Amy LeBlanc’s debut poetry collection I know something you don’t know is a short book with a long title available now for order through local bookstores or directly from the publisher (Gordon Hill Press) to be delivered to your door. We recommend you brew yourself a mug of tea (with milk, preferably) and tuck into LeBlanc’s enchanting poetry. Read our review below to see why, then make sure you order her book!
In case you haven’t noticed, witchy feminism is a prominent movement in the Western world that invokes symbols of witchcraft to further female empowerment / gender equality. LeBlanc’s I know something you don’t know is a stellar example of this writing, due to her gentle command of language and the characters she conjours. These characters are women, mothers, little girls, but also rosin, foxes, and an avocet. These female-coded characters exert agency over their own bodies and forms. For example, in “Pick,” a male character seems to control the woman’s body, but, importantly, she is the one who “seals her lips and eyes / for the afternoon,” thereby letting him believe he has convinced her to listen to his spiel of “film reels and crooked spoons.” In “Birthing Black Rabbits,” the male doctor vomits upon seeing the offspring, and in response, “The mother bit / his hand.” In intimate moments, these women refuse male gazes, opinions, and actions, whether the men know this or not. The seemingly inanimate women are quietly their own, in “Rosin,” the ‘she’ spreads through many lives and endures the “affliction” of being “tied together with string,” but the reader is left with the sense that she is multiple and will prevail. Further, the forces that bind her are not named or even gestured toward, rather, Rosin has become and is always in the process of becoming her next form, and those outside forces are merely inconveniences.
As these women prepare recipes for poisons or tinctures, the reader is also reminded of contemporary issues surrounding body positivity and eating disorders. In “Wafer,” the first person speaker directly addresses these themes which previously in the book had only been subliminal. The poem opens with “My waist is not thinner / than a piece of paper” then proceeds to describe the non-food items the speaker has recently consumed. While some, like “bone chips” fit into LeBlanc’s fairy tale world, others like “cotton balls” are scarily real. The women in these poems face judgments and expectations not unlike those in our world, but here they are aware of their powers and therefore show us the possibilities for overcoming adversities.
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.