What My Hair Says About You by Laura Theobald
What My Hair Says About You by Laura Theobald
Second edition. Poetry. 142 pgs.
What My Hair Says About You
Laura Theobald’s What My Hair Says About You, now in its second edition, with new poems and an introduction from Mathias Svalina, reveals a dark wit and wounding honesty cycling through an unravelling relationship. These poems break down the self—plucking the sun out of the sky, throwing bones at the void—while courting issues of identity, gender, sex, love, and loss in biting, blunt vernacular. What My Hair Says About You is a jilting confessional debut, with an ear pressed to a flowery, bone-littered floor.
"When Laura Theobald writes, “I’m literally made of poems now,” I believe her. This expanded version of her debut collection offers poem after poem of a singular voice—one that is world-weary, direct, and masterfully conveys intensity, heartbreak, and humor. Theobald’s off-kilter observations make me wish I could see the world through her eyes, and with this book, I get a little closer to doing so." - Gina Meyers, author of Hold It Down
“With feral criminality, Laura Theobald is sucking on your face & poking a finger in your eye & stripping the gold veins right out of the bald mess of your heart & selling them on eBay. She is buying you a mansion, which doubles as a bonefield & enlisting you as a servant to her obscene fragility. She is rummaging through vaults of dismembered love, she is plucking the sun out of the sky, she is asking where you hid all the miracles. She is asking what forgiveness costs, she is defacing all the oracles with shit, she is throwing her own bones at the void.” – Lara Glenum, author of Pop Corpse
“In Laura Theobald’s debut full-length, What My Hair Says About You, the author gives up on communication and instead decides to tell the reader how she really feels. Theobald’s casual charm, boredom and occasional bereftness take you hand-in-hand, poem by poem, among the flowers and dead woods and bedroom scenes and emotional weather. Consider this poem, ‘Sleep,’ in its entirety: 'sleep until I forget you/ until orange is blue.' Come for the poetry, stay for the complications and contradictions, stay for the feels.” - Ben Fama, author of Fantasy
“Laura Theobald’s poems are frank, forthright, funny, moody and often instantly satisfying. These are poems for when you flunk out of grad school, for when you feel like garbage one minute and then try to convince yourself you’re a genius the next, for when you feel exactly as pretty as a dead horse, for when someone in your life says ‘Hello I’m bad’ and you think, ‘I’m bad too.’ Maybe there’s no such thing as a simple feeling.” - Guillaume Morissette, author of The Original Face
“Laura Theobald’s poems are the sugar-rotted teeth she’s hand-plucked out of her own mouth, immaculately washed off, then made into a necklace for you, they’re the feral cats that have found a home in a sleeping bag left in the middle of the woods, they’re the dumpster babies that made it out alive. Laura’s poems roll in the wet grass a couple of times and then wander away, they wipe off the counter in front of you with spit-shine, they ask you to dance in the barn and then beat you with your own ripped off arm, and it feels good. Really fucking good. Laura’s poems should be walked to, and I mean, one ought take a nice long walk or hike, while reading these poems, for they will bring you back to safe and zero, but you are meant to get muddy while getting there. Is there a poet who can slip a note into the world’s mailbox to inform it that its value system is totally messed up and yet still she’ll hum through it? Yes, Laura Theobald can and she has here in What My Hair Says About You: “I think beauty should be worth a lot more,” “No one will ever be good enough / To be inside my body / But here you are,” “I love the air that the bird lives in.” Oh lord. Laura’s holding up a stethoscope to your stupid flowers and you’re gonna like it no matter what. I thank the South for Laura, and I thank Laura for this book.” - Valerie Hsiung, author of efg
“A dark wit and a wounding honesty cycles through Theobald’s poems. Her tone ranges from humorous (‘Now I have cats in my poems and it’s all over’) to despairingly brutal (‘Take me to the kitchen / With a cleaver and your cock / I have pain in my heart’). What My Hair Says About You is not merely an exercise in millennial imagination and desire, but a language for combating demons. A language of breastbone, and rivers, and weeds, and suffocating, tree-like hair. Theobald’s readers will be engorged with dreams, surveilled by chrysanthemums, hammered by dust, followed into caves, and obscured by flowers. You will get lost in this book. Your body will take on a weird shape as you get lost in this book. Your mind will take on a weird shape as you get lost in this book. Probably best to lie down with this book and listen to the sea: ‘I’m laying down right next to you / How does it feel to be your woman again.’” - Paul Cunningham, writer at Fanzine
“With intensity and uncompromising honesty, the rawness in What My Hair Says About You goes beyond autobiography, confession, and the individual in search of desire rather than its cursory objects. Repulsion structures a world where fucking and consorting with demons is a threat of pleasure soaked in blood, love, and the awful tenderness of being too much and being alone.” - Cassandra Troyan, author of Kill Manual
“The speaker has grown throughout the course of the book; she feels good and we feel good that she can move on from a relationship that has caused so much conflict. In the title poem, Theobald writes, ‘I gave up something for you / And I’m not sure what is was’. In the end, she gets that something back—she gets herself.” - Nate Logan, author of Inside the Golden Days of Missing You
“Theobald’s work couches deeply serious questions of identity, gender, sex, love, and loss in familiar terms to millennial readers, often to humorous effect, such as in ‘The South.’ She writes: ‘I go to a thing where nobody knows me / Then to another thing where nobody knows me / Cool.’ And yet, contrasted with lines of such pure and effortless beauty as ‘In the concavity of your hipbone / Just there is where i die,’ from ‘It’s OK,’ Theobald’s moments of postmodern whimsy become suddenly foreign, surprising us with the strangeness of our own vernacular.” - June Gehringer, author of I Love You It Looks Like Rain
“Laura Theobald’s What My Hair Says About You makes me feel like I went up on the roof of the 7/11 to sunbathe and console my heartbreak, and I am drinking a Full Throttle Blue Demon Slurpee that I dumped half a bottle of cough syrup into, and the day is ending and I am filled with a warm sun glow and I am admiring the sunset and this flying flock of birds, perfect and black against the pastel sky, except wait, those aren’t birds, those are bats. SO I guess what I mean to say is there is nothing like it, and it is both beautiful and creepy all at once.” - Juliet Escoria, author of Juliet the Maniac
Full review by Nate Logan for Sink Review
Full review by Paul Cunningham for Entropy
Full review by June Gehringer for New Orleans Review
Interview with Erin Taylor for Maudlin House
About the author
Laura Theobald grew up in the Florida Keys and lives in the South. Her other poetry collections include The Best Thing Ever (Boost House, 2015), and Kokomo (Disorder Press, 2018). She has an MFA from LSU, and makes books for OOMPH! and BOAAT. Some of her recent poems are in The Wanderer, Hobart, Sink, The Atlas Review, Pinwheel, Witch Craft Mag, Everyday Genius, and Black Warrior Review, and in the anthology Women of Resistance (OR, 2018). Her website is lauratheobald.tumblr.com.