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Hope of Stones


Paris, New York, San Francisco…and Southern Oregon! A dream lineup for a poetry book tour, and Im so grateful for the friends in each place who helped make this happen.

Hope of Stones is ready to greet the world, and you can pre-order it via my wonderful publisher, Press 53

Im going to let the dear poets who wrote praise for the book speak for me on this blog. Continued gratitude to them for the beautiful words!

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Anna Elkins’ Hope of Stones is a magnificent (I do not use the word lightly) collection—a beautiful, moving, and thought-provoking book of poems. The writing is striking in its control of tone and its precision, unfolding layer after layer of resonance and implication. Three characters: the nun, the architect, the poet who triangulates the relationship. Three different times in history, three different significant endeavors: the architect’s Paris below ground that reflects and supports the Paris above; the visionary nun’s passionate immersion in the inner mansions of God’s Castle; the poet’s engagement in the sensuous spirituality of her research. Give this book to everyone you love. No book of poems I’ve read in a long time more deserves serious, joyful attention and a wide readership. 
—Jim Peterson, author of Speech Minus Applause

This gorgeous book of contemplative poems refuses to accept an easy division between work and prayer. Here, hope is not a thing with feathers. Hope is a paradox, a thing with both heft and light. It is weightless with history, ruin, and body. It is heavy with abyss, nothingness, and caves. Bone and stone point beyond themselves towards the absence of building things up and the presence of emptying things out. Language is both meaningful and errant or even wayward: “earth / is an anagram for heart.” A nun prays “none” against “none.” A whole is reminiscent of a hole. This is a poet’s clearing, housed in eventual collapse. The one who works and the one who prays cross paths, eventually, head to head, skull to skull, in the undertaking of the poet, who excavates a kind of fast, and a kind of pilgrimage, as a way of seeking the first lost garden fruit–the castle cathedral, the ever-never-catacombs–unpicked, undisturbed, and undreamed. 
Gina Franco, author of The Accidental

In Hope of Stones, Anna Elkins creates a multi-various and many-voiced world—set both in the present and in two different pasts, and narrated by three different characters—the Nun, the Architect, and the Poet. This fantastic book reminds me of A. Van Jordan’s M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, another hybrid collection that brings strong individual poems together into a cohesive narrative. Whereas Jordan’s mode is often cinematic, Elkins works as a portrait painter. Through osmosis, the scholar-poet becomesthe architect and the nun, allowing this intertwined history to work also as an extended metaphor on creativity and desire: “One stair at a time / one corridor after another & a final glimpse / up a shaft to see the pinhole light of sky shining / though a manhole cover….”
Sebastian Matthews, author of Beginner’s Guide to a Head-on Collision

Hope of Stones is an elegant collection. Its formally accomplished poems, distinct voices, and visual design invite us to see the page as a temporal-geographical region. The architect, Charles-Axel Guillaumot, speaks from the lower left margin where he focuses on materiality, catacombs and the undergirding of Paris as he tries to save the city from collapse; the nun, Teresa of Avila, speaks from the upper right margin, where she shares her architectural vision of the spirit. And the poet, who is either in Oregon or traveling, occupies the center of the page where she brings her own dailiness—fires in summer, plums ripening—into conversations with these historic figures. The poet descends literally beneath Paris in her quest for the architect and ascends into the ethereal and sometimes levitational world of the nun. Like Dante, Elkins takes us on a journey. Hope of Stones traverses countries, continents, and historical periods until finally time and space collapse into a kaleidoscope of spirit.
Tami Haaland, author of What Does Not Return

April in Paris, Anyone?

Come with us!
Deep Travel is heading to Paris in April! We have two spots left on the trip, which runs from April 4-10. For six splendid days, our small group will be exploring the City of Light’s boulevards, bridges, bistros, galleries, patisseries, and parks. 

We’ve named this trip “The Artist’s Life,” and that’s exactly what you’ll get to explore. To enrich our travels, we’ll hold daily “happy hour” art sessions blending art, writing, and conversation. 

We’ll be staying in the marvelous Marais neighborhood—my favorite—in walking distance of the Seine, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Luxembourg Gardens, and countless eateries. 

A few extra perks: a luncheon cruise along the Seine, a dinner and literary salon in a private home on the city’s oldest park, and a walking around our Marais neighborhood with author and Paris podcaster, Oliver Gee

I’ve been delighted to help organize Deep Travel trips since 2014. We’ve gone to Morocco, Mexico, Spain, and Nepal, and this will be our first Deep Travel workshop in Paris. 

For more info, visit the Deep Travel website.  And for even more photos and fun, check out the Facebook page

Come play with us!

The Feels

A year ago today, I drew this compass to illustrate the five feelings I wanted to cultivate in 2019.

The four points: joy, peace, prosperity, and grace. The heart-center: harmony.

I started to write the words onto the compass, but then I realized I wanted the image to be “evergreen.” I wanted to use it every year if I felt like it. To use five words…or just one.

For 2020, I have just one word. This time next year, I’ll let you know how it turns out! I have a feeling it will be good, if only because this year, I let my five desired feelings guide most everything I chose to do.

This was the first time I approached a year with feelings instead of goals…so much more fun and freeing! I’ve spent too long confusing what I want with what I want to feel.

What do you want to feel during the coming twelve months?

Here’s to all the feels!

And blessings as we navigate toward them,

Anna

Big Gratitude for All the Little Things

Happy Gratitude!

Little things can bring such big delight. Like receiving photos of my new book, Living Large on Little, trotting the globe from New Zealand to Kansas (with a few furry bibliophiles, too!) 

Thank you, thank you to all the readers! Another delight: reading reviews. Here are teasers from a few that have come in so far:

“At the end of this little book I was happier and more hopeful…Finished the book feeling inspired and amazed…As I closed it I felt richer!”

“What a delight! I read this short but powerful collection of anecdotes in a single evening! So much heart and depth tucked in these pages. I will read it more than once, surely. Love!”

“I finished this book feeling hopeful, appreciative, optimistic and grateful. It’s full of insightful personal stories about wealth, the actual money kind, or the “feeling wealthy”, the internal abundance kind that comes from within (which is no small thing! it’s actually THE THING!!!)…”

Of course, I’d also be immensely grateful if you want to add to the reviews! You can find the book here. It brims with gratitude and grace—good for every season, but especially this one. 

Thank you for reading & blessings of delight, 

Anna

Big Gratitude for All the Little Things

Happy Gratitude!

Little things can bring such big delight. Like receiving photos of my new book, Living Large on Little, trotting the globe from New Zealand to Kansas (with a few furry bibliophiles, too!) 

Thank you, thank you to all the readers! Another delight: reading reviews. Here are teasers from a few that have come in so far:

“At the end of this little book I was happier and more hopeful…Finished the book feeling inspired and amazed…As I closed it I felt richer!”

“What a delight! I read this short but powerful collection of anecdotes in a single evening! So much heart and depth tucked in these pages. I will read it more than once, surely. Love!”

“I finished this book feeling hopeful, appreciative, optimistic and grateful. It’s full of insightful personal stories about wealth, the actual money kind, or the “feeling wealthy”, the internal abundance kind that comes from within (which is no small thing! it’s actually THE THING!!!)…”

Of course, I’d also be immensely grateful if you want to add to the reviews! You can find the book here. It brims with gratitude and grace—good for every season, but especially this one. 

Thank you for reading & blessings of delight, 

Anna

Living Large on Little: Part 3

And one more installation from my forthcoming mini book: Living Large on Little: How to See the Invitation in Limitation. This vignette is from the section on patience….

When I taught high school on a tiny, Micronesian island, far, far away, I learned to make weekends sacred. I tried to get out and enjoy the ocean, which was my favorite thing to do there. 

One Saturday morning, I stopped at the local outdoor market and bought a coconut to take to Wings Beach. With any luck, I’d have that northern nook of the island to myself. It was an  unprotected beach, as in: no coral reef to create a lagoon and keep the sharks out. I was always a bit afraid of swimming in those waters, and I would force myself to do it.

My car lurched down the pocked, coral road, and I arrived to—delight!—a deserted beach. 

I laid out my sarong on the sand and sipped the coconut juice through the straw sticking from the hole that the man at the market had machete’d open for me. When I finished the juice, I thought: I want to eat the coconut meat inside. But this was the entire coconut—thick, green outer casing and all.

Limitation: I had no machete. 

Invitation: How else can I open it?

I will not admit how long it took me to break that thing open. It involved much hefting and not a few rounds of bashing against rocks. I’m glad there were no witnesses but the coconut crabs, scuttling for cover. 

When I finally heard that shell crack in half, I felt an ancient thrill that no modern equipment of convenience can give. 

I sat on my sarong and scooped out the coconut meat. I ate it with revelry, facing the sea and sky in their many hues of blue. 

When I had scraped out the last of the sweet fruit, I stacked the two shells and ran my hands through the sand—sand that had once been stone or coral and was now soft enough to comfortably sit on. 

So much is worth waiting for. 

Sometimes, that waiting is passive, but many times, it’s a muscle’d waiting, filled with sweat and repetition like the tides. Or the sound of continuous thudding of coconut on stone. 

PS: The official book launch is November 9 at The Miners’ Bazaar in Jacksonville, Oregon, from 5-7 PM.  More info here. 

*Living Large on Little is now available here

Living Large on Little: Part 2

This month, a second installation from my forthcoming mini book: Living Large on Little: How to See the Invitation in Limitation. It is divided into sections of vignettes, and the following bit appears in the “Joy” section….

The idea that an apple a day keeps the doctor away only works if we choose to eat the apple.

Joy is an active choice we make. 

I like to distinguish happiness from joy. To me, happiness depends on a certain outcome or circumstance, but joy is independent of any externals—it’s a heart-set. A choice. 

This means I can still have joy in the midst of grief, but I probably can’t be happy. I can be happy when I buy a new pair of boots, but not necessarily when I splatter paint all over them—and joy doesn’t require any specific footwear.

But then, I sometimes forget my own theory and use happiness and joy interchangeably. 

Sometimes, joy is taking a moment to laugh at ourselves and all of our theories.

(PS: If youre in Southern Oregon, save the date for the book launch on the evening of November 9…more info soon!)

*Living Large on Little is now available here

Restful Productivity with Anna Elkins

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

This holiday reminds me of my goal of restful productivity. I still fail at it—often and miserably—but I keep practicing.

In early spring, I was trying really, really hard to take one day off each week. One chilly, Sabbath afternoon, I cozied up with tea and a stack of art books, and I had an idea. That idea became The Word-Painting Project: a subscription series of ten little poem-paintings of encouragement. I created one each day during a June writing retreat, made prints of the ten designs, and then mailed each batch to subscribers every week for ten weeks over the summer. Despite some postal glitches, it was fun to do, and I was heartened to receive photos of people’s prints lining their window sills and hanging on their walls. It was like one, big encouragement loop!

That project culminated in a salon & exhibit at the end of my recent writing residency in San Francisco. In fact, I mailed the last batch of prints from the mailbox on the street corner near the Noe Valley studio where I stayed. That was a lovely feeling.

I often have to encourage myself to rest. Paradoxically, from that place of rest comes the ideas and energy for the work that I love and love to share.

In the spirit of sharing, I’d like to give you a free print—that Word-Painting at the top of this newsletter. You can download it here. Print it, share it—whatever you like!

My residency was at the wonderful, new WordSpaceStudios in San Francisco. While there, I was able to finally gather together the ideas for a little nonfiction project that had been simmering away in a file for years. And so, while my poetry manuscript is off looking for a home, I am finishing up Living Large on Little: How a Poet Sees Limitation as Invitation. You can find a teaser from the intro on my Wordbody blog. And save the date this November 9 for a multi-level celebration (5-7 pm at Miners’ Bazaar in Jacksonville). More info to come.

And then…

…last but certainly not least, we were thrilled to release the anthology, Deep Travel: Souvenirs from the Inner JourneyWe held the launch the night before the annual Travel Writers & Photographers Conference at the flagship BookPassage in Corte Madera, California. The book compiles writings from five years of workshops and 44 contributors…16 of whom traveled to read for the launch (they’re pictured above). It was a big labor of love to help gather these voices together, but so very worth it.

I could sum up this summer in two words: labor & play. Here’s to creating space in both to rest and dream.

With joy,

Anna

Upcoming

Vignettes in the Vineyard

Friday, 11 October, 3-5 pm at Red Lily Vineyards (Applegate Valley, OR) This third annual writing workshop is back! I’ll be teaching the same course, so if you missed it in the past, join me this year during the peak of autumn leaves in the iconic Red Lily barn.
 Deep Travel Mexico

16-22 January 2020 (Yelapa, Mexico) It’s a winter tradition! This will be our fifth workshop of writing and practicing the art of tranquilo in a car-free village on the Bay of Banderas. Register at DeepTravelWorkshops.com.


Deep Travel Paris

4-10 April 2020 (Paris, France) We’re thrilled to hold our first workshop in the City of Light! Get ready to spend time in the parks, museums, and cafés of this delicious city that always inspires the artist’s life. Register at DeepTravelWorkshops.com.

 

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Living Large on Little: Part 1

WordSpaceStudios, San Francisco 
It was such a gift. Time and space in San Francisco to write. While there, I was able to work on a nonfiction project that’s been growing in a Word document for a long time: Living Large on Little: How to See the Invitation in Limitation. This is the first of several excerpts. From the introduction: 

I grew up mostly in rural Montana. At the edge of our field grew a young plum tree. I loved this tree. I whispered my hopes to it and sat in its shade and…I was probably reenacting Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. I was a bit of a romantic.

Beneath that tree, I dreamed what my life would be like when I grew up. Though I can’t remember all of those dreams, I do remember that my imagination sustained me. 

The farmhouse my parents rented was beautiful and old—over a hundred years at the time. It had no central heating. In the winter, our pipes would consistently freeze. The spigot mounted to the fence leaked enough water to create fantastical, three-foot-high ice sculptures. 

Winter mornings, my brother David and I would don our scarves, coats, hats, mittens, and Moon Boots and plunge through the snow to see what shape had grown in the night.

One year, the spigot dripped into a being an ice chair worthy of the witch of Narnia. It was so big, we could sit on it, and we did—taking turns being King and Queen, reigning over the white and gray landscape, ours to the edge of the visible world.

More to come next month…. 

*Living Large on Little is now available here

Beyond the Visible

At the start of my walk…

I was grateful to spend the last week housesitting near Face Rock Beach in Bandon, Oregon. I walked the long beaches usually twice a day, in between overlong work sessions.

One afternoon, as I headed north, I noticed that Face Rock was barely visible in the fog. In fact, if I hadn’t seen her before, I wouldn’t have even known she was there.

On my return, the fog had cleared, and the namesake rock was in her usual pose of looking up at the sky from the waters. I couldn’t help but wonder: how many things do we walk past in the fog of our limited perception, not knowing the presence of beauty just beyond the visible conditions of our lives?

…and on my return.



I spent a good chunk of the week’s work on a new possible adventure–one that would require new ways of seeing, thinking, and dreaming.

We shall see (and I do hope with more than my natural eyes).

With love from the fog & the sun,

Anna