Book Review: Took House, by Lauren Camp
Review by Rebecca Beardsall
Tupelo Press, August 1, 2020
Lauren Camp’s fifth book of poetry Took House weaves together the pain and pleasure of love and a life lingering through time.
Opening with hunger and appetite, Took House, an alluringly haunting poetry collection, invites the reader to the table to dip in and out of love, obsession, and what remains hidden.
Camp masterfully brings nature and landscape into the personal with whispers of what remains unsaid. In “The Night Clouds Wrestled the Sky,” the reader is forced to pause and stay in the slow moments of the minutes moving by: “Tress unfurled their fluted, five-petaled, / veined fingers. Precision worth nothing.” The watching and witnessing of time dances towards hearing: “After light was stripped from the scarlet wall, / a string of birds armed long branches,/rhapsodizing;” “Once their noise was placed, it remained / in my mind—for years.” Finally, the speaker moves to the theme of appetite, hunger, and need, that rolls around this collection like wine swilling in a glass highlighted by candlelight. A way to consume the physical world, “That night the sky came up to my lips. / It tasted of wind, and gave me something to miss” (8).
Full, empty glasses, and bottles of wine all left and yet not forgotten sit on the pages a reverberation to moments in time. In “Splendid,” the first mention of wine in the collection, the glasses are:
filled with disorder. Over and over
we sat at a table without days,
our lips scarlet with logic
and random syntax.
[. . .]
Our last words. Of course,
At some point, we at the table
were reminded only of breathing:
that echo and echo. (12)
“Answers to Why,” drips with passion and desire. The speaker, after “a long line of wines,” opens up, figuratively and literally, to the reader:
Listen, I was dissolving. An ongoing
volatility enveloped the inside
of my thighs. I didn’t know to limit
the damage, so sipped again
in the careless slow light.
The table wished to be between us. (31)
Over and over Camp points the reader to autumn, the season that holds beauty and death simultaneously in its hands. The movement through relationships follows the cycle of the season, and Camp’s continual return to the season of ending echoes the pain that comes with love—but knowing that pain cannot exist if there wasn’t first passion, pleasure, and obsession.
Weaving together the unsettling nature of personal relationships and passage of time, Took House is an evocative poetry collection. The last poem, “Homeostasis: Autumn,” reminds the reader of the journey, “This is why the pangs of time are necessary [. . .] The whole day has nearly disappeared and night is a ruffle about to blossom” (70). There is always another spring after the autumn. We continue to echo through time.
REBECCA BEARDSALL works at Western Washington University. She received her MA in English from Lehigh University and her MFA from Western Washington University. She has more than twenty years’ experience in freelance writing in the United States and abroad. Rebecca is the prose editor at Psaltery & Lyre and prose reviewer at Minerva Rising. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Thimble, SWIMM, West Texas Review, Two Cities Review, The Schuylkill Valley Journal, Poetry NZ, and Rag Queen Periodical. She wrote and co-edited three books, including Philadelphia Reflections: Stories from the Delaware to the Schuylkill. Find her at: rebeccabeardsall.com
Photo by Rebecca Beardsall