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Eagle Pond Writing Series 2018/2019: An Interview with Professor Liz Ahl

By Mason Masotta
On October 4, 2018

Literature has deep roots here at PSU. Providing an artistic promoting environment and an appreciation for the medium, it’s always great to have visits from authors of all kinds. The Silver Center will feature over the coming 2018/2019 school year the Eagle Pond Authors’ Series. Headed by the English Department’s own Liz Ahl, the EPAS will feature the works of many talented individuals. As a fan of the series, I was happy to be able to ask Professor Ahl a few questions for this year’s upcoming writer visits.

For anyone here at PSU new to the Eagle Pond Authors’ Series, how long have you been hosting the events and bringing different creators to Plymouth? What originally inspired you to take such an interest in it?

“This is my third year coordinating the Eagle Pond Authors’ Series, in cooperation with the fine folks at the Silver Center. I inherited the job from Diane Jeffrey, who co-founded the series with nationally known New Hampshire poet Donald Hall a little over twenty years ago. As a poet myself, I’m thrilled to have this work be part of my job — but Diane’s shoes are unfillable!”

Last year’s events felt like that had a pretty heavy tilt towards poetry and writers of that genre. Is this year’s lineup going to continue this tradition, or will we continue to see short story authors like Sherrie Flick who just visited September 20th?

“Typically, EPAS has tilted towards poets, with scattered exceptions across the years. At this point, I plan to keep things focused mainly on poetry, but with an openness to short fiction as well.”

We’ve seen wonderful readings from authors whose works focused on topics such as nature, gender identity, personal tragedy, and humor. When planning out the schedule for the year do you try to group certain authors by genre? Are there certain topics in the public eye that influence what kind of works are included?

“We have a budget — thanks to the Follett Campus Booskstore at Plymouth State — that currently supports four readings a year, two each semester. I try to find readers whose work is exciting, accessible, and of interest to students as well as community members. I’m not necessarily looking for topics and themes — I follow work that I think is great by authors who I know (or have heard) give good readings. Because we don’t have budget to fly folks in, we don’t typically have writers from west of the Mississippi, though I have made inquiries from time to time. I want to use our limited budget as best as possible to bring poets “from away,” who our audiences might not otherwise have a chance to hear read.”

For students or community members who haven’t been to readings of either poetry or prose before, what kind of an atmosphere would you say the Eagle Pond series tries to bring? What is the main goal of these visits and presentations?

“The atmosphere at the readings is casual and friendly, and our main goal is to bring together poets and audiences who might not otherwise ever have crossed paths.”

As an English major, I’ve always enjoyed trying to branch outside of my comfort zone and experience different artistic performances. What do you think those not in a literature background can take away from experiencing events like these?

“I work hard to bring readers whose work can be enjoyed by a pretty general audience. You don’t need a special background in “literature” to enjoy a poetry reading, at least not at the Eagle Pond series!”

Finally, what can audiences expect from the upcoming visits? Are there any pieces or authors that you are especially excited for?

“Our series kicked off this year with short-fiction writer Sherrie Flick on September 20. Our next reading is poet Sharon McDermott on October 25. We have a bonus reading this semester as well, an event that I think is going to be pretty special. As you know, Donald Hall passed away this summer, and his old friend (and friend to the Eagle Pond Series) Wes McNair will be giving a reading and talk on November 8, entitled, “Three New Hampshire Poets of Place: Wesley McNair Remembers Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon.” This event will be a recollection of McNair’s literary friendship with Hall and Jane Kenyon during a crucial period when all three New Hampshire writers were developing as poets of place. Interspersing his presentation with poems by all three, McNair will show how each developed a vision of place that was both different and distinctive. Our spring semester poetry readings will feature January Gill O’Neil on March 5 and Patrick Donnelly on April 11. All readings take place in Smith Recital Hall at the Silver Center, and are free and open to the public.” 


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