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Beautiful and Full of Monsters by Courtney LeBlanc

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 78 pgs.
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Beautiful and Full of Monsters by Courtney LeBlanc is a harsh look at failed relationships and the narrator’s part in those failures, but it also takes a close look at verbal abuse (“the terror of vocabulary”) and the desire to stay with someone you “love.” In the opening poem, “Forest Fire,” there are redwoods growing inside her (beautiful, but wanting), but rather than nurture that forest, “You stand watching/me burn.” A number of these poems speak to the push and pull of desire and escape, the narrator is unsure which way to turn, unable to break away and do what is best for their mental and physical health, but also desirous of love, one that lasts through everything and props her up when she needs it. She also longs to be a dependable lover, someone her partner can rely on.

As much as these poems are about love and relationships, they also are a self-examination of how one can fail even with the best intentions to be a faithful partner or hold onto the love/desire they felt for the other person at the beginning of their relationship. Each poem has a certain rawness about it, making them highly emotional and visceral poems. But one of my favorite poems int he collection is less overt and more surprising in its use of language.

Self-Portrait With Without

With soy milk. With a latte drunk
each morning in the dark kitchen. Without
the lights on because you slept on the couch
again and I don't want to wake you. With dinner
with friends, everything fine. Without conversation
during the car ride back. With negotiations
as to who walks the dog when we get home. With you
in front of the computer when I go to bed. Without
the weight of you beside me. Without my rings
on when I sleep because my fingers swell. With them on
the next day, newly cleaned and brilliant. With
the sun prisming off the diamonds as I drive
to work. With me spinning them around as I fly, my fingers
puffy by the time I land. Without them on when I shower
away the day's grime. With my hands bare as I open the door
and let him in. With my hands on him. Without a word said.

Beautiful and Full of Monsters by Courtney LeBlanc is collection that speaks to the tug of love and desire and our rational mind, but also to the conscious and subconscious need to suppress our own inner monsters. These are the parts of ourselves that are less than pleasant company and often steer us away from what is best for us. In many ways, these monsters are our baser selves seeking out pure pleasure, even if it is fleeting. Aren’t we all just beautiful monsters at times.

Rating: Cinquain

Mailbox Monday #580

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

Day of the Border Guards by Katherine E. Young, which I purchased.

Finalist: 2014 Miller Williams Poetry Prize

Day of the Border Guards, the debut collection from Katherine E. Young, is set entirely in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union. The ghosts of Russian writers Pushkin, Mandelstam, Tsvetayeva, and many others wander through these poems, making tea, fighting with their relatives, cursing faithless lovers. Bulgakov’s heroine Margarita describes meeting the Master; Lermontov’s grandmother worries that the young poet is wasting his life. Lady Macbeth is alive and well and living in post-Soviet Georgia. Enemies stalk the margins: hostile warlords, informants, the secret police. A man falls through the ice into a ruptured hot-water pipe, nuclear reactors melt down, an airplane lands on Red Square. Perestroika arrives and departs, like other fashions. A marriage falters. The phone rings in the middle of the night in a Siberian hotel. The corpse of a gypsy king boards a plane for Moscow.

Young, who also translates Russian poetry and prose, has lived and worked in Russia and the Soviet Union off and on since 1981: not surprisingly, then, these poems—originally published in The Carolina Quarterly, The Iowa Review, and The Massachusetts Review, among others—willfully skip across borders of language, culture, and literary tradition, exploring Russian and North American poetic traditions and celebrating both.

In Search of Warm Breathing Things by Katherine Gekker, which I purchased.

“Is anything common? “ Katherine Gekker asks in her debut collection, In Search of Warm Breathing Things. The answer, in these richly detailed poems, is no. Gekker is a keen observer, able to “unlock the beauty hidden” in the ordinary. An iridescent grackle becomes a symbol of hope, “collarbones shimmer like wings.” Weaving images of the natural world with glimpses of a struggling marriage, Gekker portrays life in all its emotional complexity. “Two bees are fighting or courting — I can’t tell which,” she writes in “…to Cast a Shadow Again.”  Yet there are moments of joy, the promise of transformation.  “My shift billows, diaphanous…. I can seduce anyone tonight beneath fronds slicing like blades.”

— Ellen Bass

In these pages, Katherine Gekker tackles the emotional truths with “passion, a rutting need to run” line by line, poem by poem. With formal dexterity, an eye for language, and a rueful shake of the head at the human capacity for hope in the face of heartache, the poems of In Search of Warm Breathing Things mark a promising debut.

— Gerry LaFemina, author of The Story of Ash

Katherine Gekker has such a deft and musical touch with language that the most profound and aching moments in this book may catch you by surprise. Then you realize you are in the hands of a master of balance. No matter how dark the material here, the author’s wise and lyrical voice is a kind of assurance, a precious reminder that the beauty all around us is worth celebrating, even as it falls away.

— Rose Solari, author of The Last Girl and A Secret Woman

Beautiful & Full of Monsters by Courtney LeBlanc, which I purchased.

Love isn’t always pretty, yet most of us choose to remain constant in its pursuit. These poems unwrap the mythos of romance with the clairvoyance of a writer who knows the best and worst of relationships inside and out. LeBlanc dares to honestly show us how even when the best of intentions fail, we can always find beauty if we stay true to the monsters in ourselves.

The Sting of It by AJ Odasso, which I purchased.

Poetry. LGBTQIA Studies. THE STING OF IT is cradled in classical form and bubbles with luscious language from a bygone era. Fans of Spenser and Donne will find comfort here. But this formal order only just restrains the chaos from Odasso’s own body and past. Their explosive and candid revelations make us aware of our beautiful, mortal grit. Odasso’s ferocious imagery within measured verse reminds us that life is mysterious, painful, and fantastic.

What did you receive?