Liz Mehl


Whether you are interested in the complexities of literature and poetry or inclined to discuss more absolute topics, the conversation will never dwindle or teeter toward boring when speaking with Liz. Her dedication and passion for the poetry community and the art that inspires it is sincere, and her latest endeavor is a godsend for those who share her passion.

Already in its second year, Poetry Press Week, which takes place twice annually in Portland, showcases multiple poets to an audience of publishers, press, and the public; it is a breeding ground for creativity and possibilities.

Liz’s semi-annual poetry readings provide artists with the publicity they deserve by offering opportunities for growth and exposure that heretofore did not exist.

The event’s success doesn’t surprise me. Inspired by the Fashion Industry’s “Fashion Week,” Liz and her co producer, Justin Rigamonti, have created an haute couture event for poetry.

A few days after this year’s first showcase, I caught up with Liz over a cup of coffee.

SOLIS: Congratulations on your 4th Poetry Press Week. I’m so happy I was able to attend the showcase this year.

MEHL: Oh, thank you.

SOLIS: Do you remember the moment that led you to its conception?

MEHL: I remember the exact moment. I was watching a channel called Cinémoi, which no longer exists. I never watch TV, but I would watch Cinémoi, because it was all about fashion, all the time. So one night, I was drinking red wine, and watching this show on a 10-year retrospective of Paris Fashion Week. It was really cool to watch year after year how the clothing changed, or the brand changed. It really is a brilliant event, in that it brings clothing designers out with their new work, which hasn’t been sold or debuted anywhere yet, and everyone experiences it at the same place, and at the same time. Fashion Week brought the designers that were making the clothes forward and said, “These are the people that are making your clothes, you should buy them just like you are buying the brand.” So I began to think about how this could happen for poetry as well.

SOLIS: Such a fresh perspective; what changes do you hope your event will evoke?

MEHL: I hope that by making the work more readily available, and having the publishers, which have the power to publish them, right there in the audience that it will expedite the publication process.

SOLIS: So as to retain relevancy?

MEHL: Exactly. As a poet it is so hard to get your work in front of the publishers. You have to practically go up a salmon ladder, and if you’re lucky, you’ll make it out of the slush pile. Usually by the time the work passes through the right hands and is published, it is then 5 years old. For example, you may have work debuting in 2017, referencing something like the Boston Marathon bombings. You have to stay relevant; it is so important.

SOLIS: Relevancy is important for so many industries, the fashion industry being one of them. What inspires your own personal fashion and how you express yourself through clothing?

MEHL: I am super into––and always have been, even as a child–– texture and quality. If the fabric doesn’t feel right, I just can’t wear it; it will just bug me. I have trouble wearing polyester, not because it isn’t great, but because personally the texture drives me crazy. I would much rather wear cotton or linen, something that feels good, that will wear well over time. I will go through racks of clothes and pick out pieces of clothing just by the feel of the fabric.

SOLIS: I love that. It reminds me of how I can be with a lot of decisions I make. For instance, while picking out a new apartment, I can tell instantly whether or not I want to live there just by the feel of the space, or the sound of my voice in the room.

MEHL: Totally, and I don’t think that is a super common trait. I will go shopping with friends and they will still be looking through the shirt rack, while I’ve been all over the store.

SOLIS: The texture and weight of the fabric is key, would you say poetry inspires your wardrobe?

MEHL: There could be a correlation. I am inspired by texture and quality, and poetry can be full of texture, but it can also lend itself toward minimalism. Like a minimalistic garment, when poetry is bare and contains fewer embellishments, you can really see the bones and structure of the piece, and that is a thing of beauty.