When you finish reading Amy LeBlanc’s I know something you don’t know, you’re left remembering the original darkness of the oldest versions of these tales. If you’ve studied them, you’ll know that those were not ‘pretty’ worlds or stories, either, so this return to a spookier dimension isn’t far off the earlier, more historic mark in terms of atmosphere. What’s different is that the women in this collection have more power, are magic, and are strong feminist figures who don’t put up with any sort of nonsense. If you’re a fan of fantasy—of legend and fairy tales—then this debut will suit you like a well-woven red cloak that needs to be worn on a walk through a dark forest, on the way to your grandmother’s house.
Amy LeBlanc’s debut poetry collection, I know something you don’t know, is a magical journey. LeBlanc has a natural eye for beauty, and even the darkest moments of the collection’s poems entice the reader to journey further into the work. I know something you don’t transports the reader to another world; one from a poet who wields her imagination powerfully, with immense control and intent.
Can you transform into something that is already inside of you? Can you shape-shift into that which you already, primarily are? Or is this the process of unearthing, exposing, releasing? Leblanc’s narrators and characters do not become birds. They are birds. They are moths and moss and foxes; they are spiders spinning webs. This is not a book of metamorphoses, but a series of revelations.
Over the last few years, Amy LeBlanc, writer and current grad student in English at the University of Calgary, has burst powerfully onto the literary scene. Her work has been published in magazines such as PRISM International, Room, and the Literary Review of Canada among many others. During her time as an undergraduate student, she immersed herself in the writing community as Editor-in-Chief of NōD Magazine and has expanded on her editing career as the current Managing Editor at filling Station Magazine.
I Know Something You Don’t Know contains poetry charged with a rare energy: not the force of exhibitionism or argument, but the urgency of creation. With LeBlanc, you encounter a poet who demands you attend, not to herself or a pet issue, but to what she is inventing.
Author and poet Amy Leblanc is one of the recipients of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award. We talk to Amy Leblanc about her modern takes on folklore and the portrayal of women.
For our April 2020 episode we celebrate National Poetry Month by creating a virtual poetry popup – recorded from our safely physically distanced living rooms to yours – featuring Kim Fahner, David Martin, Amy LeBlanc, and Helen Hajnoczky. The sound quality may not be pristine, but our hearts are pure, and we don’t let the corona virus get in the way of our collective love of poetry. Stay safe and be well, dear listeners!
ANTILANG— BEWITCHING. FEMINIST. FAIRY TALES. AMY LEBLANC’S I KNOW SOMETHING YOU DON’T KNOW (ALLIE MCFARLAND)
The poems in this collection are incantatory—their rhythms and themes lull readers into an alternate world where spells and potions ensnare the senses (Harry Potter reference!). But these are not the types of spells likely to be found at Hogwarts. True to original fairy tales, these fables often feature dark undersides—more than once, a poem in this collection mentions poisons, often as the consequence for not respecting a woman’s power. The characters in these poems inhabit a world similar to our own, but with the rules of fairy tales a la the Grimm’s Brothers, resulting in a concoction that lures you in as it warns you of the poison lacing your glass.
CANTHIUS— CAN YOU IMAGINE? MYTHOS AND RECLAMATION IN ANGELA CARAVAN AND AMY LEBLANC (CONYER CLAYTON)
Ladybird, Ladybird is rife with women revelling in destructive and even murderous acts, but these acts are imbued with righteous power, not evil. In Powder, boys lower a girl into a “bloody pit,” but the ceiling caves in on them. The boys “try to flee” and their nostrils are “sealed with a patch of black ash,” while “the girl with the matches just sits and laughs. LeBlanc skillfully employs nursery rhyme rhythms throughout the collection. Their sing-song innocence contrasts creepily with the gory content. This collection seems to ask, what else can women do but embrace the violence we have historically been surrounded by? Why shouldn’t we use it to empower ourselves?
Tonic is about a group of villagers in rural Rhode Island that exhumed a girl named Mercy Brown because they thought she was a vampire infecting her family with tuberculosis from beyond the grave. Powder is about the construction of the Hoosak tunnel in Massachusetts and the explosion that occurred, costing the lives of 13 miners. My poem Clamour is about early werewolf lore and lycanthropy. One of my favourite pieces Pick is about the first lobotomies and the horrors that women endured at the hands of male doctors. I find stories of hauntings, disasters, and spectral occurrences fascinating and the way I reflect on them is by writing about them. I thought about and read about hauntings often while writing this collection— in my opinion, a haunting is just the way that someone or something leaves an imprint, and for me, those imprints result in poetry.
Amy LeBlanc’s poem “Wintering” is a master of the short line—trembling and damaged bodies laid across four syllables. We’re enthralled by the pressed imagery, the slant rhymes, the wish for peace.
I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life. My mother often reminds me that I had planned a series of animal murder mysteries as a child (finches stabbed with tooth picks and the like) and she has early drafts of novels and stories I’d written that are rife with spelling errors and illogical conclusions. I always wrote for fun, but I began taking writing seriously toward the end of high school when I knew that I would be completing and English degree with a concentration in creative writing. I began publishing fiction and poetry in my third year and I started volunteering in the literary community around the same time. I think that my writing community is what keeps me going. As a past Editor-in-Chief of NōD Magazine, I got to see firsthand the way that writing communities tie us together.