'Fast Five' with Courtney LeBlanc

Today, AHP Managing Editor Amanda McLeod put five pressing questions to our Featured Artist Courtney LeBlanc. Enjoy!

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Amanda McLeod: What brought you to poetry originally?

Courtney LeBlanc: I’ve always loved poetry but it was really modern, free verse poetry that brought me back to poetry in my twenties. Poetry gave me a new lens through which to view the world.

AM: Tell us about the genesis of your forthcoming book, Beautiful & Full of Monsters.

CL: Beautiful & Full of Monsters was my thesis for my MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, most of these poems were written over a two-year period. The collection follows love and relationships and searching for happiness and balance and all the ugly and wonderful things that go along with it.

AM: In your guest post about editing, you mentioned poets having a few repeated words that pop up again and again in their work. What are your 'repeat' words, and why do you think it's those particular words you come back to frequently?

CL: In The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo he states that poets write the same poems over and over again. It was reassuring to read this as I feel this is true in my writing – I write about one topic extensively and then will move onto another topic and write about that until I’ve exhausted it. I’ve written a lot about my familial relationships; some of the words that pop up repeatedly in those poems are: mother, father, death, dying, pain, trust, selfish. I’ve also written a lot about romantic and sexual relationships; some of my repeat words are: flesh, touch, skin, mouth.
I think these words come back to me again and again because they are so closely tied to the feelings I’m trying to convey in a poem. Of course the challenge is not over-using those words and finding new ways of expressing emotions.

AM: How do you think poetry can generate change in the world?

CL: It feels like the world is in chaos right now – we have an administration that seems to thrive on chaos and so the rest of the country seems to follow suit. Poetry is a way of addressing and bringing attention to the chaos. Glass: A Journal of Poetry features a Poets Resist section which allows poets to respond to what’s happening in the world. Writers Resist is another great journal that offers space for voices pushing for change within our world. Poetry allows an outlet for the expression about
the worries and concerns about the world and I think it also encourages people to make changes and take action to change the things they don’t like.

AM: How do we 'sell' poetry to the next generation as a way of expressing themselves?

CL: Exposure! We need to update how and what poets we’re teaching. I didn’t find modern poetry until I was in my twenties, we need to get those poems and those poets into classrooms and the hands of young people. We especially need to teach living poets, people of color, minorities…basically, kill the canon of teaching dead white dudes. Bring in poets that look like the students – teach trans poets, indigenous poets, poets of color. Show young people that poetry can capture their experience. Whenever I teach poetry I ensure I’m teaching a wide variety of poets and I focus on living poets. I want people new to poetry to know that it’s not just Robert Frost and the like – there are so many voices out there, there’s certain to be one you connect with.