top of page



Etel Adnan


    2014, 56 pages

    ISBN 978-0-932716-82-8
    Hardbound, bound in cloth by Dekker Bookbinding


    Special Edition: twenty-six have been numbered A to Z and signed by the author $100.00. Please email for more information.



    Etel Adnan (1925-2021) 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 lived in Beirut, Lebanon; in Paris, France; and in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    In Premonition 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 Adnan’s, must be created from day to day in life and art.



    Etel Adnan was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1925 and passed away in France in 2021. 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 (The 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.

    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.


    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.

    —Kevin Killian


    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




    Etel Adnan, The Poetry Foundation

    Etel Adnan on Artnet

    Etel Adnan's New York Times obituary

    Etel Adnan's Light's New Measure, exhibition at Guggenheim Museum of Art

bottom of page