Quoted: Homebodies

Writer and poet Amy LeBlanc heads up her first collection of short stories, Homebodies (Great Plains Press) with an epigraph from none other than Emily Dickinson. Amy walks us through the quotation and why its evocation of hauntings-sans-houses is so fitting for her slightly uncanny, deeply human set of stories.


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“One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —” Emily Dickinson

One of the first poetry collections I ever owned was a collected volume of Emily Dickinson’s work. As a child, I fell in love with her rhymes, her em-dashes, and how she managed to contain entire worlds in just a few stanzas. I have since read and adored many of her poems, but I particularly love Envelope Poems (edited by Jen Bervin and Martha Werner) because of its fragments, traces, and haunting presences, which extend in the Dickinson epigraph I selected for Homebodies: “One need not be a Chamber — to be haunted.” The full stanza continues: “One need not be a House —/The Brain has Corridors — surpassing/Material Place —”.

A large part of what I hope to accomplish in Homebodies is an exploration of the different ways we might be haunted: by ghosts, by experiences, by places, and by people who are still living. There is only one story in the collection that is a haunted house story by generic definitions, but many of the others are domestic horror or have elements of the domestic uncanny. To me, “one need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —” also means that the body itself can be haunted (or can even haunt itself). This collection was inspired and influenced by my own experiences with grief and loss. In a number of her poems, Dickinson personalizes grief and makes it into vivid metaphors: a mouse, a thief, a silence, a juggler. In these different classifications, Dickinson almost makes a glossary of grief. The first story in my collection, “Twisted,” is about a woman who is haunted by questions of what could have happened if circumstances had been slightly different. One of the more speculative stories, “Body Fluid Spill Kit” leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not Evelyn is being haunted by an animate, scone-eating corpse that may or may not be her mother. The entire middle section of the collection, The Fever Dream (in the House), considers how our recent and current pandemic existence might be haunting us and will continue to haunt us in the future. “One need not be a Chamber — to be haunted,” means that a haunting can take place anywhere (not only in the house) and at any time (not only at night) and in any context (not only in isolation).

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Amy LeBlanc is a PhD student in English and creative writing at the University of Calgary. Amy’s debut poetry collection, I know something you don’t know, was published with Gordon Hill Press in 2020 and was longlisted for the ReLit Award and selected as a finalist for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry. Her novella, Unlocking, was published by the University of Calgary Press in 2021 and was a finalist for the Trade Fiction Book of the Year through the Book Publishers Association of Alberta. Amy’s second full-length poetry collection, I used to live here, is forthcoming with Gordon Hill Press in spring 2025. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Room, Arc, CV2, Canadian Literature, and the Literary Review of Canada, among others. Homebodies is Amy’s first short story collection.

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