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By Melissa Schack
Courtney LeBlanc is a poet based in Arlington, Virginia. She has released two chapbooks All in the Family and The Violence Within. The Pushcart Prize nominee’s latest Beautiful and Full of Monsters is a collection of poetry full of raw emotions and imagery. Her views on love and relationships are relatable and enlightening.
You can catch her writings on her blog, or read her poems right here in Quail Bell Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @WordPerv, Facebook, or Instagram @wordperv79.
In Beautiful and Full of Monsters, you write about love and relationships. You show insight into the realities of love. How have your past experiences influenced your work?
Like many poets, I pull from both my own experiences and other’s experiences when I write. Many of my poems are a compilation of previous relationships, they don’t always just reflect one person or relationship.
Can you share a poem from Beautiful and Full of Monsters?
This poem, "Forest Fire", is the first poem in the collection:
In order to promote healthy growth, the National Park Service periodically conducts controlled burns in Redwood forests.
I have a Redwood growing
out of my chest, a towering mass
of bark and leaves, older
than a millennia. It reaches
toward sunlight, aches for water
and your touch.
I am too wild, too rugged
wilderness, too much. When you light
a match I lean toward the hiss
and pop. It climbs the dry bark,
racing to the top, leaves
and hair exploding in flame,
the colors lighting up the forest
inside me. You stand watching
How has COVID-19 affected your career and your personal life?
My book was published on 10 March, literally days before the pandemic officially brought the world to a stand-still. Launching a book is never easy but doing so in a pandemic is especially challenging, but I’m grateful for all the virtual readings, they’ve allowed friends in far-flung places to listen to me read poems! The first six weeks of the pandemic were really difficult for me as I’m an extrovert and get my energy from other people. Once I settled into a routine it became a little more manageable. I still start my days with a workout but now it’s in my own house instead of in a gym. I hike with my dog almost daily, which also brings me a sense of peace and is good for my mental health. I’m cooking and baking a lot more than usual and trying to stay connected with friends by sending mail and having virtual gatherings. I’ve been attending virtual poetry workshops and those help too and keep me writing.
Why is it important for people to support the arts, even during times of uncertainty?
The arts are always going to be a way people express themselves and right now, with Black Lives Matter and people calling on police reform and protests and marches AND a pandemic – people need poetry and the arts as a way to process what’s happening in the world. It gives a voice that otherwise might not be heard.
What are your book recommendations for those who are looking for material to read during mass quarantine?
For poetry, I love anything by Jeanann Verlee, Shaindel Beers, Megan Falley, torrin a. greathouse, and Fatimah Ashgar.
For fiction, I just read The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd and loved it. And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories & Other Revenges by Amber Sparks is also excellent. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor and her next series, Strange the Dreamer (book #1) and Muse of Nightmares (book #2) are excellent fantasy books, especially good for anyone who needs an escape right now.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.