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When We Smoked

Elizabeth Ann Ahl, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In his book, The Race: The Uncensored Story of How America Beat Russia to the Moon, James Schefter writes that “at the end, this is a story cloaked in history, or perhaps history cloaked in a story. It is not my story, except that I am the one who gets to tell it.” In this collection of poems, one of my primary interests is to explore and complicate the relationship between “public” history and “private” story. From the first poem in the collection, “My Mom Holds Me,” and continuing through poems such as “On The Avenue of Eternal Peace,” “Defining Moment,” “Everything She Can't See,” “Inshallah,” and the “Day After” poems, and concluding with “Moon Shot,” personal and public stories and histories intertwine, most frequently mediated or connected through television. This dominant theme of the collection is supported by many other poems which take on as their subjects public and historical people and events such as the war in Bosnia, a firebombing in Northern Ireland, the unsolved case of D. B. Cooper, and the Apollo space program. ^ To maintain both balance and tension between personal and private realms, which necessarily overlap in places, but which are distinct in others, I also include poems that focus on more exclusively personal, autobiographical experiences. Inspired by such poets as David Wojahn, Carolyn Forche, Gwendolyn Brooks, Campbell McGrath, Adrienne Rich, Joel Brouwer and others, I hope that while I combine and contrast personal and private stories and histories, I also create unified perspective, a sense of one speaker telling these stories. I try to maintain a voice which invites and encourages the reader to experience, with his or her own stories as well as the ones I present, the sense of connection that drives me to make the links and take the leaps that I do. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Ahl, Elizabeth Ann, "When We Smoked" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3009712.