Nina Bennett reviews Diane LeBlanc's The Feast Delayed
Terrapin Books, 2021
Terrapin Books is known for its stunning covers, and Diane LeBlanc’s debut full-length collection, The Feast Delayed, is no exception. Molly Keegan’s collage speaks of the natural world, a theme that runs throughout LeBlanc’s collection.
The book consists of five numbered sections, prefaced by a prologue poem.
Prologue poems are becoming prevalent in poetry collections. An article by Sarah Blake in the Chicago Review of Books states:
Opening poems establish the tone of a book. Sometimes they set up the stakes, the themes, the images that will recur. It is relatively common practice now that a poem will begin the book, set off from the poems that follow, as a sort of prologue. In a way, this offers the book two opening poems, one that acts as an overview or preview, one as the launch point.
LeBlanc’s prologue poem, “After the Storm,” addresses the book title, the big picture of the collection. Lines are describing what is hidden under snowdrifts, talking about “the slow return from limbo,” which is an accurate description of what it feels like to venture forth following a snowstorm. The line also captures the arrival of spring, the slow return of animals, foliage, and crops. The opening poem, “Self-Portrait as a Store Window Mannequin Helsinki,” draws the reader’s awareness closer. Perhaps we are all mannequins to others, the presented outward appearance hiding what is truly inside:
Take the glass closet of dresses I didn’t choose.
These poems are full of the natural world. LeBlanc continually brings nature into her poems as if to remind us there is always something bigger, something large enough to contain the theme of grief and loss. Nature fills the physical void left by death. There are leaps and connections in these poems that assist the reader with relating to the poem. “Expired” starts by describing sorting through a kitchen cupboard and finding expired spice containers. It segues with a transition, a broadening of the word expired:
I remember who has died, who has been elected, who we are
now without parents and the poets, we never imagined dying.
“At My Sister’s Grave” describes visiting the grave, cleaning the headstone, and talking to the deceased sister, sharing memories:
Now moss loosens
and falls in lush curls
like grief dislodged
This line places death and grief in a sequence as natural events. Moss is soft, curls gentle; the image knocks a long-standing grief loose for the moment, and yet we sense that this is okay. LeBlanc honors the deceased with many lines such as these, which let the reader know that there will be loss in life, but there is also the balance of beauty and nature.
There is a wide variety of poems in this collection, including prose poems, couplets, and tercets, subtly sequenced so that no one form appears to dominate. The closing poem, “Gretel’s Campaign,” contains the line:
To name the thing we know nothing of creates its own kind of silence.
The silence is an easy one of respect and attention to the world around us, reminding us that a feast delayed can be worth the wait.