The Poetry Project

Corrine Fitzpatrick

From where I sit at my desk I can see Mount Tamalpais, twenty-six miles to the south. It is the other side of Etel’s mountain, the “there” she wondered about when the sun set beyond her view. I think of Etel Adnan daily, when the fog breaks apart between the mountain and me, when I am awake to see the morning rise behind it, or on certain evenings, the moon. I only met Etel once, but I feel that I know her so well through her books and her art and her mountain. This week I reread Of Cites & Women (Letters to Fawwaz), the first of her books that I knew, and I was struck by the recognition of how deeply her style of consciousness has affected me. “We like it because it is so close to the sentiment of being alive,” she wrote from Aix-en-Provence. She was talking about music, but I think this can describe what I find so awe-inspiring about her writing as well as her paintings. “Ephemeral and structured,” she continued. In a way, I think that Etel Adnan both anticipated and outmaneuvered the flattening of all aspects of existence that we now experience online. An antidote to the scroll, her writings pinpoint the tensions and textures of the whole bloody mess of life: the particular, the sacred, the atrocious, the banal, the joyous. Her books bring me joy, and humble me like none other. I do get the news there. The Arab Apocalypse, Sitt Marie Rose, and Master of the Eclipse, to name just three, have absolutely schooled me on how the world works, and how, just possibly, to think about it (which is not to make sense of it). Her paintings are a balm, a puzzle. We have an untitled 2018 print by Etel hanging at the top of our stairs; blocks of various greens, yellows, daybreak pink and the reddened peak of the mountain emerging from behind a foregrounded tree. “Ocean,” says our two-year-old, decisively. Etel Adnan has left us with so much to see.

Etel Adnan Remembrances