It’s National Poetry Month in America and what better way to celebrate than to have a conversation with an American poet? Virginian poet Courtney LeBlanc has been kind enough to send me a copy of her chapbook, Siamese Sisters, and also to have a chat with me about the art of poetry!
I first knew Courtney from Instagram, where both her Insta-handle and the name of her blog is Word Perv, which, according to Courtney, defines, ‘one who takes delight and is skilled at constructing, writing or saying naughty phrases or dialogue.’ So I knew I was in for a real treat when I got her chapbook in the mail, written as it is by someone who takes so much obvious enjoyment in the art of word-crafting.
Siamese Sisters is a beautiful labor of love, first conceived as a joint poetry and art show featuring Courtney and her sister (How cool is the cover of her book?). Her poems are lovely, poignant odes to the close relationship between the sisters, their childhood memories, the physical distance that grew between as them as they grew older, and also their shared experiences of issues they’ve had to overcome. I found Courtney’s description of her experience with her father’s kidney disease particularly heartrending as (confession time) I too have a loved one who is suffering from severe kidney failure and I find myself emphasising wholeheartedly with her experiences and also appreciating her courage to be able to write about this so honestly and openly. Her open, vulnerable words drew me in and gave me a real glimpse into her life. Thank you, Courtney, for sharing so generously!
Having now read her chapbook, I found myself doubly appreciating my conversation with Courtney, delving into the mind and creative processes of of a poet. She’s one talented lady who already has more than a few poems out in publication! Read on to find out more about Courtney and Siamese Sisters – and also where to purchase a copy of the chapbook!
When did you first start writing poetry and what drew you to the art form?
I’ve been writing poetry since I was a kid, though my early stuff is filled with typical teenage angst and it will never see the light of day. My writing is very autobiographical and for me the best way to express myself is through a poem.
What sort of poetry do you write? For instance, do you favor certain devices and meters or a more free form style of writing? Ballads or beat poetry? And what themes do you lean towards in your writing?
I write modern free-verse poetry, though I’ve experimented with different writing forms – sonnets, contrapuntal poems – as a way of mixing it up. I absolutely hate rhyming poetry, I think it’s lazy and limiting.
Do you think poetry is a dying art form in today’s modern life? And why?
No, absolutely not. There are so many amazing poets out there who continue writing and publishing poems that are relevant today. There are poems that tackle the hard topics that are in the news daily – racism, sexism, war, violence, etc. Poetry can be a unique and powerful way to stand up for what you believe in and also process the world around you.
There is greater restriction in poetry writing compared to prose as poets are compelled to work within the structure of the poem and to make real use of their limited word quota. How do you feel writing poetry has changed you as a writer?
There can be a greater restriction in poetry, but generally that only applies to poets who write in a specific form. For those of us who prefer free verse, we’re less limited. I do feel it’s changed me though, sometimes I’ll think of a phrase that really resonates and I will build an entire poem around it. It’s a wonderful feeling to have a single phrase or idea result in a poem.
Who are some of your favourite poets?
Megan Falley, Anne Caston, Andrea Gibson, Franny Choi and Jeanann Verlee.
Tell us about the process of writing and publishing your chap book, Siamese Sisters. It sounds like a real labour of love!
A friend of mine owns a local art gallery and every month she features a different artist. I approached her with the idea of a joint poetry and art show that would feature my sister and I. I wrote the poems and then my sister created art in response to the poems. We’re are very close and from a young age decided we were actually Siamese twins, despite being two years apart – this is where the name of the show and my chapbook originate. The poems focus on our relationship, our childhood, and the things we’ve done and experienced together. It’s been a really exciting project and seeing the poems in print is always so rewarding.
What’s your writing routine like?
I write constantly – I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go so I can capture inspiration when it strikes. I also actively sit down to write poems using different prompts – things I’ve read online, or images that inspire me. Then I spend about 4 hours a week just submitting poems for publication. I also attend a poetry workshop once a week to give me focus and provide support.
How do you find time to write around your day job and other commitments? I notice you do a lot of travelling for your work!
I do travel a lot, I’m in International Acquisitions and my job sends me all over the world; it gives me the opportunity to experience poetry in other countries. The key is making writing a priority. It has to become an integral part of your daily routine or it’ll easily get pushed aside.
What tips do you have for people looking to try their hand at poetry?
Just start writing, you never know what you’ll discover. And if you’re looking for support find a writing group or a poetry workshop – check the local library, mine offers a great monthly workshop that is wonderfully supportive.
Finally, what’s next for you?
I’ve written another chapbook and I’m actively looking for a publisher for that collection. I’m also working on a manuscript for a full length poetry book which I hope to have compiled by early summer so I can send it out to publishers.
If you want to find out more about Courtney LeBlanc’s work, check out her blog and Facebook page. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram! And if you’re interested in purchasing a copy of Siamese Sisters, you can do it here.