Featured Publication – The Aesthetics of Breath by Charles G Lauder Jr

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

LAUDER _ CHARLES_G_THE AESTHETICS OF BREATH_V PRESS

 

Surviving

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.

 

Dirty Laundry

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.

 

Sunday Morning

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.

Featured Publication – How To Parallel Park by James Davey

Our featured publication for April is How To Parallel Park by James Davey, published by V. Press.

Stark, poised, precisely observed, James Davey’s poetry well demonstrates how much more emotion is conveyed the greater the restraint. The poems also exhibit an impressive musicality, from the lilting to the percussive. Each poem rewards rereading.” Carrie Etter”

These poems by James Davey are vivid, articulate and entertaining. They evoke the peculiar intensity of childhood fears, the angst of adolescence, the tremors of first loves. Davey has a gift for clear-eyed dramatic presentation, as well as an often-humorous take on human condition and a true empathy for the various characters he comes across, be they ‘pyroman’ a down-and-out who accumulates trash to burn, the terrified child taken on a hunting trip, or the lover discovering the ‘colours’ of a girlfriend. This is a promising and well-wrought debut.” Amy Wack

Davey’s work is confident, crafted, elegant in its simplicity. The poems are full of moments of recognition for the reader, subtle emotive power balancing understated humour. I trust him to show me something worth seeing with no fluff around the substance.” Anna Freeman

HTPP

 

Pyroman

We often see him through the playground railings,
arms loaded with odds and ends rescued from scrap heaps

and rubbish tips: a floral lampshade, three-legged chair,
and hanging round his neck, pairs of tatty trainers

tied together by their laces. He shuffles past in his grubby mac,
a scabby dog yapping round his ankles

and we rush to taunt him – Filcher! Filcher!
but never cause a flicker

in his thousand-yard stare.
Sometimes we see him through our classroom windows

and stand on our chairs for a better look
at what he’s salvaged, each time his treasures more bizarre.

One day he stutters past dragging a soiled mattress,
the next carrying a child’s plastic kite.

On a tinder-dry morning in July, a pillar of black smoke
rolls above his rooftop across the street.

The playground freezes – our heads back, mouths wide open,
the smell of burning plastic heaving toward us,

the crack and burst of flames merging with the long high
whine of sirens in the distance.

Six months later I pass him on the street, his soot-grimed face
aglow, carrying a wooden crate, a cricket bat, a headless doll.

 

When You Want it 
Late night alcohol and cigarettes…when you want it

Perform a U-turn when possible, says the woman
in my sat-nav – I call her Jane.
So I swing across the road
in one practised motion,
the sweep of my headlights
igniting the fine rain needling the pavement.
Bottles of Cab-sav, cans of Carlsberg,
and a kaleidoscope of Alcopops
rattle in the boot of my Fiat Panda
as Jane directs me to my next customer.
Drive three hundred yards, then turn left.
Only the restless and the homeless
wander the streets at this hour.
A girl collecting cardboard boxes outside Asda,
plastic bags wrapped around her shoes,
pulls up her hood and takes a swig
from a plastic bottle as I drive past.
At the next roundabout, take the second exit,
says Jane – and as she speaks
she appears in the passenger seat,
plump with her third child,
her hair cut shorter than normally – it suits.
She tells me the latest on the children
and her husband, Derek, an accountant
with a confident moustache,
describes their new house in Hampstead
with a gravel driveway and bay windows.
The baby is kicking; last week their cat
burned its tail in the toaster.
I can smell her perfume, citrus bloom.
The hairs rise on my arm.
In two hundred yards, turn right, she says.
You have reached your destination.
I pull into an unlit cul-de- sac,
park between a wheel-less car
propped up by four small pillars of bricks
and a soiled mattress dumped by a fence.
A slice of light splits the darkness
as someone inches open their front door.
A sallow face peeks out from behind the chain.
I’m waved forward.
Perform a U-turn when possible, says Jane.

 

How to Parallel Park

My instructor takes me to a country lane
to practise my parallel parking.

I slip the stick into reverse and start backing up
into a gap between two parked cars.

I take it steady, work my clutch control.
I rotate the wheel clockwise through both hands.

I check my mirrors. Listen to the engine’s rev
ticking over nicely.

I draw even with the rear of the first parked car
(a red Clio with a nodding dog on its dash)

notice a bare foot pressed against its window;
a bare arse bobbing up and down –

a muffled chorus of love-moans bluing the air.
My instructor insists we abandon the manoeuvre.

I restart my stalled engine. I pull away nice and slow,
making sure to check my mirrors.

 

Previous publication credits are The Interpreter’s House, New Walk and The Echo Room, respectively. 

James Davey grew up in Bristol and currently lectures in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Before returning to the U.K. in 2014, he spent three years working in Catania, Sicily, as an English-language teacher. His poetry has previously appeared in journals including Poetry Wales, New Welsh Reader, Stand, The Warwick Review, Ambit, New Walk, Agenda, and The Interpreter’s House. How to Parallel Park is his debut poetry pamphlet.

How To Parallel Park is available to buy from the V. Press website, here.