The Poetry Project

Ammiel Alcalay

For Simone, with love

In the last paragraph of “A Dance of Freedom,” the introduction I wrote to Etel’s two volume Reader, I wrote:

“To be in the presence of Etel Adnan’s work is to finally grasp that poetry’s only ideology is attention and, in her case, that attention is turned to the great human themes: love, death, war, the meaning of meaning, the extinction and creation of words and worlds, of being and beings. But that attention is always activated: a call to look more closely, a call to think more deeply, a call to put yourself in someone else’s proverbial shoes, a call to find your voice and raise it, a call to remain steadfast, no matter what. I have always felt her there, ready to respond. She has recognized things in me I could barely articulate, and she has never withdrawn her attention, no matter where my journey has taken me. One could hardly ask for anything more.”

Now that I can no longer expect to hear her voice at the other end of the line, or see her words in a letter, I treasure what I have all the more. When I sent Etel my introduction, she wrote: “Well, what could I say after reading your preface to my meandering works other than that I wish this is all true, but it’s such a straightforward and subtle ‘demonstration’ that only a friend (as profoundly intelligent as you are) can have written it. It is as if, really, things came together in your vision and among many things brings me not only joy but reassurance. We are lonely writers (which is rather good) and suddenly there is a light that makes us happy. A big thank you, a big hug, nothing seems enough…”

And between sharing news, and news about the death of friends, there was always a lament about the distances between us. In 2014 she wrote: “I think of you so often, with such closeness to your work, which is one approach to your soul, among many, that it’s a heartbreak that we never lived close. One of these things…and time running in the street.”

With Etel’s passing, an indescribably rich and generous channel to worlds that disappear before us daily has also passed. Those places in the geographic heart that matter, that have formed who we are as humans, have been obscured, bringing us to a world in full eclipse. What I mean to say here is that Etel was at home in the world, no matter where the circumstances of her life placed her, and we are less and less so. All the more reason, now, that I cling to her friendship, and the treasures we were able to exchange in that friendship, even more steadfastly. Farewell, my very dear friend…

Etel Adnan Remembrances