Sarah Riggs: Autobiography of Envelopes


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Begun in the turmoil of moving house, these poems were jotted on envelopes because that was the form of paper on hand. But there was more to this choice. Oscillating between the US, France and Morocco, living on 3 continents and in 3 languages, Sarah Riggs felt the need to address her own self in order not to disperse into alternatives. But how do we address ourselves? the book asks. How many selves do we have? How do we sort what we think from what has been thought for us? Is it that our language cannot follow the mind’s rich, fluctuating process or does language outrun what the mind can seize? So that we are caught between two excesses, two ineffables?

Sarah Riggs is the author of Waterwork (Chax), Chain of Miniscule Decisions in the Form of a Feeling (Reality Street), 60 Textos (Ugly Duckling), and 36 Blackberries (Juge Editions). Her book of essays, Word Sightings: Poetry and Visual Media in Stevens, Bishop, and O’Hara was published by Routledge in 2002. She has translated or co-translated from the French the poets Isabelle Garron, Marie Borel, Etel Adnan, Ryoko Sekiguchi, and, most recently, Oscarine Bosquet. Several of Riggs’ books of poetry have appeared in French translations by Françoise Valéry and others, with the publishers Éditions de l’attente and Le Bleu du ciel. A member of the bilingual poetry collective, Double Change (, and founder of the interart non-profit Tamaas (, she divides her time between the U.S. coasts and Paris, where she is a professor at NYU-in-France.

“In these brief, crisp and thought-provoking stanzas, Sarah Riggs investigates notions of address and possibilities of correspondences. The poems turn to and around, tango with written and other characters…and ask about the nature of character. They are highly observant and finely tuned time pieces, with poetry’s insistent concerns of number, counting, what counts and what it may mean to count. This work offers so many tantalizing, illuminated options  and questions as to continuity and duration. Here, instant after instant, at once stunning and muted, mutably, ‘The poem addresses itself. We open, listen, magnify.’”

—Stacy Doris