Face Before Against

By Isabelle Garron

Translated by Sarah Riggs


Litmus Press
Original Language(s)
Additional Credits
Cover Art by Carrie Moyer, Design by HvADesign
Poetry, Translation
Edition, Year
First Edition, 2008
In Print

In the first full-length English translation of Isabelle Garron’s poetry, Sarah Riggs presents a striking new voice in contemporary French poetry to an Anglophone readership. At turns spare and weighty, sensual and critical, fluid and ruptured, Face Before Against probes the structure of language, testing its ability to render self and world in a theater that is the poem.

Sarah Riggs
Sarah Riggs is a writer, artist, filmmaker, and translator. She has published poetry books, most recently EAVESdrop with Chax (2020) and The Nerve Epistle with Roof Books (2021), as well as with 1913 Press, Burning Deck, Reality Street, Ugly ... Read More
Isabelle Garron
Isabelle Garron (b. 1968) is an associate professor in information and communication sciences at Telecom Paris - IpParis. Following a PhD in text and document sciences, she reissued Pierre Reverdy's Lucarne Ovale (ThTy, 2001). She is the author ... Read More

This is a work of ekphrasis, the pronounced encounter between painting and poem, and it is done with an attention to form, not description. But manifesting form allows the artworks that the poems are mediating to come into view. Ekphrasis – yet another kind of translation.

— Kristin Prevallet, Mindmade Books


Praise for Face Before Against

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 Bennet

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

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