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Sparkly New: annaelkins.com



I remember the day a dozen years ago when I realized that my initials created a ligature: æIn typography, a ligature occurs when two or more letters are joined into a single glyph. In life, a ligature is a something that binds other things together. 


As I worked to finish updating my website, I saw that my tagline is a kind of ligature, too: art + word + spirit. And the thing that binds them together? Joy.

I’d like to share the joy, so I invite you to visit annaelkins.com. I’m especially happy to offer bespoke poetry and art! 

Enjoy!

PS: You’ll get a free print digital when you sign up for my mailing list 🙂

2016 Highlights

Chagall’s ceiling at the Opera Garnier, Paris


Inspired by year-end roundups, I decided to create one of my own. And so, 15 bits of the best from 2016:
  1. Launching the prophetic art resource site, PropheticArt.Infoon January 1st.
  2. Traveling on the book tour as the illustrator for Erin’s grand book, Wings: Gifts of Art, Life, & Travel in France
  3. Reading one of my poems at the iconic independent bookstore, Book Passage, during the release of the anthology, Vignettes & Postcards Morocco
  4. Standing beneath Chagall’s ceiling at the Opera Garnier in Paris
  5. Working with my mom on her second book of blessings: Blessings for Love & War
  6. Celebrating a mid-summer milestone with Hayley over uncontrollable fits of giggling
  7. Doing pre-workshop calisthenics led by the Poet Laureate Juan Feilipe Herrera at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers
  8. Helping plan another Deep Travel Morocco adventure with Christina and the inimitable travel writer, Tim Cahill
  9. Launching a greeting card line, Take Heart, with the savvy advice of Mindy. (The card line will be more accessible once I finish…)
  10. …updating my website to offer commissioned poetry & paintings, among other things (coming in January!)
  11. Tasting my first kouign-amann pastry in the Fillmore, San Francisco
  12. Finishing a full-length poetry collection…and beginning to send it out into the world! (Any contacts with small presses most welcome 😉
  13. Hand-delivering the paintings that sold from my art show
  14. Listening to my father give his last official blessing while on staff at the church he is retiring from
  15. Turning 40 and feeling like the truest goodness is about to begin….
Here’s to celebrating the good stuff when it’s “time to laugh” and “time to dance,”  


Happy New Year!

Compound Gratitude


Thank you for the eye and the sight
for the ear and the drum
for the finger and the nail
for the under and the belly
for the back and the bone
for the hand and the made
for the heart and the ache.
Thank you for the moon and the light
for the sun and the flower
for the rattle and the snake
for the thunder and the storm
for the star and the fish
for the blue and the bird
for the honey and the suckle.
Thank you for the day and the dream
for the good and the night
for the after and the noon
for the cross and the over
for the up and the coming
for the life and the time
for the thanks and the giving.

Take Heart Cards

The Take Heart greeting card line has launched! These cards celebrate the art of encouragement. To take heart is to encourage, to encourage is to inspire with hope, and the Latin root of encourage is cor, heart. The cards are waiting to be filled with your own heart-ful words and sent out into the world….
Each card is:
~ 5” x 7” (ideal for giving and framing)
~ Blank inside
~ Printed in Oregon, USA on 100lb cardstock
~ Hand embossed in the lower, right-hand corner with my æ signature
~ Accompanied by a translucent, vellum envelope (hard to find!)
Ten percent of all Take Heart sales go to support The Studio at Living Opportunities, which provides a place to create for people with developmental disabilities.

For now, the cards are available in a several Southern Oregon stores. Stay tuned for more locations. Meanwhile, I can accommodate retail orders as sets of all 10 designs with vellum envelopes for $25 + $5 s/h to US addresses. 

Take heart!

SaveSave

An Invitation from Anna Elkins to Take Heart Reception

Anna Elkins to Take Heart ReceptionYou are invited to my art reception on Saturday, 8 October at South Stage Cellars. The exhibit is called Take Heart: The Art of Encouragement.

 

To say “take heart” is to encourage. To encourage is to inspire with spirit and hope. And the Latin root of “encourage” is cor—heart. It all comes back to the heart.

 

Alongside the paintings, I am launching my new greeting card line that night. The cards are a mix of encouraging images and poetry: perfect for giving away, keeping for yourself, or both!

 

You will also find the familiar combo of award-winning wine, complementary nibbles, and live music. But there’s a special twist this time around: the evening is also a fundraiser.

 

To continue the cycle of encouragement, I am giving 10% of all art and card sales on the reception night to The Studio at LivingOpportunities—and an ongoing 10% of greeting card sales after that. The Studio offers people with intellectual and developmental disabilities a space to come and create art. It’s an organization that truly celebrates the power of encouragement.

 

All to say, the reception is fine reason to bring a friend and/or a love and swing into South Stage Cellars in Jacksonville on October 8 from 5:30-8 pm.

 

May we all take heart!

 

Blessings & joy,

anna elkins   a  r  t    +     w  o  r  d    +    s  p  i  r  i  t   annaelkins.com

Sky Song


This poem appeared as part of the Black Earth Institute’s “30 Days Hath September” Project

Sky Song
Hear the sound of the age changing—
it is the refrain of yes
shaping new constellations
from the old stories
that scroll through our days.
Hear the galaxy hum of love—
the quantum is of the unseen
singing our names (when we
only know to say them) and scheming
sweet rhymes in the forth dimension.
Let’s get invisible.
Let’s kiss elisions.
Let’s get spirit naked
and play in the river of give
and good and mmmm.
Let’s dabble in destiny
and possibility
until we turn into songsters
who heal the holes
in skies and hearts.
Let’s hum in the night.
Let’s ring in the day.
Let’s write a new chorus
across the sky with contrails
of stubborn joy.
Let’s sing it even when it hurts—
even when the blood runs,
even when the fire burns,
even when.
Let’s.

Sky Song


This poem appeared as part of the Black Earth Institute’s “30 Days Hath September” Project

Sky Song
Hear the sound of the age changing—
it is the refrain of yes
shaping new constellations
from the old stories
that scroll through our days.
Hear the galaxy hum of love—
the quantum is of the unseen
singing our names (when we
only know to say them) and scheming
sweet rhymes in the forth dimension.
Let’s get invisible.
Let’s kiss elisions.
Let’s get spirit naked
and play in the river of give
and good and mmmm.
Let’s dabble in destiny
and possibility
until we turn into songsters
who heal the holes
in skies and hearts.
Let’s hum in the night.
Let’s ring in the day.
Let’s write a new chorus
across the sky with contrails
of stubborn joy.
Let’s sing it even when it hurts—
even when the blood runs,
even when the fire burns,
even when.
Let’s.

Beyond Myth: The Poet Sandal-Maker of Athens

The Poet Sandal-Maker and I: Athens, Greece 2006
(Thank you, Molly, for getting this photo!)
A very hairy man smiled and pointed down another, greasy Athenian street. I had my doubts, but he had great shoes. We must be close.
Molly thanked the man and led the way. Our friendship had spanned Archie comics to eBooks, and we travelled well together—tag teaming who led and who lagged behind…questioning where the other was leading.
It was my turn for the latter: “You sure he understood what you asked?”
Not long later, Molly pointed. There it was: the shop sign I’d been seeking. To a tall poet who has spent years trying to find size-12 shoes I like, the Poet Sandal- Maker of Athens was as intriguing as any myth I had read in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.
I had brought just one pair of walking sandals with me on our ten-day trip to Greece. The weather websites had forecasted sunny delightfulness, and I had decided to bring only a single, carry-on daypack. That spring, I needed to keep my life simple.
Despite spending the winter in a Swiss chalet with a fairy-tale view across the valley to Italy, it had been The Winter of my Discontent: a messy breakup, Gruyère weight gain, and the looming Indeterminate Future after returning to the US.
When Molly had asked if I wanted to join her in Greece before I returned home, my answer had been a rather desperate, “yes!”
It may be more grownup to be able to deal with one’s issues without leaving them behind, but it’s a lot more pleasant to have the change of scenery—especially when the scenery will include Athens and the Peloponnese islands.
The problem was, Athens is not the islands. It is a polluted, gray, treeless city, bearable mostly because of its headline ruins. When I climbed up the Acropolis, I wondered if it were even more magnificent when contrasted with the modern cement buildings in varying hues of sidewalk that sprawled below it into a haze of smog.
We did enjoy the antiquity. We enjoyed having the Parthenon to ourselves at dawn for the briefest of moments before the tour buses crested the hill. We enjoyed playing caryatid, taking pictures of ourselves as if we were holding up the porch of the Erechtheion.
Back in the Archie-comics era of eighth grade, Molly and I had volunteered to illustrate our classroom’s Greek myth binders. We drew Hera with gladiator sandals on ill-proportioned feet, Apollo with a lumpy bow and arrow, and Poseidon with a trident that poked past the three-hole punches. We knew our Greek mythology and our accessories.
But let’s face it: as tourists, we weren’t going to get a glimpse of Poseidon on the docks of Piraeus, and even if we did, he was notoriously aggressive. Who wants to risk encountering a stormy god with a trident and all of the Aegean Sea at his disposal?
The Poet Sandal-Maker, on the other hand….Now here was a legend we could experience.
Molly had already been inside the shop for a few minutes while I continued to stand in silly reverence on the street. She leaned out the doorway and waved at me, “Coming in?”
I stepped in to a parfumerie of leather. A long-haired artisan sat bent over a stack of soles. He smiled when we entered and kept working. The only other person in the shop was a mannequin wearing a sheer red dress in front of a wall of sandals, boxes of sandals, and chairs stacked with sandals. 
The man introduced himself as the son of Stavros Melissinos, the poet of the shop’s name. My disappointment at not meeting the legend himself disappeared as soon as the son pointed us toward the wall of shoe design options. Choices spanned leather hues, band widths, strap lengths, and ties. Deciding to stick to my plan of keeping it simple, I opted for a single pair: an elegant variation on the flip-flop called the Minoan. 
After measuring my feet, the third-generation sandal maker began to craft my sandals at a worktable invisible beneath strata of soles, Marlboro boxes, knives, and pliers.
Within minutes, I had custom-made sandals. They were smooth as the yogurt and honey we’d had for breakfast and just as sweet. Kneeling before me, the sandal maker adjusted the leather while I asked him questions about poetry. When he was finished, he looked up to see what I thought. I smiled—a genuine, eye-crinkling smile I hadn’t felt across my face in a long time.
Molly was laughing. “I hope my sandals make me look half that happy.”
I pulled off one of my new shoes to examine it. The sandal soles were imprinted with the poet’s trademark: the gestural profile of a face. The image could have been carved on a column at the Acropolis. Or it could have been an illustration from the Odyssey translation I’d read a few years before.
“The leather will stretch. It will get very soft,” the sandal maker said as I slipped the shoe back on and began to walk around the shop.
He was standing now, watching me wiggle my toes. The thongs were tight, but I trusted his advice.
And he was right. They did stretch. They are now so soft they shine. I walked in them later that week on the Peloponnese island of Hydra, later that month through the wine country of the Languedoc, years later to a wedding in Montana, and recently into a serendipitous Market Street encounter on a sunny, San Francisco afternoon.
They are my go-to summer sandals for nicer occasions: flat, lightweight, and easy to pack. When I pull them out of my bag and see the imprint of the Poet Sandal- Maker logo, I am always reminded that there is joy down the most unpromising of streets.

Maybe it was shallow of me to be equally thrilled by leather sandals cut to fit my feet in Zeus’s homeland as by the Parthenon at dawn. Or maybe the things that make the journey possible and pleasant can be just as important as the destinations they bring us to.

Trimming my Mindsets

I just cut my hair. As in: me, myself, and a pair of scissors. It’s fun learning how to do this, but the original motivation was annoyance. I knew ageing would change things, but I didn’t expect my hair to be one of those things. Don’t get me wrong; I love the gray hairs—really. Each one is a badge of wisdom, a lesson learned from four decades on this earth, and I don’t plan on dyeing them away.
What bothered me about my hair was the fact that I could no longer roll out of bed and bound off into the day without it looking a bit…um…tired. My hair just sort of hung there, lifeless. I resented the thought that I’d want to start spending time actually doing something to my strands besides rubbing a bit of argan oil into their ends.
I’m not a primper. I have the same curling iron I owned in the eighth grade (it survived in my grandmother’s attic while I gallivanted across several continents, and I rediscovered it in my mid-thirties). I only use a hand-me-down hairdryer to dry layers of acrylic paint on my canvases when I’m feeling impatient.
I could have gotten a perfectly good cut in a salon, sure, but I wanted to take this particular task into my own hands. I look down at the curls of hair that have fallen from my scissors and smile. As clearly as those dark clippings on white porcelain, I can see that my annoyance didn’t originate with my hair but with the conflicted feelings I had about cultivating beauty to begin with.
My grandmother—the one with the attic—had been a beauty. In her late teens and early twenties, she wanted to be a model, and I have one of her portfolio shots hanging on my wall. In the photo, her hair is perfectly coiffed. She faithfully and painstakingly twisted little bobby-pin curls all over her head. When I was a girl, I’d seen her curl her hair that way during sleepovers at her house with my cousin, Heather. We would watch Grandma sit at her long, glass-topped vanity while the curls dried. She used the interim to apply the contents of mysterious bottles to her face. She always took the time to look as good as she could, right up to the final years of illness before she died. Heather inherited Grandma’s aptitude and the willingness to use it.
I decided not to. I spent most of my high school and college years with my hair yanked back in a lumpy bun, happy with the fact that my shower products consisted of just shampoo, conditioner, and a bar of soap. Rebellion can look like a frizz halo.
I wasn’t rebelling against any person so much as the way our culture urged women to manufacture and maintain beauty. Not until grad school in humid Greensboro, North Carolina did I discover styling products—at first out of necessity (it’s hard to see through a sheen of frizzy hair), and then for amusement. UNCG’s creative writing program held legendary themed parties and thesis readings, and these required trips to the CVS for eyeliner and lipstick. I even let friends talk me into a trip to the M.A.C counter at the mall for a makeover.
For my first Halloween in Greensboro, I went as a Very Tall Woman. I’m already 6’ 3”, but my goal was to have to duck under door lintels. I invited several friends to get ready together at my apartment before we walked to the party on Carr Street. A fellow poet teased and hairsprayed my hair into a skyscraper of a beehive. Along with my five-inch silver heels, the hair added over a foot to my height, and I measured 7’5’. (A measurement confirmed by another poet who had to stand on a chair to read the measuring tape.) On the walk to the party, my beehive snagged in a magnolia tree, and I was the only one who could reach up to disentangle it.
It was a brief and entertaining season of playing with beauty products.
The reason I decided not to dye my hair came a few years later. I was living in Switzerland, high in the Alps, attending a theological study center called l’Abri. In a chalet with 35 students and three bathrooms, we were allotted just two showers a week. There wasn’t much point in styling limp, greasy, day-four hair. One winter night, I traveled down the valley to listen to a string quartet. I knew the cellist, but my eyes were on the violinist. She leaned deeply over her instrument, the crown of her head pointing almost straight toward the audience. Her long hair was dark brown, and swirling from the top of her head like petals from the heart of a blossom grew thick sections of unabashed white. It was striking, the way she embraced the evidence of her age. As I watched her play, I told myself I would always let my white hair show, too.
At the time, I had about four white hairs. Now, as I dry my damp hair, I lean into the mirror and see that the white ones are already innumerable. They are also becoming my favorites. They are the strongest and thickest. They are visible wisdom in a part of the world that often forgets to remember the beauty of time. And I’ve discovered that I want to celebrate them, even if that means occasionally taking time play with hair gel and bobby pins.
I think what once prompted me to skip the primping was the thought that it was faking something—that it was a well advertised attempt to mask reality. Sometimes it is. But maybe sometimes it’s also an individual way to celebrate reality.

All to say, you might see me with bobby pins in my hair—or see a trail of them falling out behind me as I figure out how to actually anchor the things. Or you might see me looking like I just rolled out of bed. Because that’s a celebration, too: simply waking each day into the continuum of ever-wiser life.

Les Yeux du Coeur

I couldn’t resist: “Eyes of the Heart” just sounds so lovely in French! And now for a prophetic workshop in Tours, France…