It starts off with the subject. Maybe a branch or the wing of a bumblebee. Then it extends outward, forming lines and patching empty white spaces, curving here and winding there. Before long there’s a living image. A bird is not merely paint. It lives in its own world. A tree is not immortal in its triangular position. It swings with the nonexistence north wind, thriving forever in summer or autumn.
This magic is the essence of Anne’s work: turning water and hues into a canvas of nonfiction.
It was roughly a year ago when I first came across her work on social media. Like me, you most likely know her as @poetanne. Also like me, and if you’ve known of Anne’s work, one of the most intriguing things any reader would point out is the relevance between a painting a poem, carefully placed together within a 4 x 4 square. Would the poem be complete without a painting? A painting without a poem? I would like to think not! But I also think it’s safe to say that this coexistence, the sibling hood of these two forms of art, are immediately recognizable in my feed because I know it can only belong to one person: Anne.
The poet who also paints. The painter who also writes poetic recollections. But what is the story behind the work? That is following.
Hughes: Tell us about yourself. Where are you based? What was your childhood like?
Anne: I live in San Diego. I grew up primarily in Nevada, so the mountains and the desert always feel like home to me. My parents were pretty strict and I think I missed out on a lot of things trying to be the good kid and following all the rules. I probably should have rebelled a little more to make things more interesting, but I like to think I’m making up for that now.
Hughes: Is anyone else in your family creative?
Anne: My mom is super creative. She is always making something. She is mostly into making jewelry now, but she is also amazing at painting and drawing.
Hughes: Describe your first memory of creating something that caught the attention of someone else. What was their reaction?
Anne: I wrote a story in high school about stealing another kid’s project in kindergarten and I won an award from our school’s lit mag. I was a little surprised, I never thought of myself as a writer.
Hughes: What always intrigued me about your poetry was the simplistic watercolor paintings added somewhere within the 4×4 frame. Is there a reason for why you do this—attaching these images? For example, are they meant to expand the world of the poem?
Anne: Mostly seeing my words on a white page just makes me sad, and I am not talented enough to do the fancy graphics or aesthetics that some of the big names in instapoetry are known for. The content of the poem gives me ideas for something new to paint, which was something I was doing anyway.
Hughes: What is your relationship to watercolor? For example, does the activity serve as a mode of relaxation? Or is this all for fun?
Anne: I do it primarily to relax. I have no formal art training and don’t consider myself “good” at it, but I enjoy it. I went through a period where I was trying to post and paint daily and realized at that point it was like a job, and it stopped being relaxing or fun. So now I focus on doing it more for me.
Hughes: Name one living and one deceased artist you would like to have lunch with. Why these people? What would you ask?
Anne: Living – There are a lot of poets I would love to talk to. I have recently been into reading Aimee Nezhukumatathil and just love the sheer joy she takes from the world and how she weaves that into her poetry. I would love to ask how she manages to find such beauty in the smallest of things.
Deceased – Probably Frida Kahlo. I have a lot of questions for her about her relationships, how she viewed herself as a person. She has become such an icon posthumously that I want to know who she really was when she was alive.
Hughes: The following is a quote by American writer and cartoonist Shel Silverstein: ‘’Stand up comics reflect less of a visual humor and more of a commentary.’’What is your interpretation of this quote? Do you believe this same concept can apply to poetry? Watercolor?
Anne: That the material is already there, you just have to find it, laugh at it. Same for poetry. And watercolor. You can write or paint anything, but it is a skill to make it beautiful, relatable, hilarious.
Hughes: Do watercolor and poetry differ in terms of portraying a story? Or is one more approachable than the other?
Anne: I have always been much better at conveying a story in words (or at least to myself, in my own head). I have a hard time envisioning what to paint. I think that is the most difficult part of being an artist. Anyone can have the technical skills, but those who are truly artists are the ones pushing boundaries, creating novel concepts, birthing the ideas that become the art.
Hughes: Define the role of a painter to society.
Anne: Define the role of society to a painter.
A watering can.
Hughes: The following is a quote by American cartoonist and creator of the comic strip Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz: ‘’If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.’’Do you find personal relevancy in this? Also, why do you think Schulz references this ‘’ability’’ as a present and not necessarily an actual trait?
Anne: Well, I laugh at myself more than anyone, so yes. It took me some time to learn how to do this, so definitely an ability. I think at some point we decide it’s no longer worth being mortified when we make a fool of ourselves and better to stop taking life so seriously.
Hughes: Does watercolor find you or do you find it in other things, only to translate them on paper?
Anne: Typically I find something that I want to go with the words. Usually, when I try to just paint random concepts (like feelings) it never comes out even close to how I picture it in my head.
Hughes: The following is from a poem of yours:
We can’t stop the wind from carrying her seeds
We can’t blame the plant for shedding, for spreading, and wanting to leave, for digging in fresh and putting down roots.
For starting new
. . . I found it remarkable how you were able to connect this to the border crisis. Why do you think this is important—to reflect on current issues through poetry? For example, does it make it easier to understand? Harder?
Anne: To me it makes it easier. I hope that by the creation of a metaphor, or framing something in a new light, it might cause someone to shift their point of view. In this case, it might be easy for someone to reject the idea of immigrants coming into the U.S., to justify their fear by saying they will take all the jobs, bring in crime, etc., etc., but maybe when we look at it as a natural event just like the migration of seeds, the way plants and animals have to seek their own space to grow, we might understand that we are the ones who created borders. And maybe that can open up our minds a little.
Hughes: In regards to the previous, what is your interpretation of the impression our current administration has placed upon the American public? International allies? Our enemies?
Anne: I think the focus on Americanism and what that means has gotten extreme. Being “American” is not a homogenous concept. We all have our own version of what it is to be American, what values we think are important to uphold.
Protecting that diversity is what this country is about. What it is not about is trying to preserve what the few in power have decided a traditional American should be.
Hughes: Just as in poetry, communication and transparency can either make or break the success of a poem. Do you believe this stands true in political conversations?
Anne: Unfortunately, I think our political system is more about saying the right thing and looking good on paper than actually communicating what is going on.
Hughes: What makes you happy?
Anne: Flowers, trees, my dog, being able to hold hands on the sidewalk without dirty looks, drinking wine by the lake, ice cream, the mountains, love, the last sliver of sun . . .
Hughes: What makes you sad?
Anne: Losing people, patients, pieces of myself. Misogyny, bigotry, hate, the myriad of terrible ways we can treat other people.
Hughes: The following is a quote by American celebrity chef, author, and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain: ‘’I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find a perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.” Do you do this a lot in your art—winging it? Or is everything organized?
Anne: I find my best poems come when I “wing it.” When a feeling, a sight, a sound makes an impact on me and I have the sudden urge to write about it, to interpret what it means to me. And clearly, I don’t organize my feed. 🙂
Hughes: Favorite poem from your collection thus far?
Anne: I archived one called “Southern Homecoming” that I think meant the most to me personally. Working on revising it and getting it published.
Hughes: Do you have any future plans as far as publishing?
Anne: Submitting to journals, workshopping at this point. I don’t really have any plans for a book at this time. Maybe someday . . .
Hughes: Some artists say that they ‘’live’’ in their paintings before producing them in the flesh. Do you relate to this?
Anne: More so in poetry than in painting. My poems are based on personal experiences. Poetry allows me to digest them later and re-interpret what I experienced into something I can understand.
Sometimes I just start writing and find things from years ago and realize it had more impact on me than I ever thought.
Hughes: What would you say to your paintbrush if it were a living person?
Anne: Uhhhh, get it together????
Hughes: Now for a fun one! Extraterrestrials have invaded Earth. The leader approaches and demands you to recommend the one person who can give them one reason to abort their mission of destroying mankind. Who would this individual be? Why?
Anne: Probably Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I am convinced that woman can do pretty much anything, including negotiation with aliens, especially considering that is what she is already basically doing everyday in congress.