that you prefer
the raven and the cow
Etel Adnan, from “From A to Z”
Welcome to the new digital-critical edition of Etel Adnan‘s From A to Z (originally published by The Post-Apollo Press, 1982) in collaboration with CUNY Manifold. This is our second eBook in our Open Poetics Series 1, a project devoted to out-of-print titles by O Books and The Post-Apollo Press. Open Poetics titles provide a platform for reading groups, research ventures, late night study salons, you name it. All of our eBooks are entirely *free* and signing up for an account gives access to hundreds of project libraries such as ours.
Open Poetics titles are made with authors and editors, who curate a selection of contextual resources to accompany titles in the classroom. These materials are open-access and facilitate independent study, rather than provide prescriptive analysis.
For this title we invited poets Alisha Mascarenhas, Lindsey Boldt, Sahar Khraibani and Amanda Monti from Litmus Press to collaborate on a digital-critical edition that offers readers multiple entrance points into the world of Etel Adnan. With a reach as wide as hers we wondered: how might this poem illuminate the specific socio-political moment of its time? How could From A to Z open unexpected avenues into Adnan’s work? In this vein we decided to center the edition around the time that Adnan spent in New York (1979-1982), as well as the fact of From A to Z being the inaugural book from the Post-Apollo Press.
When asked how she founded The Post-Apollo Press, Simone Fattal responded:
“I started publishing in 1982 and I really just wanted to do one chapbook: that poem of Etel Adnan’s, From A to Z. She wrote it during the time of Three Mile Island. A press in New York wanted to publish a book of her poems, and she showed From A to Z to them, but they wanted something else. I thought it was a beautiful poem and I had met a young guy who had self-published his book— which gave me the idea that one could actually produce a book.”
Simone Fattal, in Counting The New Age: An Interview by Rain Taxi.
This inspired us to dedicate one of the edition’s resource collections to The Post-Apollo Press and digitized archives of other small presses active at the time. Small press publishing was and continues to be a labor of love. As such it required community, a web of independent distributing networks, skill exchange, flyers, readings, fanzines. We chose to offer a selection of digitized libraries to offer readers a way into the ecosystem of independent publishers, their outpourings of radical poetics, and their political insistence that “one could actually produce a book,” a sentiment as charged with possibility now as it was then.
Other resource collections consider the geographical and temporal context of Adnan, who held deep connections to Beirut, The San Francisco Bay Area and Paris. We highlighted time specific materials from the Middle Eastern Research Project to help understand the painful and complex moment of 1979 in Lebanon. The edition also includes a selected list of items pertaining to Adnan’s life in the US, available to view at the Bancroft Library in Berkley, California, providing a roadmap to prospective visitors.
The best way to enjoy the digital-critical edition is to explore it for yourself. This Fall we are also planning to host a series of workshops on Open Poetics, featuring readings and collaborative teaching experiments. Keep checking this spot for more details. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you, whether you are using this, or our other teaching resources.