Diane LeBlanc has always loved writing, beginning when she took a formal poetry class while attending a small elementary school in Vermont. LeBlanc is now a published writer, teacher and book artist.
With roots in Vermont, Wyoming and Minnesota, she recently released her new full-length poetry collection, “The Feast Delayed.” The poetry chapbooks — small books with 20 to 40 pages — include “This Space for Message,” “Sudden Geography,” “Dancer with Good Sow” and “Hope in Zone Four.”
Developing a passion for writing at a young age, the 21-year-Northfield resident took some creative writing classes in high school and focused on English and poetry in college. She went to grad school for English literature and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. Well into her career, she knew she wanted to focus on literary criticism. As someone who’s always identified primarily as a poet and after taking a class on personal essays, she pleasantly uncovered more tools to work with.
Locally, LeBlanc has worked with the Arts & Culture Commission for several years as a sidewalk poetry judge. She also gives poetry readings at Content and the Northfield Public Library, teaches an occasional class at the Arts Guild and has exhibited handmade books at the Northfield Arts Guild. Currently, two of her poems are currently in the Red Wing Arts Poet Artists Collaboration, along with the work of several Northfield poets and artists. She teaches writing and creativity at St. Olaf College.
When a poem just isn’t working, LeBlanc expands it into an essay. Now, she works primarily in those two genres — poetry and personal essays. She describes personal essays as more story-driven, adding that is something she likes about being able to write in both poetry and in personal essay.
“Poetry is often lyrical, musical or image driven,” LeBlanc says. “Essay is more story, plot-driven with research. Sometimes they spill into each and I think they make each other stronger when I’m able to do that.”
In LeBlanc’s most recent poetry collection, “The Feast Delayed,” she says readers will discover the symbiotic relationships with the creatures in their environments — present and past, living and the dead, human and animal. One early poem in the book depicts a time where LeBlanc was home with her mother before kindergarten, preparing to go to school and enter the world. Many poems in the book, LeBlanc says signify entering/being in that world, which of course has its challenges.
While thinking about her own personal experiences, LeBlanc also thinks about how her stories are connected with larger stories and is really conscientious of that while writing. If she were telling a story about something she sees in her neighborhood, she would also think about how it manifests in the larger world. If she would see a particular animals, she might consider climate change and how animals are surviving in general.
A different view
Writing poetry gives LeBlanc the opportunity to think through and understand what she’s seeing and experiencing.
“If I’m experiencing and seeing something, I like to think of an image,” said LeBlanc. “Of course I love language, putting language, experience and image together is exciting for me because I want to share that with other people. I want other people to be able to experience it.”
Not one to write poems only a collection, the book’s content always comes from whatever story or specific thing LeBlanc is experiencing. After spending 20 years in the area, LeBlanc finally feels like part of the landscape and community. Each time she puts a book together, there are poems leftover. That is a great time for LeBlanc to look at the poems as a whole to see if a new scene is emerging.
“As I’m writing, I’m aware of poems that go into that pile, and poems I go into just because I like to. I’m always conscious of collections growing,” said LeBlanc.
For young writers, LeBlanc encourages practice — that means writing often and understanding what they write may not be a finished poem. In those cases, LeBlanc recommends young poets keep writing and coming back to what they write.
“For me it’s a way of being in the world. I write to share, be in the world and I encourage other writers to do that,” said LeBlanc. “It’s a way to communicate and to be with each other. Sharing your work, practicing and writing not only helps the writer, but it also helps the community.”
With most of her books, and this one in particular, LeBlanc says it’s always encouraging for her when people tell her after reading a poem ihat it reminds them of a certain experience they forgot about or that they know exactly what she is talking about because they’ve experienced something similar.
“I know I did something right when people comment on individual poems and say ‘I can just feel that,’” said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc says she’s amazed of the generosity of readers, artists, those who support her books and book stores. With each book, LeBlanc says those connections have gotten stronger.
“I’m just so grateful for readers and people who help me put the book together,” said LeBlanc.