Face Before Against
Translated from the French by Sarah Riggs
2008 • 272 pp. • $15.00
Cover art by Carrie Moyer, “Tender Star”
With Face Before Against Sarah Riggs offers us a somber, faithfully measured, precisionist rendition which at the same time adds light, insight, levity, and American vocal tonality to Isabelle Garron’s important work in its first full-length English appearance. Face devant contre, Garron’s book of poems in five acts, confronts weighty questions of alterity and self, representation and abstraction, speech and punctuation, action and absence with the delicate consideration that finely faceted objects merit. These poems serve the reader as instruments for in-depth inquiry and exploration of movements as current as they are timeless.
— Stacy Doris
Isabelle Garron’s Face Before Against is characterized by a paradoxical duality, being a collection of long, fluid poems made up of compact, minimal texts. This juxtaposition creates a compositional tension that is sustained throughout the work, which oscillates in its method between intellectual rigor on the one hand, and intimate, almost sensuous perception on the other. Also characteristic of Garron’s poetry is the understated presence of the visual arts, which inform her writing in both its subject matter and in its thoughtful approach to formal structure and typographic detail. In my opinion, Face Before Against is one of the most compelling works of French poetry to have been published in recent years. We have Sarah Riggs to thank for making it available to Anglophone readers.
— Guy Bennett
Spare brush strokes, fragments, “a trace/ of an inflection of bone.” Punctuation in unusual places makes us pause for extra breath—and in these pauses we sense the power of song dammed up by the white space that holds and withholds. Sarah Riggs’s brilliant translation is equal to the incandescence caught in this shattered mirror.
— Rosmarie Waldrop
In Face Before Against, each utterance (poem) opens a little theatre, arenas of silence and disturbance. Syntactical quanta orbit, hovering around the human voice. Cast adrift, we find Sapphic brackets as guard rails and arrows that indicate, invite and stave off the unavoidable ruptures: love, war, history, and the simple fact of seeing all encroach on language’s pastoral scene. The sudden stops, turns, drops evinced in these poems (so beautifully and delicately translated by Sarah Riggs) articulate along the human range, and at the farther reaches we are transported into “when / a world would be.”
— Eleni Sikelianos