A comparative review of Ellen Bass’ poem collections, Like a Beggar and The Human Line

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Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・Literature ・MLA ・1 Sources

Ellen Bass is a literary author who has written both fiction and nonfiction books. One of her poetry compilation works, "Like a Beggar," was first published in 2014. Bass delves into topical subjects such as sex, conflict, aging, and job in this poem. Like a Beggar is a compilation of poems that meditates through a series of images; he describes the poems in a manner that leads to the origins and endings of the poems. This demonstrates how life approaches its experiences from one moment to the next. Bass has published another book of poems titled Human Line. In this poem, Bass explores using wild metaphors and images the absurdities of life; she humorously develops a sense of life dilemmas in the contemporary world. This essay focuses on comparatively analyzing the two poems, “like a beggar” and “human line”.

Like a beggar is a poem collection written in an imagery language and with themes linked to each other. The collection intermediates the various images to create a scenic flow of ideas, Bass uses imagery to create a flow such that the reader can follow her lines until the end. This collection implies the significant aspect of life, of waiting to realize something magnificent out of the occurrences. The imagery is like a beggar. The poem collection the human line also focuses on the evolving life experiences, Bass takes the reader through her childhood life and her mother’s death, and she implies the continuing concern of conditions of human life.

In the human line poem collection, Bass uses a demonstration of smooth, evoking a style that pervades throughout her work. She employs a simile in line with a feeling, which she states in the last line of the poems and implies them all through. This skillful and neat simile enables the reader to be optimistic about a future occurrence. Bass explains the similarity of the mundane and the emotionally driven personalities; she uses aspects of humanity like love, aging, sex and other personal attributes to derive the human emotions. The human line explores the various life experiences of the writer; she uses real-time images to take the reader through the fundamental life occurrences that prove realistic. The style used by Bass in writing the human line is employed in her collection of like a beggar. This significant similarity is due to the similar themes tackled by the two poem collections.

Relatively, Bass introduces the collection, like a beggar using a rather empathetic voice, “bad things are going to happen” (3); this creates the reader’s quest to know about the bad things, she uses imagery to present some bad things like infidelity and tomato fungus. She, however, lifts the reader from the bad state to some anticipation of future good, “Oh, taste how sweet and tart the red juice is, how tiny seeds crunch between your teeth,” (4). She couples sugar with fungus to make it sweet; this presents some hope of good. The vivid imagery used by Bass enabled her to create the essence of hardships in the beginning of life, and the existing hope of betterment of the future.

The poem “women walking” in Ellen Bass’ collection like a beggar, Bass explores the hardship of life. He also looks at how people come to part ways because of death. Bass walks with Dorianne together until they part their ways, “back and forth / up the back entrance road, past the parked cars to the compost pile / where we turn around and start back again” (21). They walk not towards anything, women walking talks about fat, old women. As life some aspects do not come out, however bad, they remain in the individual or family, “There are so many things to feel bad about, just in our two families alone, / but we don’t talk about them now.” They continue walking “reassure each other” beneath the fast sky with “not a star visible” and fog “so thick we can barely see the tops of the cypress” (22). The continuation of the walk explains the aging aspect of life. Uses the old women to assure the readers of the continuation of life until the end arises.

In the poem collection like a beggar, Bass uses a creative imagery, she juxtaposes a wasp that is cleaning itself, and she finally exposes a girl in the neighbor grooming her hair. The neighbor is introduced as the kids argue with their mother, the poems end with the kids grown up. The neighbor, a woman, has a boyfriend and enjoys the intimacy of love, “...the way it was before the world was born, that fresh, that whole, nothing was broken, nothing torn apart” (68). The book exposes the reader as a beggar through the theme of love. “Bone of my Bone and Flesh of my Flesh”, here, Bass describes the sexuality. She humorously mocks the frustration of abandoning the old terms of a partner or a wife. Bass focusses more on private moments. In part one, she focuses on the last painful days of her mother and uses that appalling moment to seem ordinary to the reader.

In the poem, like a beggar, Bass in his final stanza uses the image of beauty resulting from facing the past. She employs the poetic use of odes, she uses the onion, bird, and flower “The great ones regard every moment like this / catch it as it swims—onion, bird, flower, fish” (8). She concludes, “The masters eat everything right up to their death. / and then they grab that, too, in their failing fists” (8), in this, she creates a metaphor of the bear eating salmon fish. Bass to idealize her themes use this vivid imagery.

Ellen Bass’ like a beggar has a cover, very symbolic; it reflects a curled ribbon, slightly light outside and dark within. This cover symbolizes the content that presents the reader with the quest to take a closer look at the open words; it also looks beautiful and fluid in the apprehended darkness. This cover seems very appropriate for the collection within the book. It can also support the theme of light from darkness. The human line, on the other hand, also presents a cover with a curled ribbon as well; darkness seems to be the light. This similarity in the cover of the two poem collections suggests that the author has a similar message in both.

The two poem collections by Bass has some aspects of tonal differences. In the collection like a beggar, Bass uses a poetic voice that seems humble and luring to the reader, the voice attracts the reader’s attention to read more. The tone is more intimate; this makes the reader less formal but attracted to the literal work. This tone enables the readers to gain interest in the poet’s work and provide them with the desire to explore her poetry and other literal works. The human line on the other hand uses a rather frightening voice; Bass employs this stunning tone to explore into the intricacies of life as she explains her actual themes of birth, sex, love, aging and motherhood. Her indelible voice keeps the reader alert and creates a visual concern about the outcome.

The poem collections try to complement each other in trying to develop critical themes like love and sex. Bass introduces heterosexuals, in the poem bad things, she notes that “Your husband will sleep / with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling / out of her blouse,” (3) she talks about the birds, “whistling and chirping, warbling, squawking” are “calling for sex” (3). This vivid exploration of the theme of sex is a compliment of Bass’ love theme in the collection the human line. The two collection of the poems written in different styles and tones both tries to explain the complexities of life right from the beginning until the end.

In conclusion, Bass’ writings are slightly different but are compliments of thematic explanations. In the human line, Bass intelligently employs diction and aligned imagery to explore the portraits of relationships in humans and the human environment. She writes a poetry that explains the aspect of being human, the human attitude of standing up to the necessary and life enhancing conditions. In her poem collection of like a beggar, Bass writes emotionally compelling poems, she uses plain language and creates images that shine. She uses the images to create an epic of scenes from the created or other true observed moments; she fills the poems with Odes, like a beggar’s love, and some lyrical prayer like meditations. The poems are as precise in the points and themes and ambitious to the reader. In the human line. “Don’t expect applause,” the expression of public does not succumb to the falls of the personal or public address. In the last two poems of human line, Bass exposes links to the themes. The two poems supplement each other in exploring the critical aspects of being alive.

Work Cited

Bass Ellen Poems. Retrieved from, http://www.ellenbass.com/poems/ Web. Accessed 20TH March 2017

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