Etel Adnan

Lebanese-American writer and artist

Etel Adnan (Arabic: إيتيل عدنان; 24 February 1925 – 14 November 2021) was a Lebanese-American poet, essayist, and visual artist. In 2003, Adnan was named "arguably the most celebrated and accomplished Arab American author writing today" by the academic journal MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States. Besides her literary output, Adnan made visual works in a variety of media, such as oil paintings, films and tapestries, which have been exhibited at galleries across the world.


  • I began writing poetry because nothing else in my adolescence interested me. It was in Beirut and for awhile the sea permeated absolutely everything. I was being in love with the sea, and the sun was everywhere, and I felt that the sun had more divine presence than all the nonsense taught in school about religion or morality. I saw that the sea and the sun were first woman and first man, first being and first present to me, and that was my first poem. Then every time something appeared to be the most important thing, the all-pervasive thing, I wrote about it and such things are called poems. To be an Arab is already being a bit an American. And being an American is already being almost an Arab, even without knowing it. Americans are a nomadic people. Arabs are a nomadic and restless people. Both are restless and reckless. Because Americans are nomadic they could but go to the moon. And Arabs were astronomers and mathematicians and opened the new age-the age that made it possible later to go to the moon and to go to the stars. But poetry does not have a place in American society because American society is alienated from itself. Americans are storytellers and they are often poets: visual poets, language poets, visionaries, delinquents, street poets, mad poets. But poetry has no place in American society because this society which is American is living under thick clouds of advertisings, and the metaphysical insecurity which makes great poetry is buried under a thick cloud of government-induced and market-induced and doctor-induced insecurity. Still you can hear American poets in your sleep. And knocking at your door.
    • "The All-Pervasive Thing" in Grape leaves : a century of Arab-American poetry edited by Gregory Orfalea and Sharif Elmusa.

Quotes about Etel Adnan

  • Etel Adnan's brief, extraordinary novel Sitt Marie Rose
Wikipedia has an article about: