ISBN 978-0-393-33375-6

David St. John (Editor)Cole Swensen (Editor)

American Hybrid

A Norton Anthology of New Poetry

Overview | Inside the Book



Born in Beirut of a Syrian father and a Greek mother, Etel Adnan says: “I am, above all, American.” Adnan’s early work was influenced by Olson, Pound, and Stein, and her long writing career is marked by great flexibility of style. Pieces such as the opening one here, based on vivid images presented in full sentences, are often complicated by devices from juxtaposition and non sequitur to dramatic repetition, while poems that strike the eye as highly experimental are made more widely accessible by a thin narrative thread and emotionally charged vocabulary. A professor of philosophy from 1958 to 1972, Adnan pays close attention to the movements of the mind and the flickering perceptions that inform it, and is particularly concerned with the way the details of everyday individual lives connect to abstractions such as global politics.

Etel Adnan was educated at the Sorbonne and moved to the United States in the mid-1950s to do graduate work at UC Berkeley and Harvard.A longtime resident of the Bay Area, she has published ten books of poetry, many of which, such as The Arab Apocalypse, blend overt political commentary with explosive poetics. She also writes prose and plays; her novel Sitt Marie Rose (1978) is considered a classic in the Arab world and has been translated into more than ten languages, and her theater pieces have been performed in the United States, France, and Germany. She collaborated with Robert Wilson on his opera Civil warS, and her work has been set to music by Tanya Leon, Gavin Bryars, and others. She is also a well-known painter, and has had solo exhibitions in San Francisco, Paris, London, Beirut, and Rabat.


The certitude of Space is brought
to me by a flight of birds. It
is grey outside and there is a trembling:
fog is too heavy a word

The zookeeper sends his love
letters to the female mayor of
San Diego
The lioness in her den fainted
on April Fool’s day
the man hanged himself in
her cage.

A bee fell in love with a peach
blossom. Shakespeare wrote a
story about it.

There are no boats on the
river and the world’s beauty
is blinding. Three astronauts
are on their way back. In the
garden a single leaf is shaking.

He had his mother’s bones made
into a necklace because horses
came from Spain. He moved about
the country like a sword.

One day even the stars
became soldiers
Isis wept over the empty

Galaxies work as narcotics
you didn’t know how dangerous
it was to go to Mexico . . .
you make people run for shelter
you carry, within,
an angel
that overflows

Under old chandeliers
you kiss your parents to death.
Don’t be afraid of
they only scan
theatres, and your

I have a love affair
with Albuquerque
because of the Indian
dancers and the Arab
I own the sky.