It is true that there is hidden in Roussel something so strong, so ominous, and so pregnant with the darkness of “infinite spaces”... that one feels the need for some sort of protective equipment when one reads him.  

John Ashbery






published by The Song Cave, featuring


Thursday, April 25, 6 - 8 pm

Tibor de Nagy Gallery

15 Rivington Street, NYC


Raymond Roussel

Raymond Roussel

On the occasion of The Song Cave’s publication of The Alley of Fireflies and Other Stories, translated by Mark Ford, The Flow Chart Foundation—devoted to exploring the interrelationships of various art forms as guided by the legacy of John Ashbery—in partnership with The Song Cave and Tibor de Nagy Gallery, presents a discussion and reading featuring poet/critic Ann Lauterbach, translator/writer Mark Polizzotti, and artist/translator Trevor Winkfield.

Raymond Roussel (1877-1933), one of the most distinctive and compelling French writers of the twentieth century, remains in many ways shrouded in mystery. An extremely wealthy and always exquisitely dressed homosexual dandy, Roussel was also a compulsive writer. Despite the strangeness of his work, he was convinced that it would make him as popular as Victor Hugo or Shakespeare. His suicide at the age of 56 was in part prompted by the continual disappointment of his hopes for fame.

Alley of Fireflies.jpg

The full extent of Roussel's writing only became clear in 1989 when a trunk was unearthed in a furniture warehouse containing a vast trove of his manuscripts. The most exciting discoveries were the full draft of Locus Solus (over twice as long as the published version) and the typescript of what would have been his third novel, The Alley of Fireflies, which is translated in the new title from The Song Cave for the first time into English by leading Roussel scholar Mark Ford. The volume also includes Ford’s translations of two haunting extracts from the drafts of Locus Solus, and versions of two of the young Roussel's most intriguing short stories, “Chiquenaude” and “Among the Blacks.

Roussel's work was vociferously championed by Surrealist writers and painters including André Breton, Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dalì, and later proved a significant influence on Oulipians (particularly Georges Perec), on nouveaux romanciers like Alain Robbe-Grillet, and in particular on John Ashbery and Harry Mathews, who named their pioneering magazine of the 1960s Locus Solus after Roussel's second novel.

In 1951, Kenneth Koch, returning from a Fulbright stay in Paris, introduced a young John Ashbery to the shockingly original work of Roussel, and Ashbery himself traveled back to Paris in 1958 to work on a dissertation about Roussel following his own time there as a Fulbright Scholar. Roussel remained a key creative touchstone for him throughout his life. Roussel’s work was little known in his own time, but his influence and popularity have continued to grow since.

The evening, which will include a reception, features three distinguished artists:

Ann Lauterbach has published ten collections of poetry, most recently Spell (Penguin, 2018), as well as several chapbooks and collaborations with visual artists, including work with Ann Hamilton, Lucio Pozzi, and Ellen Phelan. She has written on art and poetics in relation to cultural value, notably in a book of essays, The Night Sky: Writings on the poetics of experience (Penguin, 2005, 2008). She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The New York State Foundation for the Arts, Ingram Merrill, and The John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur Foundation. Since 1990, she has served as Co-chair of Writing in the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts and, since 1997, David and Ruth Schwab Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College.

Mark Polizzotti’s books include Revolution of the Mind: The Life of Andre Breton (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995), Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (Bloomsbury, 2006), Los Olvidados (British Film Institute, 2006), They Knew What They Wanted: Poems and Collages of John Ashbery (Rizzoli, 2018), and Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto (MIT Press, 2018). He has translated over fifty books from the French, including works by Patrick Modiano, Gustave Flaubert, Raymond Roussel, and Marguerite Duras, and his essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, New Republic, Bookforum, The Nation, and elsewhere. The recipient of an Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, he directs the publications program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Trevor Winkfield has collaborated with many New York School poets, including John Ashbery, Harry Mathews, Ron Padgett and Charles North. His work is in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Berkeley Museum, Erie Museum of Art and MoMA among others. He has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Art, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His translation of Roussel’s “How I Wrote Certain of My Books” was published by Sun in 1975, and in an expanded edition by Exact Change in 1995. Song Cave published his Georges Braque & Others: The Selected Art Writings of Trevor Winkfield, 1990-2009 in 2014.

The Flow Chart Foundation, Inc. explores the interrelationships of various art forms as guided by the legacy of American poet John Ashbery and promotes engagement with his work. Through programs for both general and scholarly audiences, The Flow Chart Foundation explores this mission, deepening participation with Ashbery’s art and maintaining the Ashbery Resource Center to explore his work as an inspirational and generative force.

The Song Cave is dedicated to recovering a lost sensibility and creating a new one by publishing books of poetry, translations, art criticism, and making art prints and other related materials.

Tibor de Nagy Gallery presents exhibitions of such contemporary artists as Jen Mazza, Sarah McEneaney, Ann Toebbe  and Trevor Winkfield, as well artists from the Post War Second Generation New York School such as Jane Freilicher and Fairfield Porter, and represents the estates of John Ashbery, Joe Brainard, Rudy Burckhardt, Shirley Jaffe, Jess and Larry Rivers. Over the course of its long history, the gallery has presented the first solo exhibitions of Carl Andre, Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher, Red Grooms, Grace Hartigan, Alfred Leslie, Fairfield Porter and Larry Rivers. The gallery has a history of fostering collaborations between poets and artists and was the first publisher of the poems by New York School Poets John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch and James Schuyler.