Premonition by Etel Adnan
Etel Adnan has enjoyed a distinguished career as a poet, playwright and visual artist. Her rich body of work documents an unblinking witness to beauty in nature, human beings and art; to cruelty, especially as enacted in the mindless violence of war; and to the power of love and human perseverance. Her work, as a whole, is a faithful record of the times and places she has lived: in Beirut, Lebanon; in Paris, France; and in the San Francisco Bay Area. In Premonition, her most recent book, the voice is wise and paradoxical, opening with the observation, “There’s always a conductive thread through space for untenable positions.” Sentences are set apart in aphoristic cuts never wholly separate from this “conductive thread,” and always shaped by the gem-like compressions of poetry. Premonition is a short book that refuses finality in a world of contingencies and human unpredictability. The only sure place to stand, in this late work of Etel Adnan’s, must be created from day to day in life and art.
Etel Adnan was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1925. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, U.C. Berkeley, and at Harvard. In solidarity with the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962), Adnan began to resist the political implications of writing in French and became a painter. Then, through her participation in the poets’ movement against the Vietnam War (1959-1975), she began to write poetry and became, in her words, “an American poet.” In 1972, she returned to Beirut and worked as cultural editor for two daily newspapers—first for Al Safa, then for L’Orient le Jour. Her novel Sitt Marie-Rose, published in Paris in 1977, won the France-Pays Arabes award and has been translated into more than ten languages. In 1977, Adnan re-established herself in California, making Sausalito her home, with frequent stays in Paris.
At least eighteen works by Adnan have been published in English. They include The Arab Apocalypse (Post-Apollo Press, 1989); Sea and Fog (Nightboat Books, 2012), winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry and the California Book Award for Poetry. In 2011, Adnan received Small Press Traffic’s Lifetime Achievement Award. And, in 2014, she was awarded one of France’s highest cultural honors: l’Ordre de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres.
Her paintings, described by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith as “stubbornly radiant abstractions,” have been widely exhibited, most recently at Documenta 13 and in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.
Spanning media and genres, Adnan’s writings have led to numerous collaborations with artists and musicians, including the French part of Civil warS, a multi-language opera by American stage director Robert Wilson, performed in Lyon and Bobigny in 1985. In 1996, the BBC commissioned Gavin Bryars to set poems by Adnan to music, under the title The Adnan Songbook. Zad Moultaka set Adnan’s poetry to music: in 2005, he arranged Adnan’s Five Senses for One Death for the Baalbeck Festival in Lebanon, under the title Nepsis.
Title: Premonition Author: Etel Adnan
Specs: 56 pp., 1500 copies bound in cloth.
Pub Date: March, 2014 Price: $19 (Regular Edition)
Special edition: 26 lettered A-Z and signed by the author, $100