Liz Ahl attended the Workshop in poetry from 1983-86, joined the residential staff as a teacher and counselor in 1990 and again from 1992-94. She returned as a teaching poet from 1997-2000, and is the author of numerous chapbooks; her most recent is Talking About the Weather. Find her online here.
I live in Holderness, New Hampshire, near the town of Plymouth, where I am a professor in the English Department at Plymouth State University. I teach creative writing, poetry writing, first year writing, and other courses. The job brought me here.
As I said, Plymouth State University, for nearly eleven years now. I love teaching creative writing – and so much of what I love about that work is connected to my years as a student and teacher at YWW. I love the sense of community that can emerge in a workshop, a spirit of camaraderie and creativity – that never gets old for me. And my students are always showing me new things about poetry.
At the moment, I’m (finally) on the third book of The Hunger Games series, and also dipping in and out of Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry, by David Orr, and recent chapbooks by poets Todd Robinson, Karen MacPherson, and Margo Stever. Chapbooks are a great serving-size of poetry for me during the school year – I’ve got a huge pile of poetry books and novels amassing for this summer.
Well, I’ve got a chapbook coming out this summer, probably in July, from Seven Kitchens Press. It’s called Talking About the Weather, and I just sent the editor my “final copy” yesterday. It’s definitely a collection about living in rural New England – and I think I am slowly, finally, making my peace with the idea that I really live here now, for the long haul. When I was growing up, my family moved every two to three years – I attended three different high schools – and actually, YWW was an important constant for me as a young person. New Hampshire is the longest I’ve ever lived in any place, and I think my recent work is really connecting not only with the place, but connecting with the IDEA of connecting to a place as a resident, not so much just a visitor or tourist anymore. So the poems in Talking About the Weather are about community, I think. And, of course, the weather! And that chapbook, though it’s “done,” very much represents where my head is now as a poet. I also continue to be very interested in more traditionally “formal” poetry – especially repeating forms like the villanelle or pantoum.
I’ve been so happy to have had two chapbooks published with small presses that do really great work. I’m proud to be associated with Slapering Hol Press – publisher of my first chapbook, A Thirst That’s Partly Mine, and with Pecan Grove Press – publisher of my second chapbook, Luck. I’m delighted to have a limited edition, hand-sewn chapbook coming out from Seven Kitchens – an important small chapbook press. I love reading, writing, and making chapbooks – though I haven’t actually MADE one in a while. These publications, though, make me proud because I get to be part of a tradition of personal, high-quality small-press publishing that priorities not only great poetry but great community.
I don’t think I could overstate its importance. Those dozen years not only allowed me to imagine being a poet and a teacher, they afforded me the opportunity to take artistic and personal risks, to become the kind of person I wanted to be, the kind of friend I wanted to be. I learned a lot about myself, about my capacities and habits. I also made a couple of life-long friends. I miss working there. The couple of times I have been back, after long absence, has felt like coming home.
Read. Read. Read.