BODY WAS is a book-length poem that begins with the death of a father and ends with the birth of a child. It is a bold and innovative poem that works on principles of improvisation, like those of Keith Jarrett and other jazz greats, where the reader is drawn into a series of movements that rise and fall like waves. The poem is divided into six “Suites,” each with its own “Variation,” each with its notations, echoes and silences, all the while maintaining the poem’s forward movement. Isabelle Garron is able to capture the mind’s motions, its fleeting thoughts, its fragmentations, shedding light on past and future, while at the same time showing the clarity of a present breaking in.
We know Isabelle Garron's angles of luminescence through blockages, the dangling foot, the dense constructions of unexpectedly punctuated brilliance, her borrowings and growth across the margins and spacings of other French women poets, Danielle Collobert and Anne-Marie Albiach. Body Was approaches the pages who have no ears, we readers held by our tongues. It's as if we find our bodies—we who are haunted by magical screens—in this stunning translation by fellow poet Eléna Rivera who captures every lilt and nuance. This is a night sky in which the stars are actual places, and we are invited to recognize with awe our little locations: “we arrive .it is night .you will be born this morning”
— Sarah Riggs
In this massive work of tantalizing minimalism, precise specifics work in counterpoint to fluid abstractions, always keeping the body of the title centered, a real anchor in a real world full of finite objects that get expanded by Garron's acute attention into iconic principles. Shore, fire, you—they all return us to the body, to the lived experience that the body is. Rivera's translation gorgeously captures the intricacies that play out across multiple registers, as well as the architecture of sound that holds the whole work aloft.— Cole Swensen
Isabelle Garron’s luminous and expansive book-length poem BODY WAS traces the myriad appearances and disappearances of the unstable present occurring here between the death of a father on the first page and the long-awaited birth on the last. Composed as a series of suites and variations, there’s an exquisite doubling of form and content where sound is inseparable from the motions of pure experience, and the body, as porous as the text, is decentered “in the mesh of / stories…” This is language as close to music as it can get and Eléna Rivera has rendered it with richly textured and sensuous sounds in her masterful English translation.— Denise Newman
Elena Rivera is a poet and translator who was born in Mexico City and spent her formative years in Paris. She won the 2010 Robert Fagles prize for her translation of Bernard Noel's The Rest of the Voyage (Graywolf Press, 2011) and is a recipient of a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Translation. She has also translated four of Isabelle Baladine Howald's books, the most recent being the forthcoming PHANTOMB (Black Square Editions, 2021), and two chapbooks by Sandra Moussempes (above/ground press, 2017 & 2021). Elena's latest books of poetry are Epic Series (Shearsman, 2021) and Scaffolding (Princeton University Press, 2017). She has also received fellowships from the Djerassi Foundation, the Witter Bynner Poetry Translator Residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, and the MacDowell Colony.
Author City: USA
Isabelle Garron is a poet, critic, editor, and associate professor at the Institute Mines Telecom-Paristech. Her most recent book of poetry is Bras vif (Flammarion, 2018). Her other books are Corps fut (Flammarion, 2011), Qu'il Faille (Flammarion, 2007), and Face devant contre (2002) which was translated by Sarah Riggs as Face Before Against (Litmus Press, 2008). Selections of "The Contemporary Step" in Elena Rivera's English translation were published in Aufgabe 10 (2011) and xpoetics (2014). Selections of new poem cycles were also published in Action Poetique (2012), and Les jockeys Camoufles and Koshkonong (2013).
Author City: Paris FRA