In the following email interview, poet Laura Theobald talks about What My Hair Says About You (paperback), an expanded version of her 2016 collection of the same name.
To start, is there a theme to the poems in What My Hair Says About You, something that connects them?
The theme is me. I am in all of them.
So then how did you decide what poems you’d include in What My Hair Says About You?
I picked all the best ones.
And I have to ask the obvious but also stupidest question: Is the book called What My Hair Says About You because you have the world “bald” in your name?
Jesus. No. That’s horrible.
Sorry. What My Hair Says About You is broken up into different sections: “Hello,” “Magic,” “Poetry,” “Fuck,” “Smile,” “Fall,” “Spring,” “Death,” “Summer,” and “Bye.” What is the significance of these sections?
They help to break up the book and describe the poems in that section. You know, like sections. “Smile” is the happiest one. It’s only mildly depressing. You can see that the last one is called “Bye.” It’s very clever.
Do you think when someone reads What My Hair Says About You that they should read the “Hello” section one day and then “Magic” the next, and so on? Because that’s what I’m inclined to do.
Oh. Let me know how you like doing that. I think you should do it however you want. But yeah, I made the poems kind of have a general arc.
The poems in What My Hair Says About You are all free verse. What is it about free verse that you like so much?
It’s the best kind of verse. Fight me.
No thank you. I haven’t been in a fight since the Carter administration. Speaking of olden times, What My Hair Says About You was originally published in 2016, but this version adds a ton of new poems and a new intro by Mathias Svalina. Why did you you decide to add the new poems and the intro?
So people would buy it, I think. Doesn’t that make it more appealing? It’s so hefty now. It was all Ctch’s idea.
Ctch Bsnss is a poet and the editor I worked with on my book. One half of Sad Spell Press. She also edits Witch Craft Mag with Elle Nash, the other half of Sad Spell, and has been doing what is lovingly called Ctch Fest, a lit fest in Denver. She also started this thing called House Party, which was a zine she put together — and included me in — and also a promotion platform for poets and things like that. It seems like she always has like fifty things going and I think she does. She makes things happen. It’s great.
And when you decided to add an intro, why did you think Mathias Svalina would be the best person to do it?
Also Ctch’s idea. Mathias had recommended the book to her. Apparently he was saying good things about me before it went into print. That is so nice.
What My Hair Says About You comes with the dedication “for women.” What do you hope that I, as a man, will get out of reading it?
I don’t care.
Okay then. Now, aside from What My Hair Says About You, you have another poetry collection coming soon called Kokomo. First, when will that be out?
Next year some time. Whenever we can manage to finish putting it together — just some edits and a cover, I guess.
When were the poems in Kokomo written in relation to those of What My Hair Says About You?
What My Hair Says About Youwas written from like 2009 to 2016; Kokomowas written between 2016 and 2018.
And is there a theme to Kokomo?
I’d love someone else to answer this question for me because it’s hard for me to say much besides that they just feel different. They’re about two different relationships. Kokomo is also set in New Orleans, where I was living, and kind of obliquely references the Florida Keys, where I grew up.
Finally, if someone enjoys What My Hair Says About You, what books of poetry by someone else would you recommend they read next?
Chelsey Minnis. I’ve probably said that in every interview. I just preordered Baby, I Don’t Care and I’m so excited.
Lara Glenum is like if you condensed my poems into a cannonball and launched it into your rival’s face. She was my professor and is now one of my best friends.
I think Morgan Parker’s work and mine are kind of similar. I think we share a certain kind of messiness and strangeness. I don’t know if she would agree.
Jenny Zhang is one of my favorites. She only has one book of poetry [Dear Jenny, We Are All Find] but it’s insane. I was definitely influenced by her when I saw her read in person.
Steve Roggenbuck, my publisher for The Best Thing Ever; Jennifer Joshua Espinoza, my pressmate at Boost House; Fae Gheringer, another good friend of mine who I’m so happy to see publishing a lot right now; and everyone who blurbed my book: Gina Myers, Ben Fama, Valerie Hsiung, Cassandra Troyan, Nate Logan — who I used to work with at Spooky Girlfriend — Juliet Escoria, and Monica McClure.