Letters to the Sky is a collection of poems examining themes of friendship, nostalgia, identity, self-adornment, self-protection, sadness, hope and change. These ethereal, romantic, and feminine poems draw on the aesthetic beauty of nature, flowers, trees, the sky and the sea, to convey emotional intimacies. As if happening upon a cache of personal letters, the reader is invited to share in the poet’s private world, where gardens, the seaside, a palace bathroom and an antique’s cabinet are among the poems’ settings.
The poet’s love of London and her experiences of living in the city feature strongly throughout the collection, offsetting the gentler dreaminess of the natural environment poems with the city’s vibrancy. The collection’s long coming of age poem Dear Camden journals the poet’s experience of living in Camden Town with honesty, humour, joy and spirited rhythm.
Deeply visual, filled with colour and decorativeness, Letters to the Sky, celebrates the poet’s love of art, fashion and antiques. Using painterly and at times old fashioned language, the poet explores non-traditional poetry subjects such as make up, dresses and shopping. Throughout the collection, the poems’ gorgeous veneer of dainty, pretty language splits open to reveal heartaches, anxieties and the poet’s quest to learn how to live meaningfully.
‘Camellia Stafford has the gift of making humility sound like boldness, the perverse demure and the decorative, steely. In its evocation of a muse whose charms Ovid would have coveted, there is the sense of something very highly distilled, just and even sacred. In Letters to the Sky the reader will find poem after poem of remarkable maturity, tenderness and depth – and to boot – knee-trembling pleasure.’ —Annie Freud
‘Letters to the Sky is a dressing-up box of nostalgic delights, a sensual exploration of friendship, romance and sweet melancholia with heart-shaped sunglasses on.’ —Emily Berry
‘Camellia Stafford’s collection has disturbed some of the ways I think about contemporary poetry. The mask of irony is lifted. Universal experiences of anxiety, love, loneliness, are dealt with directly and almost beautified. The language is vivid, colourful. But there is something more, an over-reaching, a leaning toward something less discernible. It’s as if she articulates for me the difference between someone who is good at crafting a poem and someone who is a poet.’ —Wayne Holloway-Smith
‘Whether drifting through the rococo and pink-noire offerings of museum and city, contemplating the indisputable divinities of art, fashion and love; or effortlessly stepping through the carnage of the afterparty, Camellia Stafford’s exquisite first collection offers us poems of great emotional depth and complexity.
From spot-on ekphrases, to painstaking jump-cut re-constructions of past events, she extols ‘the artistry of looking’, in beautiful, generous poems that are both moving, and saturated with a fevered humour.’ —Patrick Brandon
‘She is one of the younger London poets now emerging who is worth reading and attending to.’ —Todd Swift