Monet in Poetry and Paint
by Michael Escoubas
57 poems, 57 color paintings, 64 pages
Price $15.95
ISBN 978-0-46-488081-3
Publisher: Blurb! Publishing
To Order: Amazon

Reviewed by Mary Jo Balistreri

This fine book of poems by author, Michael Escoubas, takes us on a grand tour of his
personal gallery, paintings he has selected and written about. He has imaginatively
entered each piece of art as a friend of Monet, rendering thoughts and feelings in an
intimate and casual way as one does with friends. For the lucky reader, Escoubas not only
welcomes us into this beautiful collection of art and poetry, but also allows us to overhear
the conversation between poetry and paint. He states his purpose in writing this book
perfectly in the first poem, “Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil.”

“When I’m in need of a little light …
I imagine him beside me near the stream,
totally quiet while I listen and dream.”

Standing before the paintings, the author gives us an overview of Impressionism: “a new
way of painting, depicting the passage of time through the movement of light.” It came
about at the same time as the advent of photography which some saw as a threat, but that
new painters saw as a liberation from the necessity of imitation. They could now create
the vivid color of light itself. Working en plein air, paintings took on a spontaneity,
created atmospheric quality even though most of them were later finished in the studio.

In the painting, Impression, Sunrise, we see how Monet captured the moment
light turns into day, how with a few strokes of brilliant orange, light bounces off water,
how with a veil of muted tones, Monet captures the mist that almost obscures the
architecture and shipping. Escoubas shows his appreciation in these words with a poem of

“but I love the way Monet
uses everyday things:
water, sun, and sky
to say with his brush
what we need to hear
the constancy of life,
the distant sun coming on …

He goes on to say that in the catalog for the first exhibition, the painting needed a name.
Hence, the title Monet casually gave it. The critics pounced upon Impression—” an
indecipherable chaos of palette scraping …” and worse. The movement itself became
known as Impressionism. It was not flattering.

In another painting, Studio Boat, Escoubas tells us how inventive Monet with his boat.
He’d go up and down the river, finding his own “unique vistas” to paint. The author goes
on to say:

“how anchored before
your canvas, absorbed in
the gentle ripples of water
I am blessed as I enter
this floating studio…”
concluding: “you are light and shadow.
Your gift is peace in Nature’s vestibule.”

In poem after poem, Escoubas fuses poetry in paint, paint in poetry, “I insert myself in
this Monet,” much like the painter took dabs of paint, broad strokes of his brush and
honored paint on canvas up close while standing at a distance the paint coalesces into a

Sometimes as in “Evening at Argenteuil”, Escoubas looks into the painting and through
Monet’s love for his art, finds his own love poem:

“But here with you
Looking into your eyes
Deep and clear
wrapped in colors
God provides
I feel a wholeness
with all that is.”

Throughout this book of praise poems, there continues the close companionship of author
and painter. Listen to this dialogue:

I’m on my way to paint.
Walk with me.”
Monet then speaks to the author of
“how light and shadow
change perspective as you work.” The author listens and
“feels a gentle breeze lifts the garden’s fragrance in the air” and asks,
“Do you think of God when you paint?”
Monet says in the poem:
“This much I know, if God is love,
what more is there to say than—
how do you feel walking on my path?”

In this sensory and sensuous book of fifty-seven poems, more than half of them contain
water, the perfect medium for Monet to explore light and shadow. The water lilies
became a near obsession toward the end of his life, reflections not only literally but
metaphorically of himself, of nature, of time and experience and the way art can
articulate and communicate what is almost impossible to express in any other way—
except perhaps in music.

Escoubas does not stint on showing all these observations in his poems. His love for the
paintings seems very much in line with Monet’s desire to paint what he saw—to pay
attention, to try and capture the ineffable. As Cezanne said so aptly, “Monet was only an
eye, but my God, what an eye.”

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