Book Review: Beautiful and Full of Monsters by Courtney LeBlanc

Book Review: Beautiful and Full of Monsters by Courtney LeBlanc

Cover Art by Victoria Olt

Courtney LeBlanc’s first full-length collection of poetry, Beautiful and Full of Monsters is her most daring publication to date. For a poet known for embracing taboo and celebrating transgression, this statement can mean only one thing— her quest for exposing truth has led her more deeply into herself than ever before. In these pages, LeBlanc weaves erotic and doomed love stories. The abusive boyfriend, the enchanting lover, the second husband. These characters expose in the narrative voice a capacity for endurance, passion, and devotion.

Of Monsters Internal & External

My psyche blooms. With a yellow-green-blue shadow
that never completely fades”

On Asking A Friend if She Will Be my Safe House, Courtney LeBlanc, Beautiful and Full of Monsters

The first section, entitled “Monsters,” traces the regret and violence of an abusive relationship. The narrator wears bruises like paint or jewelry, both on her body, and in her mind. “My psyche blooms. With a yellow-green-blue shadow/ that never completely fades” LeBlanc recounts in “On Asking A Friend if She Will Be my Safe House.” Rather than romanticize toxic entanglement, LeBlanc’s verse illuminates its terrible seduction, the beauty commingled with cruelty that make such destructive pairings so inescapable.

A Territory of Fullness

We are not
safe in our cathedral of sand
but still we worship”

Afloat, Courtney LeBlanc, Beautiful and Full of Monsters

At the end of “Monsters,” the speaker breaks away, courtesy of a restraining order. In the second section, “Full,” we enter a new territory— the watery dream-life of an island love affair. Even in its deliciousness, this second section is threatened— there is the danger of betrayal, of being caught, of losing oneself in hedonistic pleasures. “We are not/ safe in our cathedral of sand/ but still we worship” LeBlanc writes.

This, of course, is true of love and of life. None of us guaranteed one more moment, all of us staving off the existential dread that would appear to be our birthright with the worship of something. For the voice of “Full” that worship lands evenly across the body of someone who loves without demands, and across a natural world full of power and serenity.

“Full” also includes a number of poems where LeBlanc fractures the line and the sentence. She is a master of such structural play. In “I Guess We’ll Have to be Secretly in Love” the sweep of the sentences run back across themselves, catching the reader in a visceral experience of the crosscurrents of love and regret.

Grounded Beauty

Fill the void in your chest
with stars
and rocks and blades of grass,”

How to Survive Heartbreak, Courtney LeBlanc, Beautiful and Full of Monsters

If “Full” is a watery dreamlife, “Beautiful” feels like being washed up on dry land. The speaker turns toward her second marriage, willing herself to stay grounded, to believe in the solidity of what exists instead of her watery projections and imaginings. “Fill the void in your chest/ with stars/ and rocks and blades of grass,” the voice advises us in its final utterance. Be where you are, LeBlanc seems to be saying to us. Choose the love you have.

Courtney LeBlanc’s, Beautiful and Full of Monsters, is available for purchase at Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.

About the Author

Courtney LeBlanc is also the author of two chapbooks, The Violence Within (Flutter Press, 2018, currently out of print), and All in the Family (Bottlecap Press, 2016) , and a Pushcart Prize nominee. She has an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She loves nail polish, wine, and tattoos.

About the Reviewer

WHITNEY ROBERTS HILL is a writer, editor, teacher, and seeker. Her work has appeared in Streetlight Magazine, Life in 10 Minutes, Nanny Magazine, The Mighty, Jars of Wine, Germ Magazine, and more. Whitney was named The Woman Inc. Magazine’s Emerging Poet in 2019. She is a reviewer for the American Book Review, and a former editorial assistant at Qu Literary Magazine. In the Fall of 2019, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte where she worked on a short story collection & memoir. Whitney joins Elizabeth Ferris in co-editing the anthology Unspoken: Writers on Infertility, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth, forthcoming in 2020 from Life in 10 Minutes Press. To learn more about Whitney, please visit