Elana Bell is a bridge builder, walking compassionately through this complex world where many things are true at once. Whether through her soul-stirring poetry, her dynamic performances on the stage, or through her inspiring talks & workshops, she creates a space where all people’s voices and stories are heard and deeply valued.
Elana’s debut collection of poetry, Eyes, Stones (LSU Press 2012), was selected by Fanny Howe as the winner of the 2011 Walt Whitman Award by the Academy of American Poets and brings her complex heritage as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors to consider the difficult question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, and the Brooklyn Arts Council. Her writing has recently appeared in AGNI, Harvard Review, and the Massachusetts Review, among others.
For over ten years, Elana has facilitated writing and performance workshops nationally and internationally for participants of all ages. She offers workshops on college campuses, for educators, women in prison and throughout a spectrum of other communities. For the past ten years, Elana has served as the writer in residence for the Bronx Academy of Letters for ten years, where she founded and developed curriculum for the Intensive Writing Workshop, a bi-weekly class in poetry and fiction for public high school students in the South Bronx. In addition to working as a poet in the schools and developing curriculum for the Community Word Project and the DreamYard Project, Elana also headed the intergenerational oral history program at Millennium Art Academy for six years, creating multi-disciplinary performances in collaboration with senior citizens and high school students. She also teaches internationally with Seeds of Peace, the Tent of Nations and Encounter, offering workshops to educators and community members from regions in conflict.She was a recent finalist for the Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism, an award which recognizes and honors a poet who is doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. Elana also teaches literature and creative writing at CUNY College of Staten Island and curates public art installations with Poets in Unexpected Places.
Elana brings her strong theatre training and soulful presence wherever she goes. She has been a featured poet in numerous venues throughout the United States and abroad including the Bowery Poetry Club, NuYorican Poets Café, Bar 13, Hunter College, Teachers and Writers Collaborative, and Sarah Lawrence College among others. In addition to her work as a poet, Elana has performed plays nationally and internationally, touring Japan, England, and the United States since the age of twelve. Elana recently created and performed a collaborative, multi-disciplinary performance piece based on the poems in her first collection, Eyes, Stones. She also performs regularly with PUP, a collective of poets dedicated to bringing poetry to unexpected public spaces, and sings with the a cappella trio Saheli.
Elana On Readings & Performances:
I believe that poetry offers us the opportunity to slow down, to cherish the small details, to help us think more deeply about the world and our place in it. Whether giving a reading from my recent collection, or performing the multi-media collaboration of Eyes, Stones, my work offers audiences an opportunity to leave with an expanded sense of compassion, and asking what we can do together to create a new reality.
Elana On Workshops:
I am amazed, each time I come into a community, at the richness and depth of what we are able to create together, especially by those who claim they are “not writers.” This is the power of creative writing—that it allows you to access parts of yourself and your story that you may not realize are right under the surface, waiting to be released. And once you see how powerful they are, you want to share them with others, and in turn hear their stories. I believe that this act—of claiming and sharing our unique stories—is a crucial part of healing our fractured world.