GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
GRAPES IN THE CRATER
Camilla Lambert moved to West Sussex in 2012. She had lived on the Isle of Wight for over 18 years before that and it was there that she began to write poetry when she retired in 2007, seeking a total contrast from the life of a senior NHS manager, and before that of a social policy researcher and Open University
She has had individual poems published in ‘SOUTH’, ‘The Interpreter’s House’, ‘Sentinel Literary Quarterly’ and ‘Poetry Cornwall’, as well as in several anthologies, including ‘Benchmarks’(2011), ‘Bridgewatcher and other poems’(2013) and ‘Poems for a Liminal Age’(2015) A number have been placed or highly commended in both national and local competitions. In 2010 with Ed Matyjaszek she
co-edited ‘Island Voices’ a publication arising from a poetry competition celebrating the Poetry Society’s centenary and Tennyson’s bi-centenary.
In 2013 she gained an Open University First Class Honours degree in Humanities with Creative Writing. Currently she is working with other local writers and artists to organise a small scale arts festival to take place in the summer of 2016, designed to celebrate the countryside and history of a rural community threatened by road development. She is active in several poetry writing groups in Sussex, gaining both inspiration and poetic sustenance from writing colleagues. She is an active grandmother and gardener and escapes from time to time on walking holidays.
GRAPES IN THE CRATER
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: 23 NOVEMBER 2015
Acting my Age
When I was sixteen I wore straight skirts,
cardigans, blouses sewed by my aunt
from Butterick patterns pinned, folded
into their packets to use another time.
Anyone would have thought me thirty five.
When I was thirty five I danced round
a birthday bonfire, fingers touched flame,
the woods crackled with discordant languages
wind in my hair tempted with anything,
everything. I could have been twenty three.
When I was twenty three all I wanted
was a kindly man to bring me tea in bed,
pay the mortgage on the dot, cherry trees
foaming down the garden path each spring.
I talked of pensions as if I were forty eight.
When I was forty eight I began to see
my eyes had become my mother’s, a droop
of disappointment in the corner, flickering
with anxiety when checking for the exit.
My soul belonged to a woman of sixty nine.
When I was sixty nine the dawn came earlier;
released from work’s dreariness I woke
to blackbirds pouring out fresh promises.
Age brought surprises, once-bolted doors
opened into snaking alleyways: I was twelve again.
When I was twelve I knew how disease tasted,
cold as a pebble in a mountain stream,
and what lay behind the warning ‘Beware
the wash of passing ships’. Staggering
up the shifting beach I had reached fifty six.
When I was fifty six I took a younger lover,
sex coloured my life crimson, purple, gold.
Peonies and foxgloves were my heralds,
each day another day in paradise, bright
as if I was in love and only sixteen.
No Silver Lining
He stitched a skirt of clouds for her to wear
in the underworld, for blurred remembering:
whirlwind, avalanche, how a new-born dares
to breathe; it had a hem of cumulus, assembling
and dissolving a pageant of centaurs, unicorns.
A waistband sewn from cirrus, with fine shirring,
held tight pleats of nimbostratus, edged in torn
blue spray. He wrapped her. He saw her stirring
as she lay, contrived a blindfold of weighty rain
to hold her flickering eyelids shut. He threaded
silky mist to seal her lips against squalls of pain
and memory too soon, screwed down the leaded
box with icicles, lest she rise and, snarling, leap
into his face and shout the very end of sleep.
He loved his days, sketching
by a door into the walled garden
where peaches ripened,
solitude to study patterns of myth,
time for sailing to far islands.
But something was missing:
a hand to hold,
a body to reach for in the night,
touch to calm
the magma of his wanting.
He took Pygmalion as his tutor,
painted a likeness –
a lady in a russet dress,
flamed her into life, with fumarole veils
to keep her in half light.
Climbing the slopes of Santorini,
poised on top of Vesuvius
he called up
her skin’s smoky tones, her glance
as lazy as her whippet’s was eager.
He kept warm with thoughts
of their couplings
her sheets scented with orange blossom,
they would name the stars
scattered like sparks from Stromboli
tossed wilfully high
towards the clouds and falling away
obsidian-black below the rocks.
When his heart erupted,
spattering the orangery with ash,
she walked with a smile
out of the frame,
tossed the bowl of grapes into the crater’s fire.
My mother is fading. Long silences
I give her a tree.
To be exact it is a giant sequoia
and its height
is like a Bach chorale.
She wants to know how old it is
and I tell her
over three thousand years.
We watch as forest birds take shelter.
Chickadees and jays
catch the falling beads of rain.
I draw the life cycle of the longhorn beetle,
She likes to be informed.
And fire? She seeks confirmation,
has heard wildfires
give new breath to saplings.
At the end I show her all the family
balanced in pairs
along the highest branches.
She swings her way up, smart and agile
as a chamoix.
She calls out Wait for me!
Diverse reflections on family relationships, the strains and gains of love and aging, and how we celebrate the complexities of living through words, painting and music. The poems range across a number of forms.
“In one of Camilla Lambert’s poems, a television journalist ‘offers her eyes and ears, invites me in.’ So, too, does Lambert, who—lucky for her reader—has eyes that miss nothing and an ear that even the most accomplished poet might envy. In these skilful, varied odes to the life cycle, doubt and loss surrender to optimism and regeneration.” Kathryn Maris
“Tugged by two magnetic poles, reality (“the persistence of thistles”) and imagination (“The Fabricator”), Camilla Lambert is that rare poet at home in in-betweenness, alike honouring
dream-logic and vigilant precision, sorrow and gladness. My favourite poem here, “Acting my age", perfectly depicts the giddy dissonance between physical years and seasons of the spirit.” A. E. Stallings
So You Want to Paint Silence
Go for un-peopled rooms, white
doors half open, shine on round
tables, piano lids, uncluttered,
no movement except for dust
dancing in beams of sunlight
that fall onto bare boards
in stretched-out rectangles.
Perhaps suggest, but do not
grant, a promise of someone
entering from the next room,
a laugh might leak out at any
moment. Muffle each shade
of alabaster, chalk, buff,
with a grey pall of quiet.
You could relent, introduce
a woman, her hair neatly pinned,
seen from behind, the white
lace edging of her apron bold
against her black dress. Let her
wait by the window, gaze
downward, thoughts withheld.
If she were to turn, her eyes would
search your face, her lips closed
her stare level. Without pleading
a finger would steal to her mouth
bidding you keep the words unsaid,
and the rustle of her skirt would
fade before you had even heard it.
A woman, badly charred,
on the bed.
The thin reporter turns
stepping round heaped clothes
which seem to be
a body, legs burned.
her eyes and ears,
invites me in.
Yes, I have seen hair
singed to wiry spirals
by a candle held too near
the jellied crisp
dissolved in hell-blaze
or how a blackened face
still wears a mask of fear.
A woman, badly charred,
on the bed.
I am swamped
by thud of feet running across the yard
sudden crack of guns
slosh of petrol.
Each wall of the battered house
slams back like thrown-open shutters,
breaks apart to show
a woman, badly charred,
on the bed.