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Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 101 pgs.
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Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc is a collection that will floor you with its emotional heights and its stunning imagery. The collection’s sections — “This Is What Women Do,” “All I’ve Swallowed,” “Mouthing Your Memory,” and “Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart” — tackle larger issues facing women today in not only patriarchal society but within our own strictures that we adopt to define who we are. I love that LeBlanc opens this collection with “Autobiography of Eve” because she sets readers up for a great unfolding, demonstrating how women have been conditioned into thinking one way about love, marriage, and how the world works, as well as our place in that world. “Now that the sticky juice/of knowledge ran freely down my chin/” — isn’t the truth always a little bit sticky?

I’m going to try not to gush about this collection, but there are so many poems I love from “We Carry” where women are burdened with keys and households as well as the comments of others, the groceries, the organization and schedules, and the weight of abuse when it happens to “Alternative Names for Woman” where LeBlanc begins with those harsh truths about what we earn, how we’re perceived by others, and what we could become despite those misconceptions and putdowns.

LeBlanc talks to the women who have held onto their trauma, to those who re-traumatize themselves, to those experiencing serious heartbreak, to those who feel lost and she holds out her hands to them, hoping they will take that leap of faith for themselves – to become their true selves in spite of it all. It’s hard work this transformation, but she shows you the way in her poems. The road will never be smooth, but in the end, it may be a journey worth taking to be free and to be your unapologetic self. From “Gasoline,” “I’m peeling/back my skin/revealing/the flint of a match/crawling through my blood/my bones/I’m ready/to burn/this fucking frat party/this America to the ground.//”

Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc is an evolution of love and self. In her last poem, “Eventually Evolution,” she reminds us that change takes time, even if it seems like love can strike in a few seconds of meeting someone.

This is the second book I’ve read by LeBlanc and I have loved both of them.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat, July 2021),  Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, March 2020)The Violence Within (Flutter Press, 2018, currently out of print), and All in the Family (Bottlecap Press, 2016, currently out of print) , and a Pushcart Prize  and Best of the Net nominee. She has an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Visit her website, Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, and her publishing house, Riot in Your Throat.

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #644

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 its 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.

Velvet, 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.

This is what we received:

Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart by Courtney LeBlanc from the poet/publisher for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

This collection takes the reader on a journey through the injustices women face – in their careers, their daily lives, in the way they walk to their cars late at night; to smashing the patriarchy and claiming their rights over their bodies and their ideas; to a love better left remembered; to eventually finding a balance with a love that stands up and fights beside the poet.

Courtney LeBlanc’s Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart understands that the body “is a war / zone,” especially, the female body, which LeBlanc explores through the lens of fairy tales, the story of Eve, her own journey through girlhood, womanhood, destruction, rebirth, and self-discovery. Each word in each poem is as necessary and life-giving as a heartbeat.  — Shaindel Beers, author of Secure Your Own Mask, Finalist for the Oregon Book Award

In her latest collection, Courtney LeBlanc bravely and fiercely examines the burdens women carry, the societal pressures, the cultural expectations: “the heavy world / digging into our shoulders and slumping our backs.” In many of her poems, she takes back agency – that others tried to take away – and never lets us forget the pluck that endures: “ready to bite” and “guns ablaze” and “I’m read / to burn” and “This body / is a weapon.” This collection is one that never flinches from hard truths, always insist on strength by revealing vulnerability, and even in its exploration of our human darkness, offers flames of hope.  — Shuly Xóchitl Cawood, author of Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning

Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart traces the path from snake to survival to highlight the complex and often conflicted experiences of womanhood. LeBlanc’s voice, both skillfully intimate and starkly blunt, speaks in blood, beauty and burden to show the many hungers and rips in the framework of femininity. With a close examination of the body, from vibrators to “belly gowls,” this collection asks us to consider the dichotomy of punishment and pleasure. “I did not have a map to the body” LeBlanc writes and allows this collection to be its own cartography, a new country of strength where every woman can [grow] the fruit. [Be] the vine and the rain and the light. [Be] the dirt.” This book is an anthem of urging and unlearning, reminding women to “be the key to her own opening, her becoming.” — Kelly Grace Thomas, author of Boat Burned

What did you receive?