Etel Adnan (1925–2021)

Adnan, Bernstein — Paris, 2019

Etel Adnan is a beacon of thought in a dirempt world. In her writing I sense her hovering just beyond, in view but ungraspable, yet grounding me in ever-changing realizations. Luminous company, trusted guide, necessary source of immediate information, Adnan is a visionary of the meteoric and diasporic. Oscillating between the ecstatic and the unbearable, she finds home in the evasive emplacements of each moment.

Etel Adnan, reading and in conversation with Charles Bernstein
for the Brooklyn Rail’s New Social Environment, December 16, 2020
With Sarah Riggs, Omar Berrada, and Susan Bee
Full Video (01:03:11): MP4
Complete recording (sound) (01:03:11): MP3
Brooklyn Rail Interview /transcript: Link
CC (verbatim) transcript: PDF YouTube via Rail, with subtitles
PennSound Etel Adnan page

Etel Adnan, untitled, 2014.

This poem, from Near/Miss was written for the 2015 exhibition “Intimacy in Discourse: Reasonable-Sized Paintings” at Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, NJ.


Dont worry bout divining
                        >dividing, hiding, diving

: no representation without

(l)imitation, (r)(n)otation

A fly on the wall
imbues tricolor tears
blue square where stars would be

Or is it rips across a lawn
like all get out got out?

I spill across the open field
In warped allegiance to my fears
I drip and drop and squint and squat
Together make a banner’s knot

“Don’t crowd me,” says pink
to yellow and green.
“I’m much too blue.”

Stripes are never
            in a republic of repair
& yellow’ll take you just so far
before the beige unwends
its wear.

Under every coat another coat
            Lurks mean
cast about on
Grifts of forms looking for a
            truth to clean 

                         (truth is never
far away, it’s just right there
across the sway)

But never shall you find
The only rest is for the 

Three and each of those
Made up of two, except the
            margin, takes

It back, like bounce makes
Line and thuds make ache.

stares where hearts would be

It’s just a blank, an empty space
As flat as the top of my mother’s hat

I pledge dehiscence to the wag
Who cupped my head and took my swag
Come together in coming apart
In common stripe we’ll live alike
Next to neighbor, separate as 

Overlapping tones
in which to hear
Our own

(yet go to bed alone)

Next to this, next to that
            as supple as a furtive nap
The signal ends its banished sigh
Attention flags,
conspires to moan

            (or is it morn?
                        or is it torn?

Or be the product of

   (, notation . imitation . filtration

            who swears where bars would be

Adnan, Bernstein, Susan Bee (2016).

Robert Grenier with picture of Adnan at her NY apartment (2016).