each finger of the corpse like a deft puppeteer.
 
When I got to the ER Janet lay there, the morphine
not strong enough to winch up the pain.
Her arm looked like a carcass where a lion had fed.
 
Praise Dr. Ladd pulling green scrubs over her head
and gathering her long hair under a cap.
 
All the days we drove up to Stanford and waited for hours
in the room with the ugly orange carpet
thumbing through tarnished pages of National Geographic,
wondering what Dr. Ladd would be wearing,
until we heard the strike of her high heels on the hallway linoleum,
distinctive as the first notes of Beethoven’s fifth.
 
Praise her hands that lifted Janet’s hand, her fingertips brushing
over the gnarled scars, flesh lumped like redwood burl.
 
Praise her for getting up early to outline her eyelids,
slick her lips. And praise to her blouses, the silk creamy
as icing on a cake, the generous buttons open
like windows in summer. And praise
 
her bracelets coiled gold and her wide leather belts
encircling her waist like two strong hands about to lift her.
Praise to her earrings, little tinkling tambourines
and her perfume that braced us like a dry martini.
 
But most of all, praise to her slim black skirt
with the slit up the front so that when she sat down
and crossed her legs, the two panels parted like the Red Sea
and we were seized by the curve of her calves,
the faceted shine of her knees sheathed in sheer black mesh,
a riff of diamonds rippling up her thighs.
 
 
 
When You Return
Ellen Bass

   
Fallen leaves will climb back into trees.
Shards of the shattered vase will rise
and reassemble on the table.
Plastic raincoats will refold
into their flat envelopes. The egg,
bald yolk and its transparent halo,
slide back in the thin, calcium shell.
Curses will pour back into mouths,
letters un-write themselves, words
siphoned up into the pen. My gray hair
will darken and become the feathers
of a black swan. Bullets will snap
back into their chambers, the powder
tamped tight in brass casings. Borders
will disappear from maps. Rust
revert to oxygen and time. The fire
return to the log, the log to the tree,
the white root curled up
in the un-split seed. Birdsong will fly
into the lark’s lungs, answers
become questions again.
When you return, sweaters will unravel
and wool grow on the sheep.
Rock will go home to mountain, gold
to vein. Wine crushed into the grape,
oil pressed into the olive. Silk reeled in
to the spider’s belly. Night moths
tucked close into cocoons, ink drained
from the indigo tattoo. Diamonds
will be returned to coal, coal
to rotting ferns, rain to clouds, light
to stars sucked back and back
into one timeless point, the way it was
before the world was born,
that fresh, that whole, nothing
broken, nothing torn apart.
 
 
 
Ode to The God of Atheists
Ellen Bass
  
The god of atheists won’t burn you at the stake
or pry off your fingernails. Nor will it make you
bow or beg, rake your skin with thorns,
or buy gold leaf and stained-glass windows.
It won’t insist you fast or twist
the shape of your sexual hunger.
There are no wars fought for it, no women stoned for it.
You don’t have to veil your face for it
or bloody your knees.
You don’t have to sing.
 
The plums that bloom extravagantly,
the dolphins that stitch sky to sea,
each pebble and fern, pond and fish
are yours whether or not you believe.
 
When fog is ripped away
just as a rust red thumb slides across the moon,
the god of atheists isn’t rewarding you
for waking up in the middle of the night
and shivering barefoot in the field.
 
This god is not moved by the musk
of incense or bowls of oranges,
the mask brushed with cochineal,
polished rib of the lion.
Eat the macerated leaves
of the sacred plant. Dance
till the stars blur to a spangly river.
Rain, if it comes, will come.
This god loves the virus as much as the child.
  
  
Visit Ellen’s website.
  
Order The Human Line (Copper Canyon Press, 2007).
  
Order Mules of Love (BOA Editions Ltd, 2002).

Some Favourite Poetry Collections of 2009: Part Four

 
 
Angela France
 
The Clockwork Gift by Claire Crowther (Shearsman Books)
Chora by Nigel McLoughlin (Templar Poetry)
Bundle o’Tinder by Rose Kelleher (Waywiser Press)
 
 
Susan Richardson
 
Weeds and Wild Flowers by Alice Oswald (with etchings
by Jessica Greenman) (Faber & Faber)
A Sleepwalk on the Severn by Alice Oswald (Faber & Faber)
I Spy Pinhole Eye, poems by Philip Gross
with photographs by Simon Denison (Cinnamon Press)
 
 
Collin Kelley
 
Carpathia by Cecilia Woloch (BOA Editions)
Sassing by Karen Head (WordTech Communications)
An Urgent Request by Sarah Luczaj (Fortunate Daughter Press)
This Pagan Heaven by Robin Kemp (Pecan Grove Press)

 
Katrina Naomi
 
One Secret Thing by Sharon Olds (Jonathan Cape)
Laughter Heard from the Road by Maggie O’Dwyer
(Templar Poetry)
Third Wish Wasted by Roddy Lumsden (Bloodaxe Books)
 
 
Arlene Ang
 
The Wrong Miracle by Liz Gallagher (Salt Modern Poets)
Fair Creatures of an Hour by Lynn Levin (Loonfeather Press)
In the Voice of a Minor Saint by Sarah J. Sloat (Tilt Press)
 
 
Laurie Byro
 
Carta Marina: A Poem in Three Parts by Ann Fisher-Wirth
(Wings Press)
Poems from the Women’s Movement, edited by Honor Moore
(Library of America)
Watching the Spring Festival by Frank Bidart
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
 
 
Ray Givans
 
The Year of Not Dancing by C L Dallat (Blackstaff Press)
Natural Mechanical by J.O. Morgan (CB Editions)
Darwin, A life in Poems by Ruth Padel (Chatto & Windus)
 
 
Ross Sutherland
 
Migraine Hotel by Luke Kennard (Salt Modern Poets)
Watering Can by Caroline Bird (Carcanet Press)
Weather A System by James Wilkes (Penned in the Margins)
 
 
Kelli Russell Agodon
 
Sharp Stars by Sharon Bryan (BOA Editions)
Then, Something by Patricia Fargnoli (Tupelo Press)
Upgraded to Serious by Heather McHugh (Copper Canyon Press)
 
 
Crystal Warren
 
Flashes by Carol Leff (Aerial Publishing)
Strange Fruit by Helen Moffett (Modjaji Books)
Oleander by Fiona Zerbst (Modjaji Books)
 
 
Derek Adams
 
Furniture by Lorraine Mariner (Picador)
Beneath the Rime by Siriol Troup (Shearsman Books)
The Girl with the Cactus Handshake by Katrina Naomi
(Templar Poetry)
 
 
Liesl Jobson
 
Impredehora by Yvette Christiansë (Kwela Books with SnailPress)
Al is die maan ‘n misverstand by Danie Marais (Tafelberg)
Hyphen by Tania van Schalkwyk (The UCT Writers Series/
Electric Book Works)
  
  
Chris McCabe
 
West End Survival Kit by Jeremy Reed (Waterloo Press)
How To Build a City by Tom Chivers (Salt Modern Poets)
The Burning of the Books by George Szirtes and Ronald King
(Full Circle Editions)
Undraining Sea by Vahni Capildeo (Egg Box Publishing)
Rays by Richard Price (Carcanet Press)
Weather A System by James Wilkes (Penned in the Margins)
Furniture by Lorraine Mariner (Picador)
Madeleine’s Letter to Bunting by Kelvin Corcoran
(Longbarrow Press)

Some Favourite Poetry Collections of 2009: Part One

 
  
I hope you will enjoy these recommendations and consider buying a few collections, pamphlets and anthologies published this year by a range of presses. A huge thank you to the poets who gave me their choices for the year.
  
What’s your favourite volume of 2009? Feel free to include your recommendations in the comments section.
 
 
Moniza Alvi
 
Natural Mechanical by J O Morgan (CB Editions)
Cold Spring in Winter by Valérie Rouzeau, translated by
Susan Wicks (Arc Publications)
Continental Shelf by Fred D’Aguiar (Carcanet Press)
  
 
Ian Duhig
 
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Grain by John Glenday (Picador)
Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century, edited by
Clare Pollard & James Byrne (Bloodaxe Books)
  
 
Sheenagh Pugh
  
How to Fall by Karen Annesen (Salt Modern Poets)
The Men from Praga by Anne Berkeley (Salt Modern Poets)
A Village Life by Louise Glück (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  
 
Dorianne Laux
  
End of the West by Michael Dickman (Copper Canyon Press)
Cradle Song by Stacey Lynn Brown (C&R Press)
Snowbound House by Shane Seely (Anhinga Press)
  
 
Alison Brackenbury
 
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Nothing Like Love by Jenny Joseph (Enitharmon Press)
Samuel Menashe: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books)
 
 
Clare Pollard
  
Caligula on Ice and Other Poems by Tim Turnbull (Donut Press)
Third Wish Wasted by Roddy Lumsden (Bloodaxe Books)
Farewell My Lovely by Polly Clark (Bloodaxe Books)
  
 
Tamar Yoseloff
  
The Men from Praga by Anne Berkeley (Salt Modern Poets)
How to Fall by Karen Annesen (Salt Modern Poets)
Beneath the Rime by Siriol Troup (Shearsman Books)
The Clockwork Gift by Claire Crowther (Shearsman Books)
  
 
Annie Freud
  
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Furniture by Lorraine Mariner (Picador)
Faber New Poets: Heather Phillipson (Faber & Faber)
  
 
John Wilkinson
  
Stress Position by Keston Sutherland (Barque Press)
Weak Link by Rob Halpern (Slack Buddha Press)
Clampdown by Jennifer Moxley (Flood Editions)
  
 
Marilyn Kallet
 
Practical Water by Brenda Hillman (Wesleyan Poetry)
Warhorses by Yusef Komunyakaa (Farrar, Straus & Giroux,
paperback)
Sassing by Karen Head (WordTech Communications)