As part of the 2019 Dear Poet project, students around the country and the world wrote letters to Ellen Bass in response to a video of her reading her poem “Lost Dog” aloud. Ellen Bass wrote letters back to four of these students; their letters and her replies are included below, along with several additional responses from students.

Ellen Bass also wrote a response to all of the participants of this year's Dear Poet project.


Dear Readers,

Thank you for your letters in response to my poem, “Lost Dog.” It’s been said that a poem begins with the writer and ends with the reader. Your letters make me feel like this poem has now made its full cycle. I’m gratified that it’s touched a place in your hearts, your imaginations, your lives.

And I am touched by all you’ve shared with me—it’s a gift to me to hear about your own dogs (and cats), your friends and families, your loves and losses. 

I’m honored by your close reading of this poem and delighted to hear about the images that are vivid to you, the lines that most speak to you, the way you enter the poem and recognize your own experience in mine. You’ve brought up deep questions and realizations about loss and happiness and what it means to appreciate the people and creatures we love. You are all so attentive and insightful!

Some of you mention that you like to write or hope to be writers and I want to encourage you to pursue your dreams. When I was in high school I also loved to write, but it seemed totally unrealistic to me that I could become a writer. Wanting to be a writer sounded like wanting to be a movie star—a fantasy. But here I am, a writer after all. I believe that listening to your deepest, truest desires is as good a compass as any. So I hope you will keep writing.

Thank you again for reading my poem and for your letters.

Most sincerely,

Ellen Bass

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Ellen Bass reads "Lost Dog"

Ellen Bass reads "Lost Dog" for Dear Poet 2019.