In her collection of poetry Where the Terror Lies
, Chantel Lavoie explores the disconcerting roots of bedtime stories.
Lavoie grew up on a grain farm outside of North Battleford, Sask., and is now an assistant professor in the English department at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. where she lives with her two sons.
She will be launching her collection and reading from it on July 18 at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon.
Where the Terror Lies examines the ideas and beliefs we are taught as children and explores how they influence what we become afraid of. It plays off folktales of the past to reflect upon the fascination and allure of being terrified.
“We embrace those things that we’re afraid of,” Lavoie said.
Where the Terror Lies is organized into five sections — within us, in wild things, in changes over time, in teething and in being left behind — that explore the exact question the collection’s title proposes and the ways in which fear is expressed.
At her readings Lavoie chooses not only to recite poems from each of the collection’s five sections but to also discuss the ways we deal with our fears by “reimagining them, changing them, telling the stories in new ways.”
She also draws upon her experience living in Saskatchewan to create haunting imagery in several of her poems.
Lavoie’s opening poem, “Kingdom,” describes mosquitoes, dust and sloughs as vivid and foreboding. The poem’s first four lines allude to death and instantly create an atmosphere of terror: “Mosquitoes are mostly dust / apparently, and return to dust / against my bloodless hand. My heart / is full of water. The sloughs are full.”
She does, however, use rhyme and poetic rhythm to surround her often frightening subject matter with comfort and familiarity.
“The first stuff we have read, or recited, or sung to us is poetry and that rhyme and cadence and rhythm is so strongly in us,” Lavoie said.
“I do think we tend to go back and realize that those early things we learnt have become ingrained in us. They’re in our brain cells and they’re telling us things that we didn’t even anticipate; including teaching us to be afraid.”
Some of Lavoie’s poems included in Where the Terror Lies were written over 20 years ago. Her compilation reflects years of reworking and discovering reoccurring subjects within her writing. Though some of her poems have been already been published, this is the first time Lavoie brings her poems together in a collection.
Lavoie will release Where the Terror Lies at 7 p.m. on July 18 at McNally Robinson.