Evelyn Lau was one of my very favorite poets more than fifteen years ago. I utterly adored her poetry collections “Oedipal Dreams” (1992) and “In the House of Slaves” (1994), which spoke with a raw yet controlled vulnerability on themes of unrequited love, pain, self-destruction, self-control, and power dynamics especially in the context of kinky and imbalanced male/female relationships.
Including extramarital affairs, dominance and submission, voyeurism and exhibitionism, suicidal urges, feeling empty and longing for love but sublimating with fetishistic sex and more, Lau’s content might sound a bit melodramatic or otherwise over the top by some reader’s standards, but much of her poetic content is based on her real life experiences and for me it worked strongly, because her yearning felt genuine and her imagery was both titillating and compelling. The voice of the poems seemed to be driven by unexpected intelligence, an astute power of observation, and a prematurely world-weary sense.
She offered poems of bleak disillusionment written in a voice that didn’t wish to be disillusioned. The tone of many of her poems seemed jaded on the surface, giving way to a painful vulnerability at the core, a combination that the speaker used to flirt with readers, sometimes even to toy with readers as though they were bed partners in some tantalizingly dangerous intimate game of cat & mouse. After the latest round of sexual fetishism had snapped to a close, the reader was left wanting more and so was the speaker. She was unsatisfied, alone, desolate, devastated, and desperate. Other times, she was muted, numb, and doubtful of her own capacity to experience true emotion and she desired to do something extreme in order to feel something real. She tended to view herself as a game piece, a performer, a doll that could be moved from one position into the next-from room to room, from scene to scene. There seemed to be an underlying masochism within her, which fascinated me on some warped level and spoke well to a younger version of me.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed when I read Lau’s later poetry collection, “Treble” (2005). It seemed nowhere near as powerful to me as her earlier material. Her earlier work was presumably bred and fed by her real life experiences on the streets as a teen, where she became enmeshed in a world of drugs and prostitution. “Treble” is presumably much more distant from such subject matter and draws upon more normal terrain and seems bland and office-like in comparison. It is too vanilla for my tastes.
Of course, almost everyone’s lifestyle choices and tastes and poetic favorites do seem to change over time, but the powerful memories of favorite books from older times in one’s existence can still remain very strong. I’d like to think the Evelyn Lau books that most highly aroused me would still resonate my brain, but I haven’t returned to them in recent years, because I don’t want to find out my feelings about them have changed. I do not wish to ruin the powerful mystique of those books for myself.
You may find out more about Evelyn Lau on Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evelyn_Lau and partake of some of her creative writing for yourself.