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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.
It's not that Etel Adnan is any wiser than you (though she's wiser than I): it's that she struggles with meaning in ways that can teach us about the human heart, its memories, its sacrifices, its triumphs. In which land, I wonder, did she learn so much about loneliness—was it in Lebanon, Paris, California? And at what age does one learn so much about apprenticeship, the way we work and labor, only to see finally that our life so far marks only the beginning of understanding, acceptance, empathy? Like her painting, Adnan's prose style turns thought into image with premonitory ease and suggestion. "A forest saturated with trees," she writes, or thinks, "proclaims the existence of a river saturated with reflections." Premonition, introduced ably by the artist and writer Lynn Marie Kirby, can be read by those of any generation, and what the men don't know, the little girls will understand.
Etel Adnan's aptly named Premonition is a wizened work that finds simple beauty in "a beloved face" and more than words can say "in another tempest, this one in me." The poem is like waking from a strange dream, recalling detailed fragments, certain they mean something more, close and yet illusive. This lovely book made me feel as if I had a companion in asking life's big questions without hope of knowing the answers.
—Laura Sydell, Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR (National Public Radio)