Laura’s Desires is a diptych of two formally distinct long poems, each approaching various pop-cultural artifacts as a way to engage with longing, vulnerability, and the possibility of liberation.
Referencing pop culture artifacts, from hit ’90s singles like Selena’s “Dreaming of You” to heroines of cult classic TV and films (Laura Palmer and Variety’s Christine), this dynamic collection looks to these iconic touchstones as sites for feminist analysis and intervention. Traveling through dreamscapes, fantasy, and the quotidian, Laura’s Desires forges a path away from fear and shame, guiding us towards liberation.
It is rare to encounter writing without ego, writing out of giving or generosity. Generosity being insight into the uncertainty of the writer’s conviction and authority itself—giving over to the possibility that she is unreal, made of dreaming, wisps of choruses barely heard on HOT 97, and being released from the “temporary numb despotism of being anyone at all.” The luminosity of Laura’s Desires, the joy of it and its insight, is how it communicates recording—little black marks we call words, scores of recorded songs, horror films that both play back and isolate our terror—as an act of poetic power that is in a symbiotic cuddle with having no idea what is going on, yet urgently going on. A beautiful, gentle, and fiercely intelligent book, of our time and for us.
Laura’s Desires blasts open the possessive suffix in its own title, showing us how desire is never one’s own insofar as it always belongs to someone else–a lover’s gaze, an imagined other. The ever-deferred answer to the question “what do you want?” moves this unnerving inquiry into a politics of feminist desire that finds liberation in its own dependency. What I love most is the way the book braids together the language of criticism and autobiography into a third, more luminous prose, one through which, at the edge of sleep, a softer, more permeable self is restored to the collective where it belongs.
What a dull world we’d have to put up with if desire didn’t mean too much! Laura Henriksen’s lust for life leads her into reverie. In a magnificent pair of philosophical poem-essays, Henriksen twangs the elastics that stretch from the subject to God, from want to social possibility, from peat moss to sexed being. As the detente that paused the sex wars collapses, I’m personally grateful that Henriksen is on the side of women who fuck and think about it.
“Laura’s Desires,” the eponymous long poem of the forthcoming Laura’s Desires (Nightboat, March 2024) examines bodies and how they gather–in subway cars and movie theaters, on camping trips and at living room sex parties. The poem manages to create on the page the same spaces of possibility that I seek at an in-person reading. Encounters between the speaker and lovers, friends, strangers, art, and the natural world provide sustained and fleeting moments.
Laura Henriksen is the author of Laura’s Desires, as well as the chapbooks Agata, Canadian Girlfriends, and October Poems. She lives in Sunset Park, Lenapehoking, works at The Poetry …