A Hotel in Belgium explores the emotional space between loyalty and skepticism. Here is a psyche preoccupied with both doubt and dread, but also a desire to surrender itself to the risks of love and trust. These smart, beautiful poems—often complicating their lyricism with formal rigor and adaptations of found texts—investigate the delicacy of human relationships and the hopeful relentlessness with which we pursue them. The voice of these poems is tender, imaginative and sometimes wry, building an urgent narrative of melancholy, self-doubt and the ultimate resilience of the spirit.
“A Home for Head Injuries,” from A Hotel in Belgium
Take me to a warm room and keep me
lying flat. Place a small pillow
beneath my injured head. My eyes
may eventually go blank, always when
most excited. They may begin losing
perspective: The sun is in my throat.
Please loosen the clothing around my neck.
I am beginning to see a dome of light.
It is a shrinking habitat. I might say:
My tongue weighs tons and is made of sulfur.
I might say: My tongue is mostly phosphorous,
my lashes carry salt. Where was I going?
I was heading in a direction. You know
how it must feel to make an admission.
It is easy to forgive. It is asked for. It is given.
Bring me back indoors, undress me, place me
in a bed and sponge my body freely
with seawater until my temperature drops.
I can get upset by the easiest of things:
blood near my eyes. The bleeding point
most likely in the lungs, stomach, or skull.
Until I become fully conscious prop me
on my side to keep airways open.
I am frightened. It is difficult to grieve.
I am thinking it is cold, it is only morning.
I am uneasy on land and water.
My head hurts and I am trying to explain
that each person has a partner on the opposite coast.
When the two partners find each other
they sit down together and wait by the sea.
Everything is calm, peaceful, and cold.
People are arriving to build a home
near the sea. The sea will be late to arrive.
“Brett Fletcher Lauer’s A Hotel in Belgium is about estrangement and the distances created by our disparate experiences of the world (‘the machinery in you malfunctions in me’). In these poems, mood and moons are viewed as if via telescope and operate according to stage directions (‘a thousand gray stars prearranged / to shine so-so over the wonders of modern cities’). But just when you become accustomed to the sheen of these poems’ surfaces, sinkholes of precisely rendered beauty and vulnerability appear. The result is surprising and unsettling in the best way.” – Matthea Harvey
“…These poems are serious, funny, confident, weird, sensitive, and generous. They achieve something close to Frank O’Hara’s dream of ‘true abstraction,’ a deeply personal and human tone that does not resort to the limiting confines of the specifics of autobiography. This book points forward to a new exciting direction in American poetry, and I am so glad we can finally take it with us into the future.” – Matthew Zapruder
“As hemlines rise and fall, so do poetic fads and blockbuster meds, our homegrown strain of Symbolism and Deep Imagism having gone into hibernation (like God) along with the likes of Larry Levis, Mark Strand and Stephen Dobyns all amplifying a more plain-spoken spellbound tradition in lines and stanzas chiseled to last—this would be in keeping with the company BFL (Brett Fletcher Lauer) assiduously keeps…” Read the full review.
“Lauer’s poems ripple like muscle, even as they circle around the notion that we may not possess tools strong enough to arrive at a singular definition of who and what we are….By laying bare superstitious patterns of mind that we routinely interpret as meaning, Lauer’s poems reveal the indeterminacy of what we’re able to know…without forgoing what beauty is to be found in the attempts we make to know it.” Read the full review.
“The excellent ‘Work Product’ begins, ‘I am here breathing / heavy into one end / of the receiver // in order to reassure you / I am here / on one end breathing.’ Although the speaker, a telemarketer type, is physically remote, the poem ends with a ringing phone: ‘Line two, it is your mother / and you are crying again. / Don’t cry. I am touching // your shoulder.’ This impetus to touch, set against technology’s limits, is galvanizing; in the face of ‘no signal,’ a ‘perfect absence’ and ‘a shovel un- / powered by imagination,’ Lauer’s speakers nonetheless gesture toward intimacy, toward the imaginative. These attempts, his poems suggest, may be as good as we can do. Indeed, they may have to be enough.” Read the full review.