L.K. (Lucy) Holt was born in 1982 in Melbourne, Australia, spent her childhood in Adelaide and returned to Melbourne to study history. She began to write poems by way of the visual arts and experienced it as a liberation, because she had more control over words than over paint, clay and pencils. Ted Hughes’s Crow was the first collection that overwhelmed Holt. Other influences on her work have been Seamus Heaney, Robert Lowell, John Donne and Anne Carson.
She has published two books of poetry so far. Her debut collection, Man Wolf Man (2009), was awarded the Kenneth Slessor Prize, while for Patience, Mutiny (2010) she received the Grace Leven Prize. L.K. Holt was the editor of Blast: Poetry & Critical Writing, and currently she is the editor of the webzine So Long Bulletin of Australian Poetry & Criticism.
Her poems, in which birds, the world of nature and historical characters feature prominently, read like small sculptures composed of set scenes and language:
I watch now the birds
so I do not have to watch myself.
Holt is not shy of employing neologisms to give her images an extra layer. For instance, she fuses ‘subjects’ and ‘objects’ to make ‘sobjects’, and in another poem her grandmother and a moth combine to form grandmoth. She views her poetry as an ‘exacting science’, and her aim is “to find truths and patterns and equivalents in the smallest details of human experience”.
Even without faith
there’s always a best-case scenario.
The poems breathe an atmosphere of concern with the future; they are sometimes sombre, sometimes cheerful and occasionally carefree, but they are always permeated with melancholy and a sense of tradition.
“I agree with Da Vinci when he says that art lives from limitations and dies from freedom.” Holt is thought of as a neo-Formalist because her poems often have a recognisable form (sonnets, villanelles or sestinas). At the same time she is very free in her treatment of these forms. Her ‘long sonnets’ have an extra quatrain and she uses half and quarter rhymes instead of the customary full end rhymes. And when, for once, a sonnet looks unimpeachable, like ‘Shipbreaking’, for instance, a feeling of slight alienation is embedded in the last line: “Take a piece. Break it in half. And in half again.”
Man Wolf Man (John Leonard Press, Melbourne, 2007)
Patience, Mutiny (John Leonard Press, Melbourne, 2010)
This is Mars (John Leonard Press, Melbourne, forthcoming)