Featured Poet: Liz Ahl, Bridgewater
Liz Ahl’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Women’s Review of Books, The Laurel Review, Southern Poetry Review, The American Voice, The Formalist, Crab Orchard Review, and other literary journals and anthologies. She is the author of On The Avenue of Eternal Peace (Lyra Press, 2002), a limited edition collection created by book artists Joe Ruffo and Denise Brady (see link below). She has had residencies at the Jentel Artist Residency Program (Wyoming) and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts (Nebraska). She has performed her poetry in collaboration with musicians and dancers, and has created hand-set letterpress broadsides of her work and the work of others. After spending the first half of her life as an itinerant Navy brat and grad student, she has landed in New Hampshire for what looks like the long haul. She teaches writing at Plymouth State University.
Of her showcase poem, Liz writes:
"Whenever I work on a typesetting project, I’m struck by how language seems to disassemble, even as I’m literally assembling words. Type is heavy and dirty and tiny, and building a stanza of text becomes this purely physical act. This act, in turn, reminds me (why do I always forget?) about language as a physical thing. Words have weight. Even empty space (leading, made of strips of – you guessed it – lead!) has weight and must be accounted for. I have also occasionally done minor edits on poems as I was typesetting them – I think this is a result of the combination of the slow pace of the work and the physical wrangling of lines. In recalling the work of this poem, I remember deciding that the couplets did a decent job of giving this poem a good amount of white space, slowing its pace a bit. There’s a lot of starting and stopping in setting type. I hope this poem describes for readers both the physical and metaphysical experience of this kind of work."
One at a time, I slide each character upside down,
into the composing stick, cool steel in the palm of my hand.
Drawn from the shallow, divided drawer, each letter
is a step towards a word, each word slowly progressing
toward meaning. The afternoon light is so late,
every still thing casts a dramatic shadow --
even the blocks of type, already set, elongate,
the cast edges of the letters lengthening across the table.
This work stretches even longer than the shadows,
and by the time I hit a rhythm, a fairly steady click
of letters into place, I’m no longer tethered to language.
I’m an assembly line, and I’m building this thing
I can’t see yet, a page of text polished up and finished
in a future so distant it seems foolish to think of it.
My fingertips and thumbs are smudged with meaning.
I’m not looking for the story, but feeling instead
the sheer heft of sentences -- lead characters bound
into blocks and tied with string, the literal weight of them
in the galley tray, the thing they say to my fingers,
my forearms, the pits of my elbows,
the immediacy of an ache creeping through my shoulders
as I tie off one last block.
For more information about Liz Ahl, visit: