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The Human Line Paperback – June 1, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ellen Bass is co-author of the million-seller Courage to Heal. She edited one of the first anthologies of female poets, No More Masks!, and is author of several collections of poetry and nonfiction. Bass teaches creative writing across the United States.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press; 1st edition (June 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556592558
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556592553
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A pioneer in the field of healing from child sexual abuse, Ellen Bass currently teaches in the MFA program at Pacific University in Oregon. Her poetry books include Mules of Love and The Human Line.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Shirley R. Scott on September 30, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved the Human Line. Ellen Bass was able to get me right in Gate C22 with the anonymous lovers that I could taste the kiss, I could feel the fright of The Lost Dog. She is so present and poignant when she tells
a tell that you are a part of the poetry of it all. I felt that I was in the hospital room when her Mom was Dying.
I hope she is busy writing more poetry , I cannot wait to see what she has to offer up next.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Anne Scott on January 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am new to Ellen Bass' poetry as well as fairly new to the experience of reading and hearing all poetry, but I have the deep privilege of being her student. Ellen teaches what she knows about life and writing as naturally as I breathe oxygen. Vision, metaphor, telling stories in order to tell the truth, understanding the monster aspects of us all -- her wisdom enhances her students' lives as well as our writing.
My favorite of all her poems (so far) is 'Gate C22.' I can so clearly see not only the two people kissing, but all the other people in the airport watching them, mesmerized. 'The Woman Who Killed My Cat' receives from Ellen the compassion I'm not sure I could muster.
In order to read 'In Praise of Four-Letter Words' or 'Bone of My Bone and Flesh of My Flesh,' please buy her book.

Annie Scott
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By The Gourdman on January 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
The Human Line like her other inspiring work Mules of Love illustrates Ellen's unique insight into the human experience. From the scenes inside the hospital to the two lovers in the airport there is always a wonderful sense of joy and solace within each poem.
I spent many years of my life avoiding poetry until I realized that a great poet is also a wonderful and insightful storyteller and Ellen Bass' latest work has many brilliant tales to tell.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alicia Ostriker on November 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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. The poems in The Human Line tracking her mother's dying tear my heart out, the love poems suture it with sensuality and tenderness, the "big picture" poems that recognize our place in nature and the cosmic order (or disorder) make my heart expand, and the comedy tickles it. "Gate C22," where we watch an unfashionable middle-aged couple kissing "lavish/ kisses like the ocean in the early morning," is already a classic. But so many other poems will touch you with exquisitely phrased human truth. There's the title poem with a newborn's face "neutral as Buddha," there's "God's Grief," with sympathy for the "Great parent/ who must have started out/ with such high hopes" and became "god of Stalin, god of Somoza,/ god of the long march,/ the trail of tears,/ the trains....desperate god, frantic god, whale heart/ lost in the shallows, beached." Mortality is an important presence in this book, body parts "loosening like the nuts and bolts of an old VW that's rattled over unpaved roads / until the tailpipe's fallen and you've got to tie a rock/ to the gearshift to keep it in fourth." And in the next to last poem, "Don't Expect Applause," Bass asks, "And yet,wouldn't it be welcome/ at the end of each ordinary day?" Yes it would, and I strongly applaud Ellen Bass, a poet for all seasons.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nina Bennett on August 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In an online interview, Ellen Bass says that "poetry is the way I pay attention, appreciate, give praise, struggle, grieve, rage, and pray." Her poetry readily accomplishes all of that. She makes creative use of metaphor as she explores relationships of all kinds, including those of mankind to the environment.

The book opens with end-of-life poems about her mother. In "Sleeping in My Mother's Bed," Bass writes stark lines which evoke the knowledge that life is about to change:

lie in her bed
Like a fork on a folded napkin,
Perfectly still and alone.

With this perfect simile, Bass captures the isolating emotional state after her mother left by ambulance. Any one of us can picture the image of that fork left on the napkin. Bass invites the reader in, makes the scene immediate and real. Another example of her skill in doing this is the poem "Gate C22", where Bass writes about a couple embracing at an airport gate. She brings the reader into the scene as well as the other people in the airport.

The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman's middle-aged body,
her plaid bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold earrings, tilting our heads up.

I read those lines and I wanted to be that woman, I wanted to have that kind of attention lavished on me.

Bass makes good use of humor in many of her poems. In "Asking Directions in Paris" she writes of knowing just enough French to ask for directions when in Paris, but not enough to understand the response. I laughed aloud while reading this poem, and I quoted part of it on a recent visit to Spain, where I had a similar experience while trying to impress family members by speaking Spanish.

Their universal appeal makes these poems to read and re-read, and to share.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Julie Olsen Edwards on January 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
Over and over this small book of poetry reveals the most human truths of our lives: the aching tenderness of our feelings towards our children; the searing pain of watching, helping a mother die; the wry recognition of our flawed and beloved partners and friends; the determination to have hope in the face of a world filled with injury and destruction.
Read this. Savor every page. Buy it for everyone you treasure.
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