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Etel Adnan. Photo: The Griffin Trust.
Etel Adnan. Photo: The Griffin Trust.

Etel Adnan Wins 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize

Artist and writer Etel Adnan has received the international Griffin Poetry Prize for her 2019 collection of poems, Time, together with Sarah Riggs, who translated the book from French, and will receive $64,600 in prize money. Published by Nightboat Books, Time interweaves a series of nonlinear poetic exchanges between the artist and Tunisian poet Khaled Najar and addresses Adnan’s consistent themes of memory, war, and migration.

Born in Lebanon in 1925 to a Greek mother and a Syrian father, Adnan grew up within a multiplicity of cultures, languages, and nationalities. She moved to Paris to study philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1949 and continued her studies at the University of California, Berkeley. From the late ’50s to the early ’70s, she taught philosophy at Dominican College in California—during which time she took up painting and poetry—and upon returning to Beirut, she worked as the arts editor for two papers from 1972 to 1976. In 1978, Adnan published her novel Sitt Marie Rose, which received the Prix de l’Amitié Franco-Arabe. Her 2012 collection of prose and poetry, Sea and Fog, received the California Book Award for Poetry in 2013. In 2014, Adnan was awarded France’s l’Ordre de Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, and she has also been the recipient of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry. 

Founded in 2000, the Griffin Poetry Prize annually awards two poets for first-edition volumes written in or translated into English. The judges this year included Irish playwright Paula Meehan, Jamaican writer Kei Miller, and American poet Hoa Nguyen. Kaie Kellough is the Canadian winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize, for his book Magnetic Equator (2019).