Defining Moments by Joseph E. LeBlanc, Jr.

Defining Moments

Times and Happenings that Shape a Life
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KIRKUS REVIEW

LeBlanc’s collection of poems charts his development as a poet, husband, and father.

In June 2002, while preparing to publish what would become this work, LeBlanc went through an experience that would define the rest of his life: the passing of his 31-year-old son, who died of complications related to cystic fibrosis. LeBlanc immediately abandoned his book and instead wrote and published Oh Joe! (2003), a collection of poems dedicated to his son. It took LeBlanc over a decade to circle back and complete this book, but that was a blessing, for time and perspective have rendered it more poignant and moving than it might otherwise have been. The collection gathers poems written over roughly four decades, from 1967 through 2005. Because they chronicle the bulk of LeBlanc’s adult life, they serve as a fascinating record of his maturation not only as a poet, but also as a person. An early piece captures the familiar pain of longing for a distant love: “Each minute seems an hour, / each hour a day. / Time has somehow seemed to stop / whenever you’re away.” The poem feels young and pat—not necessarily conventional but not unexpected either. Compare that with the deeper, subtler, more emotionally complex “Distortion,” written 37 years later, two years after his son’s death. The poem describes how the jarring disharmonies of modern art effectively capture the world’s anxiety, fear, and randomness: “They demand recasting of shapes / and excesses of hues, / for they surpass what has been shown. / Geometry is changed, / taken to new depths, new heights, / that alone can seize what simmers beneath.” Here, LeBlanc has left behind the singsong-y rhyme he used more frequently in his youth; the diction is more piercing, the insights more original. It’s a pleasure to read and all the more compelling knowing how hard he worked to get there.

Touching poetry about love, grief, and the ties that always bind.

Publisher: iUniverse
Program: Kirkus Indie
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