Our featured publication for January is The Aesthetics of Breath by Charles G Lauder Jr, published by V. Press.
‘There’s an enviable gusto and assurance about this debut, the confident voicing of a
distinctive sensibility that deserves our attention. Lauder has a keen ear for the musical and metrical possibilities of a well-wrought line which well serves his deftly rendered lyric style. Particularly impressive are the domestic sequences and longer poems which hold both interest and momentum throughout: an achievement of poetic coherence and craft that can only be accomplished by a poet more than ready to stake a claim for his place on the contemporary scene.‘ Martin Malone
‘In his debut collection, Charles G. Lauder is not afraid to delve beneath the surface of white masculinites, unearthing violence and toughness but vulnerability and tenderness also. This means examining his own past in the US; what he has inherited, what he brings to his life in England, and what he finds there. Again and again, poems reveal that his family is his lodestone: “We are our elements. I would be lost/without them.” The Aesthetics of Breath is a rich and varied collection which has love and social justice at its heart but does not turn aside from uncomfortable truths.‘ Pam Thompson
‘The Aesthetics of Breath is NOT a breath of fresh air – it is an unflinching, deep breathing-in of a gas called ‘history’, so that it hurts in the lungs. Be they personal myths or legends of entire nations’ violence, here the vapours of various histories sublimate into Lauder’s vivid ‘solidifications’ – poems that render the distance and otherness of places and times as touchable and smelt. Some of these poems are ‘stellar gases congealing into orbits’, and they are celebratory confirmations of essential stories we humans need to tell our selves. But be warned: some of these poems cast ‘Hiroshima shadow[s]’ to exorcise our civilisation’s pale myths, its ghosts that too often comfortably haunt us, and our too easy and shallow breaths of memes. At times this book is like opening a grave to find the buried still alive … and violently gasping out accounts of ‘the ruling passions of the woods.’ Mark Goodwin
There’s a river that runs behind the house
where most go to murder,
hands around the throat, head held down.
A day doesn’t go by when a body
isn’t being dragged to the water’s edge.
There’s not much resistance as I stare
at the back of the empty skull; I never
look at the face – all complete strangers.
One could be my family but I’ll never know.
I rummage through the pockets
before the current takes them away
and then go back inside for dinner.
Some are of color, some pale.
I never give a thought to ghosts
or what their life was like.
It’s a fair assumption I wouldn’t
have liked them. At some point
they probably would have shot me
or my kin, or stolen from me. So much
of what I have is less than what
my father and grandfather had.
The Japanese Movie
When friends’ backs are turned – preoccupied
with ice cream and their year-long trip to France
flitting in and out of French as if in love –
I hide in the audience of a Japanese movie
as if slipping from one dream to the next
the ending clear but not how it’s supposed to be.
There is comfort in the dark with strangers
not looking at one another but at a spot
above each other’s head flashes of movement
and color that take us back to the beginning
when there was only laughter and gesture
I couldn’t speak the language
…………………….and no one could speak mine.
Your mother cannot shift the carbon dioxide out of the bottom of her lungs where it
piles up overnight like old laundry. She cannot exhale those dreams of angry men and
dead boys. The burden pins her to the bed. Your father, reeking of sawdust, puts it down
to lack of exercise, the meds, a virus she probably caught on last year’s cruise, the Asian
breathing into a mask in the next bed. When your mum gets her breath back, she scolds
him for the overboiled egg salad sandwich, for losing his wallet and not paying the bills,
for not having finished tiling the kitchen wall. Fifty years of avoiding an argument has
finally burst. Making your excuses, you collect your mother’s soiled clothes and retreat
home to wash it all away.
As a child in church, bored by sermons of sin
and resurrection, I stared at how stiff collars
dug neatly into the crevices of men’s necks,
heads bowed and raised in prayer like marionettes.
Like ducks nodding to one another
before the drake mounts the hen.
Does he worry about life and death
while he bites her scruff, pins her down?
The cat brings us half-eaten mice, or a shrew
that bolts as soon as it’s dropped,
the dog nearby rolls in traces of fox piss.
Do either think whether there is purpose?
Perhaps the rabbit contemplates – amid
shredded cabbage and straw, likewise
bullocks in the grass before the tractor
arrives with feed – why we’re here.
Was it thanks to God, ponders the cock
as it leaps into the neighbor’s yard
to flee the stench of a cracked egg,
or the right combo of carbon molecules?
The ducks unearth a frog, pull at a rear leg
as it screams and leaps lopsided
toward the hedge, the ducks in hot pursuit.
I don’t get out of my chair to intervene.
Charles G Lauder Jr was born in San Antonio, Texas, lived for a few years each on America’s East and West Coasts, and moved to south Leicestershire, UK, in 2000. His poems have been published widely in print and online, and in his two pamphlets Bleeds (Crystal Clear Creators, 2012) and Camouflaged Beasts (BLER, 2017). From 2014 to 2018, he was the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House, and for over twenty years he has copy-edited academic books on literature, history, medicine, and science. His debut poetry collection is The Aesthetics of Breath (V. Press, Oct 2019). Twitter: @cglauder
The Aesthetics of Breath is available for purchase from the V. Press website.