Richard Lambert was born in London in 1971. He has a Ph.D from Bristol University and lives and works in the city. His poems have appeared in magazines and in the Bloodaxe anthology The Poetry Cure edited by Julia Darling and Cynthia Fuller.
“Richard Lambert’s voice carries a stately quietness through the line of his poems without the least sense of contrivance. He is certainly one to watch.”
Tim Liardet, poet, critic and teacher
“Richard Lambert has the true poet’s gift for transcending the commonplace… The Magnolia marks the emergence of a most attractive and intelligent writer.”
John Mole, poet, musician and teacher
“Richard Lambert has an eye for the numinous and an ear for a song which come to expression in these startling, spare poems. There is though in this delicacy an intriguing, expansive and often compassionate vision that makes this a surprising and very impressive debut.”
Greta Stoddart, poet
The Rialto’s Bridge Pamphlet ‘The Magnolia’ by Richard Lambert is available here
A review of The Magnolia by Richard Lambert
There are only twenty-nine poems in this pamphlet collection. They are mostly short – John Mole, in his blurb, describes some of them as ‘almost like charms or talismans’. But what is said is what is there in the subject: there is no padding, no sense of consciously ‘making a poem’, and so they do not go on longer than is right for them: the words that are there carry their own authority. He writes about a range of ordinary things: undoing a knot; a moment’s experience; a vision; a conversation at the breakfast table; a business partnership. The poems can be gnomic; they are sometimes disturbing, more often celebratory.
Richard Lambert says he ‘writes poems from habit, what feels like necessity and impulse, from engagement with others’ poetry, from a feeling of connection with the world, and from a desire to make something with its own integrity’. These remarks direct you, in fact, to what’s going on in his poems: the habit of looking (or rather, perhaps, allowing yourself to see); the necessity or impulse which reduces things to their essence, without padding; the ‘connection with the world’, in an alertness to precise detail. The poems appear slight: an idle reader, glancing through, might feel they don’t get anywhere. But that’s because they focus intently, and with lyricism, on their subject, not making any effort to construct it into what you might call a conventional poem. Thus in ‘Lore’ Lambert is well aware that the raw material of his parents’ wisdom (about dock leaves for a sting, and what to do with an egg etc.) aren’t ‘enough for poems’ – yet these inadequate bits are in fact a poem with its own identity: short, but poetical in its integrity, in that the details are allowed to be what they are, not stretched for a poetically induced significance. So – yes: it doesn’t say much. But what it does say is exact, and, however minimalist, absolutely true to itself.
The truth of a thing is hard to grasp, hard to set down. To be a poem, more is needed. Truth needs shape. And despite all the economy of these pieces, they’re not just random impressionistic jottings: they all have their own careful shape. Sometimes these shapes are familiar, in rhyme (though rhyme is occasionally just a bit of an obvious corset, as in ‘A New View’) or repetition; sometimes the simple details impose their own imaginative structure.
Lambert is a brave poet, though not in the usual sense of tackling difficult subjects or demanding poetic forms; he’s courageous in the way he trusts his subject, trusts his words, doesn’t interfere too much. Here’s a couple – a short one:
the falling letters
of the departure board
clattering like a hundred blackbirds
and a longer one…
For a friend in time of trouble
But there are things you should know: love, too, is possible.
Now the soul is not so new, it’s less easy, sure,
you’ve all the paraphernalia the soul acquires
on its journey: history, things, yet more grief?
waking alarmed at the dark, stunned
at your own sorrow still? I’m sorry. But this too,
three wood-pigeons cooing from the winter limbs of a plane tree
opposite the garden centre, where skimmia, daffodils,
seeds, cacti with flowers, are laid out on trays;
if it weren’t for time, how could they grow?
Being brave let the sorrow fill and fill,
until you surface, which you will.
I think Lambert is original and interesting, and yes, brave. See what you think.
R.V. Bailey, Envoi