Etel Adnan, the globally celebrated Lebanese-American poet, author, journalist and painter, died overnight in Paris at the age of 96, between Saturday 13th of November and Sunday the 14th.
A poet, short story writer, essayist, novelist, and artist, Etel Adnan was born in Beirut in 1925 to a Syrian Muslim father and a Greek Christian mother. She grew up between Lebanon and Syria before moving to France for a time, and then to America.
In 1972, Adnan moved back to Beirut and worked as a cultural editor for two daily newspapers. In 1977, her novel Sitt Marie-Rose was published. The novel, set before and during Lebanon’s civil war, won the France-Pays Arabes award and was translated into more than a dozen languages. She went on to publish many collections in English and in French, and in 2014 she was named a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.
Adnan moved not only across different landscapes, but across languages. She wrote in French and English, and also incorporated not only Arabic poetry but invented language into her work. As Dina Ramadan wrote recently in The Brooklyn Rail, “When she began experimenting with leporellos in the mid-1960s, she immediately realized her desire to transcribe Arabic poetry, beginning with the Iraqi modernist Badr Shakir al-Sayyab into these folding books.”
Adnan’s luminous Time, translated from the French by Sarah Riggs, won the Griffin Poetry Prize last year. The 2020 judges said:
“‘I say that I’m not afraid/of dying because I haven’t/ yet had the experience/ of death’ writes Etel Adnan in the opening poem to Time. What is astonishing here is how she manages to give weariness its own relentless energy. We are pulled quickly through this collection – each poem, only a breath, a small measure of the time that Adnan is counting. Every breath is considered, measured, observant – perceiving even ‘a crack in the/ texture of the day.’ If Adnan is correct and ‘writing comes from a dialogue/ with time’ then this is a conversation the world should be leaning into, listening to a writer who has earned every right to be listened to.”
To celebrate Adnan, this essay by Maya Mikdashi:
Also, from the Poetry Foundation, poems by Adnan:
- from The Spring Flowers Own
- from The Manifestations of the Voyage
- XLIV from The Arab Apocalypse
- XXXIX from The Arab Apocalypse
- XXXVI from The Arab Apocalypse
From Electronic Poetry Review: