Ether Sea Projects

About the Book

Face Before AgainstFace Before Against

Isabelle Garron

Translated from the French by Sarah Riggs

September 2008 • 272 pp. • $15.00
ISBN: 978-1-933959-04-7
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


Untitled, 1991
ink and charcoal on blue paper
burnt, 21.5 x 27.9 cm


umber, earth umber
. verse from the book burnt

— ink already
of prehistory


while on their backgrounds
. the ancient master

— before my eyes
tongues made of roots


sea cliff
. low heath

parasol pine
black poplar

. lady’s slipper


. head posed face
before against

. a woman spread
— her disaster apprentice

. the far-off scales
of a sextet


. of your hand recognized
the blurred gesture
disfiguring the simple

. from the red covering
blood to your effigy
in front of which

no poem


no poem
. any longer / signifies
— today but

. this somber varnish
between the thing and us
. face / to infinity

… . also
only there] . …


© Litmus Press. All rights reserved.

Isabelle Garron

Isabelle Garron

Isabelle Garron (b. 1968) is a younger generation French poet who teaches in Paris. She is the author of Qu’il faille (Editions Flammarion 2007), Face devant contre (Editions Flammarion 2002), Déferlage II (Editions Les Cahiers de la Seine 2002), and Le corps échéant (Editions Les Cahiers de la Seine 2000). Garron has also participated as poet and/or editor in various French journals, including Petite, Action Poétique, Action restreinte, Rehauts, and La Polygraphe. English translations of her poetry have appeared in Double Change, 1913: a journal of forms, and Verse. The chapbook Face Before Against, in Sarah Riggs’s translation, was released by Seeing Eye Books in 2005. Garron’s interest in Pierre Reverdy gave rise to a publication of La Lucarne Ovale in its original form (Théâtre Typographique 2001). She is a regular participant with Jean Daive in the France Culture radio broadcast, "Peinture Fraiche" ("Wet Paint") on contemporary art.

Sarah Riggs

Sarah Riggs is a poet, translator, and visual artist. She is the author of Waterwork (Chax Press 2007) and Chain of Miniscule Decisions in the Form of a Feeling 60 Textos (Reality Street Editions 2007). 60 Textos (Ugly Duckling Presse, mid-2010), along with 28 télégrammes and 43 Post-Its were first published in France (éditions de l’Attente, translated by Françoise Valéry, 2006-9) She has also published a book of essays, Word Sightings: Poetry and Visual Media in Stevens, Bishop, and O’Hara (Routledge 2002). The installation of her drawings, Isibilités, in collaboration with sound, video and cuisine, took place at the galerie éof in autumn 2007. A member of Double Change and director of Tamaas, she has taught at Columbia University in Paris with Omar Berrada, with whom she co-translated Marie Borel’s Wolftrot (La Presse 2006). She worked with the French poet Isabelle Garron over a span of 5 years on the translation Face Before Against (Litmus, 2008).  She also translated Ryoko Sekiguchi’s Two Markets, Once Again (Post Apollo, 2008). Riggs currently teaches at NYU in Paris. About Waterwork, Ann Lauterbach said: "In five stunning sequences, Sarah Riggs has created a poetics of elastic migrations that imagines the world as clusters, skeins, and motions whose innate peril is miraculously saved in the act of naming..."

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