Plain sky blue cover. author's name large lower case in top quarter stretching from side to side of cover. Title is in bottom third somewhat smaller but quite big. The words 'camouflaged beasts' have no capitals but have double speech marks to open and close. Weird.camouflaged beasts, Charles G. Lauder Jr.

The Black Light Engine Room, 2017  £5.00


The opening poem, ‘Late in the Evening’, isn’t about poetic rhythm as such — it’s about rain and its companionable sounds — but these lines caught me:

but still a sense

of something relayed
in the rhythm,

like code passed
between posts

They touch on communication and the way a poet reaches — and then holds — a reader by more than just the surface of the poem. The subject alone is never enough; if the poem lacks an underlying supporting pulse it might as well be written in prose. Rhythm can soothe (as in this poem), where the short couplets are subtly half-rhymed, and where the closing couplet (‘an old know, / that we are never alone’) shows how Lauder’s poems will meet and connect with his readers. He doesn’t spell it out or force the connection; he lets the reader feel it.

Rhythm can unsettle, too. Take ‘Night Bus’, in which buses and travellers share the same lurching movement  —

Night buses gather in Trafalgar like drunks
red-faced   bleary-eyed   prop up lamp-posts
swap stories   then with a sigh and a slash
heave away   all the aches and pains of a teeter
around the corner 

Buses and drunks alike are too exhausted to give us the full Trafalgar Square; they can only manage a truncated stab at the name. Subject matter and rhythm are working together, and Lauder is alert to this. Like any good poet, he has command of a range of rhythms and has an ear for the most appropriate. Late night tension, uncertainty, and a tendency to stumbling are echoed in a rhythm that edges towards instability while remaining just within control. Reading aloud reveals the variety of rhythmic use — as in the voice of the state bed at Calke Abbey in ‘A Semblance of Importance’ —

I am stateliness, I am fertility,
I am prosperity and opulence. I am longevity.

Long vowels, yes, but listen to the rhythm of confidence. It pays to read these poems aloud.

D A Prince