Camilla Lambert’s poems often start with the familiar, family relationships, falling in love, television journalist, then she injects a small dose of magical realism to lift the poem from simple, acute observation. She draws on fairytales, especially in “Red Rescue” which starts,
“She was new-born, un-looked for.
They wrapped her in the sumptuous cloak
of a cardinal. It re-woke her walnut heart,
banished the blue from her lips.”
The poem keeps its internal logic, drawing imagery from Hans Christian Anderson’s “Red Shoes” and ending on an image of a fading sunset no longer reflecting red onto the sea’s waves so the blue waters pick up the image in “blue from her lips.” Camilla Lambert doesn’t rely on readers’ knowledge of fairytales or surreal images. “Sequoia” begins
“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.”
The permanence of nature is a comforting gift. The act of sharing and inclusion is brought to the fore at the end of the poem:
“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!”
The exuberant “Acting my Age” has each stanza leads into the next and the ages jump around, as memories often do.
“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.”
The poem highlights the gap between physical years and spiritual years with its suggest that you’re really only as old as you feel. A fresh experience brings the feeling of being young again. “Blackberry Bush with Hornet”, a sonnet, begins
“See us, fellow gatherers, a fiery hornet and me,
giving each other leave to investigate and taste.”
Camilla Lambert handles nature and people equally well. She understands craft, takes on flights of imagination which she weaves within cycles of life.