In Time out of Time (Dagger Editions, 2022), Arlene Paré writes in “praise and celebration” (Dedication) of Lebanese painter, novelist, and poet, Etel Adnan (1925 – 2021). In her author’s note, Paré tells readers she has “employed the poetics” in Adnan’s Time (Nightboat Books, 2019)—beautifully translated by Sarah Riggs—“to shape this tribute collection.”
Paré’s book also doubles as an explication of artistic anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is, the poems reckon with mortality and the future: “even when hope is in hiding” there is “the hush / the pages make”. As Paré pursues Adnan into her “small / verbal squares”, she boldly admits her devotion to Adnan, declaring, “I would follow you anywhere” and
get lost once again
in your words.
These lines are from “Etel Adnan,” the forty-nine section, long poem forming the spinal cord of the collection. Here, there is intimacy of address between lesbian, lyric poets. As in the lines above, the poems sometimes directly address Adnan as an intimate “you.” Other sections of the long poem and other poems address the reader; in these instances Adnan is a third person “she.” A third angle of address comes from a panned out position and a collective point of view “they.” This variety of address allows the poems flexibility in the subjective positions on art and sexuality.
Interstitial to the long, lyric poem is a series of titled prose and verse poems, such as “Pop Culture I,” “Pop Culture 2,” “A Blessing,” and “An Certain Uncertain State of Affairs.” These poems respond to women who love women and American literary critic and scholar, Terry Castle’s inquiry: “Why is it so difficult to see the lesbian…” In “Pop Culture 2,” Paré offers:
A woman who loves a woman is
a dyke yes is gay they say an introvert a sapphist
is lesbo is queer a friend of Dorothy
a member of the lodge sings in the choir
is the “L” in LGBTQ2S+
While there are many self-designated descriptors and insulting slurs, lesbians remain unseen, truly unacknowledged.
As Paré continues, her lyric-narrative “she said she said” offers the poet a coming to terms with her own poetics, “fledged in conversation,” acknowledging: “the lyric will haunt me forever,” “nor can I stray far from story.” In Adnan, Paré seems to have found a writer who has the ability to:
into a conscious connection
Studying and employing the poetics of Etel Adnan seems to have provided a sort of fulcrum on which pivots Paré’s vision inward to her individual sexuality and poetics and outward to the collective community of lesbian writers:
the material conditions of this particular bond
is a book
letters and binding and ink
is the fact of
Adnan’s Time has offered Paré “amplification,” and Paré offers readers her
a reflective long-distance affection
a crazy cacophonous crush
traces of memory traces of mind
geometries paginations new ways of placing
Jami Macarty is the author of the ecofeminist poetry collection The Minuses, a Mountain West Poetry Series title published by the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University (March 2020) and the winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona.