Double Stream
Poems by Ellen Dooling Reynard
Paintings and Drawings by Paul Reynard
21 Poems ~ 24 Illustrations ~ 53 pages
Price: $25.00
Publisher: South 40 Press
ISBN #: 978-1-7923-9747-9
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Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

The title suggests the overall thrust of this superb collaboration. The artistic talents of Ellen Reynard and her husband, French painter, Paul Léon Reynard (1927-2005), when streamed together, converge into a triumphant double-stream of physical and spiritual beauty.


I was struck by the book’s austere cover. A subtle message emerges: One must open the book, turn the page, get engaged, to experience the powerful mix of art and poetry within. Indeed, isn’t this true of life?

Double Stream features the visual genius of abstract artist Paul with the equally vivid poetry of wife Ellen. Organized into four parts: Creations Stories, Water, Life of Christ, and Impressions, the work features art and poems juxtaposed on facing pages. This design allows for moments of contemplative linkage between visual and poetic treatments of themes. Double Stream is not a book for speed readers. Be prepared to wear two types of lenses: one set for stunning colorations, the other for poetry that challenges the mind and spirit. At the end, I appreciated reading interesting bios of Paul and Ellen. It is as if everything in their past served to prepare them to produce Double Stream. Additionally, the “About the Art,” page serves as an appendix documenting each drawing and/or painting as to composition date and medium used.

The Journey

This book is about a spiritual journey. However, it is not a journey scripted from an ivory tower of Biblical clichés filled with “all the right answers.” This journey is sensitive to hard questions, respectful of doubt, and compassionate about life’s complexities.


It’s first-things-first as Creation Stories opines on how the universe began. In “First Movement,” amid the inward fear that even the best science may not know, Reynard draws on a common life-experience:

         The woman gazes up at the night sky
         and, spreading her palms
         over her belly, she feels the first
         flutter of the child in her womb.

         A shooting star draws it silver path
         across the sky, and the woman smiles.
         She is not afraid to know,
         the great beginning was as gentle
         and as magnificent as this.

Three additional poems in this section: “Space Wind,” “Double Stream and Separation of the Waters,” and “Luminaries,” set the stage for Water. In “Alluvions”:

         the rains poured down
         forty days and forty nights
         and the waters rose
         from their beds in the sea

         tides that did not ebb
         climbed over the shores
         across meadows and deserts
         to submerge the foothills

         until the only dry land
         in the midst of the global sea
         was a single mountain top

Paul Reynard’s paintings of both the rain pouring down, accompanied by a rendition of Mount Ararat ensconced in water and dark clouds, puts the imagination to work:


         were they able to see
         from the highest peak
         the vast expanse of ocean
         that spread across the earth
         and was still rising
         toward the heights?

         did they hear
         the pounding surf
         echo across the endless
         expanse of water
         and fear that tomorrow
         would be their last day?

The Life of Christ is considered in three poems: “The Three Magi,” “The Cross,” and “Icon.”


         Luminescent, transcendent over suffering and grief,
         outshining the glow of the crossbar, the wounded head rises
         toward the vertical reach of the cross and beyond.

         The flow of tears, blood, and sweat dries in the sun.
         His cascading tresses, tinged with gold as though
         the sun rose here in this great mind.

         Through the troubled clouds gathered to witness
         the sacrifice, blue sky emerges to promise
         the glory and hope of a new day.

Following up on ideas of “glory,” “hope,” and a “new day,” which close out the previous section, Impressions, contains seven poems that are more speculative in nature. When dealing with the nature of God, or with God in terms of daily life reality, Reynard knows that:

         To seek words
         for the nameless,
         you dip deep within
         the pool of your being
         where impressions
         shift and blend.

         The slant of a sunbeam
         through tall grasses,
         the song of the thrush
         at dawn, the curve
         of a perfect rainbow,
         the whisper of rain
         on the window.

         Light and shadow,
         song and silence
         dance across the synapses
         of your brain,
         and a poem is born.

Just as poems are born through the evocations of sunbeams, tall grasses and thrushes testing the reality of misty fields before they fly, so, in Double Stream, Paul and Ellen Reynard offer a taste of the divine through poetry and paint … as “powerful wings beat / the evening air / shatter the sunset / in headlong flight / to the other side / of night.”


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