Descent Before the Surprise
by Marcel Aime Duclos
80 pages, 49 poems
Publisher: Black Forest Publishing
To order: Amazon.com
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
After thoroughly enjoying the 49 poems in Marcel Duclos’ latest collection, I returned to
the epigraph where the poet channels Jane Kenyon, one of the 20th century’s premier
I am the one whose love
Overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name …
The quote, taken from Kenyon’s The Boat of Quiet Hours, illustrates the thrust of
Descent Before the Surprise. The poet, like Kenyon, loves the world in which he dwells.
He unfailingly thinks to immerse himself in his surroundings, drawing upon innumerable
parallels between the visible and palpable outer world as they enhance and often clarify
the poet’s invisible inner world.
I read the collection as a journey invited by the poet as companion and equal where I’m
privileged to enter his large heart. There I find wisdom I can apply to my own walk. I,
too, have experienced dryness of the muse, as the collection’s opening poem, A Long
Week, aptly illustrates
A long week
without hearing a poem voice herself.
The poem skillfully appeals to natural elements such as golden grains, great rivers,
Appalachian peaks, and garden produce: tomatoes, beans, peppers and squash. None of
these provide relief for his inner dryness. Continuing…
Even old pastures
withhold grass-milk from invisible cattle
behind barns swept clean of yesteryears’ harvests.
Not one to provide pat-answers to hard questions the poem comes full circle
A long week—
every muse still mute.
The creations that follow, Falling Short, No Longer and In the Name of, should be read in
relationship to the lead poem. Taken in this way, we lucky readers encounter a poet who
is refreshingly open about his struggle to write an authentic poetics.
Having thus established his struggles, Duclos, proceeds to amaze this reviewer with a
volume of breakout poems more than worth the price on the jacket cover. Simplicity of
form (each line contains four syllables) as well as expression, is the key to
Tight is the space
between the song
and your pure voice
embraced does scale
the octaves there
No mention of
the sacred score
Whereas, My Friend the Mystic Asks, demonstrates through a more complex assemblage
of lines and interlinear word-spacing, that stillness is the key to experiencing the beauty
in everyday things. Duclos’ developed sense of mindfulness comes to the fore as
I move and sit cool by the pond
the wine-slat barrel-bench inviting
the hour of the clouds
Duclos’ poetic range when it comes to form is on display in amplitude in poems like Will
I Thereafter See?a nontraditional sonnet that challenges the reader to reconsider his
vision of the world and of truth once the fog has thinned. Continuing with the theme of
form, you won’t want to miss Haiku String, replete with creatures that prowl the moon-
blush night. Life’s Cinquains on the Way West is dedicated to Emily Dickinson and
Adelaide Crapsey. These five well-crafted poems offer a fresh perspective on both poets.
Wet Grass is a delightful showcase of personification, the sun’s full face, towels dry the
grass.For those who enjoy the somewhat underrated Etheree form, the poet offers a
double-Etheree entitled Eventually. The Etheree, invented by and named for Etheree
Taylor Armstrong, features ten lines beginning with an opening line of one syllable; each
subsequent line adds a syllable. The enigmatic title ushers the reader into a fresh
consideration of a disease affecting the memory.
When you add in Duclos’ skill with rhyme, cadence, alliteration, consonance and other
poetic devices, Descent Before the Surprise is nothing short of brilliant. I would be
remiss if I neglected to mention the best part of all; Marcel Aime Duclos possesses a
poet’s greatest asset: the uncanny ability to meet his readers where they live.