Poems by Ellen Dooling Reynard
Paintings and Drawings by Paul Reynard
21 Poems ~ 24 Illustrations ~ 53 pages
Publisher: South 40 Press
ISBN #: 978-1-7923-9747-9
Gurdjieff Books and Music: https://www.gurdjieffbooksandmusic.com
By the Way Books: https://www.bythewaybooks.com
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.
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
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.”