Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Life of a Poet - Annell Livingston

Kids, I am blown away by how many multi-talented creative folk there are, doing such great work, in this community.  Annell Livingston is such an artist.  At Some Things I Think About, you will find her poetry, but will soon discover she always has an art project on the go as well: paintings, exquisite miniature artists books, and her recent Red Shoes Project, which included the writing of some of the women in the Poets United community. Pour a cup of Lady Grey, or some iced tea on the rocks, and come along, as we scoot down to Taos, New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, and meet Annell, who is  rather enchanting herself!




Poets United: Annell, So lovely to sit down with you and peek into your world. Tell us a little about yourself. A bit of your history – herstory! – your magical part of the world, and what your life is like. Is there a story behind  beginning your blog?

Annell: How did I get started ?  I read a blog of my friend Gail Siptak, Eye with a View.  I thought I could do that, a good place to write.  I had no idea what I might want to write?  I thought it would be like a personal journal, perhaps letters to myself? When I chose my name I was thinking it would be Some Things I Think, then the gremlin in the computer put “-annell-annell”, I knew that wasn’t right, but didn’t know how to change it.  I’m a real techno-peasant.

Poets United: I so relate!

Annell: As a child I was the middle child, grew up as a sea nymph on the shore of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, fishing, crabbing, swimming, and playing in the surf.  I’m not sure as a child I ever had a “complete thought,” but I had a happy childhood.  And when asked what do you want to be when you grow up?  I would answer, “I want to be an artist.” It is all I ever wanted to be.  I remember I spent most of my time at the library and loved the smell of the books. 

Poets United: Your childhood sounds glorious! I share your love of books. I have been bringing home an armload from the library once a week since I was five:)

Annell: I moved to New Mexico about 16 years ago.  The landscape is very different from where I grew up.  Everything is so beautiful, the sky is so big, and where I grew up, it was the flat coastal plain of the Texas coast.  This is my house, at the foot of the sacred Taos Mountain.



Poets United: What a glorious view! So beautiful,  and so much sky!

Annell: About 14 years ago, I met a man from Canada, a painter.  In time we got to know each other and share our lives together.  We share interests in painting, poetry, and the outdoors.  Our lives are very quiet, and we have a beautiful kitty, who is also very quiet.  He also loves art, poetry and he loves to go camping.

Poets United: It sounds idyllic.  So, what does poetry mean to you, Annell?

Annell:  Poetry is an art form that is big enough for all of our individual and unique experiences.   Poetry, like the visual arts, allows us to see in new ways, give voice to the way we feel, helps us to think about things we may have never thought before. It is amazing and magic.  Poetry can change your life.  Poetry opens new worlds, and enriches our lives. 

As an artist myself, I seek artists whose work I have not seen before, and of course look for artists I love.  The same with poetry, and I am amazed at how talented the people on the internet are.  I fall in love over and over.  Because I am very busy with both hands, I don’t have time to be on the computer (or do a lot of things I would like to do) as much as is required to visit as many people as I would like. I try to visit as many as I can.  I always try to respond to the kindness of people when they come to my blog.


Poets United: What inspires your writing, Annell?

Annell: I think I write in response to what I see, to memory (though I am not one to stay too long in the past) and to feelings.  For me writing is like sorting things out, organizing, after all I am a Scorpio, and that is one of the things Scorpio’s do.  I write because I never know what I will write, it’s always a surprise, and I am often just entertaining myself.  I do like to write to the prompts on the blogs, it can be something totally unexpected, and yet the editor inside will take it to a place I was thinking about all along, it’s just that the route becomes more interesting. 


Poets United: You have a to-die-for studio! What a joy it must be to walk into it every day. When you do you write the most, Annell?

Annell: I am usually up early, and I write at my desk in the studio.  The mornings are quiet, and full of “gifts”; each day begins with gratitude—right now I look out the window and there are beautiful pink bands in the early morning blue New Mexico sky.  It is a vision I will see exactly this way only once.  It is quiet, no sound at all, or sometimes I hear the coyotes singing in the arroyos outside.  I always try to carry a little notebook, in order to record, something seen, heard, or little thoughts.

Poets United: Sigh. I'm in heaven at the very thought! Do you have a favorite poet?

Annell: There are too many, but to name a few: Peggy Pond Church, Mary Oliver, May Sarton, Alice Walker, Joy Harjo, Susan Griffin and so many others. I’m sure on another day, I would name different ones.  My favorite poem is  Hurt Hawk by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962).  It always makes me cry when I read it.  I am always touched in the deepest part of my heart.  And that is why I love poetry.

[image from google]

Hurt Hawk

The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat.

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death there is game without talons.

He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.

He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head.

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.

I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
But the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending,
the wing that trailed under his talons
When he moved.

We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance.

I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality

(Again, I cried, as I copied it.)

Poets United: Oh, yes. So moving. This poet wrote a poem called The Housedog's Grave that has some lines I read to remember Pup. Would you like to tell us a little about your book projects, Annell?

Annell: Ah, my book projects.  I have been painting for five decades, and I work in series. It seems between series I will work on other things; it is like an incubation period.  My last series was the Poems of the Desert, based on ideas or actual experience of the desert.  This last year I have become interested in artists book projects. 

Petite Enchantments - Annell's exquisite small books project

Annell: Artists books are not books about art; they are art expressed through the book form.  The artists book is not a simple container for information, but a work of art where the content and form are considered together, and are given equal significance.  The goal of many book artists is to involve the reader actively in the viewing process, not only to see the words on the page but also to think about how the words, pictures and physical form of the object all contribute to the meaning.  But the display of the artists book can be difficult, as it is an object that both conceals and reveals.

[The Pagoda Book Project]

I like artists book projects, because you never know where they will take you.  You get an idea, and in order to complete it, you may have to get help, or learn something, or remember something.  They are often more intimate and follow a long-loved tradition of the ”book,” something you hold in your hand.  There has always been tension between the text and the illustration, and artists books can be all text or all illustrations.  There are two lines of thinking about the artists book; one is that it is something inexpensive and more people can own it, or it is something very expensive, one of a kind, for the collector.


[The Red Shoes Project]

With the Red Shoes Artists Book Project, I asked other writers to join me in the project.  It has turned out to be a beautiful project.  But there is more, the process allows me to honor writers that I love.  And I have several projects that are “works in progress.”  I am working on the Dress Maid project, and am including visual artists as well.  Again, it is something I like. I get an idea, and the idea becomes a project, and it takes time to write, to draw or paint, or sew or collect things for the book, so as it is percolating, I can be working on several projects.

Poets United: You sound extremely busy, but in such an enjoyable and creative way! When you aren't writing, what other activities do you pursue, Annell?

Annell: I haven’t really painted in several months, except for what I will use as illustrations in the artists book project.  But I can tell I am thinking more and more about painting: what I like, and what I like to paint.  I think I will be painting a series soon.  But of course when I think I know what I will be doing, I usually do something else!


Poets United: Poets often like music, which can be a form of poetry itself. What kind of music do you listen to, Annell?

Annell: Right now I am only listening to the soundtrack of Masters and Commanders.  I get on an idea of music and can’t stand anything else.  This can go on for a period of time.  At other times, I also listen to Gene Amons, classical jazz.  Perhaps next year I will be listening to something else.  It is like there is a pathway worn in a certain way, and then there are only certain things I like to listen to, or perhaps it is the shape of my ear?  In high school I played the French horn, but there isn’t much written for the French horn, but still love the sound.

Poets United: I'm the same way. I play my current favorites over and over, and they change as I discover more great music. Annell, if you could do anything or be anywhere, no limits, what would your life look like?

Annell: Soon I will be seventy, hard to believe, but true.   I am lucky, at least right now.  I am exactly where I would like to be, living in Taos, New Mexico.  Doing exactly what I want to do, working everyday in the studio.  In some ways I have it all, I am completely satisfied.  New Mexico is called the land of enchantment and it certainly is.  I live an enchanted life.  I love to get outside, and do as often as I can, but my work is demanding.  I have great views from my studio, so when I am at work in the studio I have but to look up from my work, and to remember where I am and know that I am blessed.

Poets United: That sounds like a fantastic way to feel about your life. So, if you could meet any famous person, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?


[Agnes Martin by Christopher Felver]

Annell: A famous person I met was Agnes Martin, but it was only briefly.  I would have liked to have talked with her about her work, and her life.  I would have loved to have met Mabel Dodge Luhan and we would have talked about Tony and about Taos.  And of course I would have loved to have met Georgia O’Keefe, we would have talked about the light and how it shines on Taos Mountain.  And Peggy Pond Church, we would have talked about New Mexico and where she lived in Pajarito Canyon near Los Alamos. 

[Pansy by Georgia O'Keefe]

Poets United: So lovely to contemplate - what a fantastic group of women artists! And you, right up there with them! Do you have a favorite among your poems?

Annell: I have been writing about since 1994, and I don’t really think of myself as a writer, but a painter.  This is the poem that was in the Poetry Pantry anthology : Thoughts that Breathe.


Coyote

The mythical trickster
As he is known
Does what he can
Lives on the edge
An outstanding man

Cares for his family
Plays tricks to survive
Listens for her call
Steals for a living
And will take your last bite

He is an upstanding citizen
Has endured your hate
His head hangs on
My neighbor’s fence post

Does what he can
He endures his fate
Has the skills of a wizard
An outstanding mate

Look again
The coyote you see
In disguise to distract
Wrapped in fur
He does what he can
Under hard circumstance

Because he is distant
Lives on the edge
He’s a mystery to man
A fear in his dreams
He’s an incredible
Human being, who
Doesn’t ask much

Just leave him alone
He’s a myth in man’s stories
A shadow of delight
An original outsider
Right beside you
In the darkness of night. 

Poets United: You certainly sound like a poet to me! Have you ever lived a great adventure?



Annell: You ask about a great adventure.  My life has been enough.  I have been lost, and I have found my way.  I look forward to a few more years of work. Art takes a life time.

Poets United: So very true. It is wonderful to be able to say “I’m living it now” about one’s life and one’s dreams. You sound happy and extremely busy right where you are, under the beautiful Taos Mountain. I enjoy it, too, every time I come to your site and look at your blog photo. Do you have a favorite quote that you use often, or live by?

  
[Sunset in Taos]
Annell: There is one anonymous quote, “She done the best she knowed how.”    

Poets United: Yes, you did, and do, Annell, and we are all the richer for it! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your life with us. it has been such a pleasure!

  See, kids? Isn’t it true that poets are some of the most interesting people around? Check back in two weeks to see who we’ll talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

16 comments:

  1. Wow! Sherry thanks so much for your careful handling of the interview! You are such a beautiful person!

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  2. Annell and Sherry Blue Sky,

    A most wonderful opportunity to get to know a little bit more about you. A superbly talented lady and the excellent revelation that you too are a Scorpio lady, like myself!!!
    Nice to meet you again, Annell.

    Sherry,
    A lovely and relaxing interview, yet again. I knew once Earl Grey tea was mentioned, that it would be a very enjoyable 'chat'!!!
    Best wishes, Eileen

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  3. What a beautiful write up on Annell - so well deserved she is so talented and filled with kindness....I a happy to see her highlighted - she makes the world a better place, as you do too Sherry....thank you both...blessings..bkm

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  4. I really enjoyed learning more about you Annell and the beautiful place you live. I love the smiling photo of you too!

    Another wonderful interview Sherry, I so enjoy these. :-)

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  5. Beautiful to see you Annell..Jae :)

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  6. Annell, I am in awe of your life, your artistry. What a fantastic interview. Thanks Sherry for bringing Annell's life to us.

    Pamela

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  7. This one is filled with favorites for me... Sherry, Annell and the interview itself. I enjoy regularly reading Annell's work and am enamored with her art. Today, Poet's United feels like a complete treat!

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  8. I am so happy to have had the privilege of interviewing such a talented artist, who lives such a richly interesting life. Glad you all enjoyed getting to know Annell a little better.

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  9. Another wonderful interview Sherry of the Skies! Imagine all that Taos sky - and the very spirit of O'Keefe breathing lightly into Annell's days and nights.
    Thankyou for sharing the artist's world Annell - there is no end to the way the life of an artist inspires me.

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  10. Sherry, what a lovely interview.

    Annell, you are indeed a multi-talented artist.
    Your studio looks amazing...so much light...and that sunset...so dreamy.

    Good job, ladies!

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  11. Annell, what a breathtaking view from your studio! The poem Hurt Hawk brought tears to my eyes. Loved this interview, Sherry!

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  12. Good to 'meet' you in this way! :)

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  13. Sherry, what a wonderful write-up on Annell. You always find out such interesting things about people.

    Annell, your blog is always a favorite of mine to visit, and I have read many 'treasures' there. You are indeed a multi-faceted artist.

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  14. So neat to get to know more about you Annell. I too have enjoyed visiting your blog. I am particularly curious to know more about your art books. I have loved the idea of doing something like this but it seems such a project. I think I need a studio!!

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  15. Sherry, wonderful and enlightening as usual.

    Annell, love the view of and from your home. I must find a way to come and see you. We chat yes, but it's not enough. Thank you so much for sharing,

    Elizabeth

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