From the Judges’ Comments, 2009 Kenneth Slessor Prize, NSW Premier’s Awards (winner):
LK Holt’s Man Wolf Man is a wonderful example of the power of the lyric to slow time down to intense, expanded moments of seeing and feeling. In measured poems of decorum and grace, Holt weighs beauty against terror, art against the unspeakable, love against death. The exquisite music of these poems comes from a perfect mastery of form that is never content merely to deploy traditional templates like the sonnet or the sestina, but converts them into something that is contemporary, arresting, and Holt’s own.
Death and its violent disruptions are taken up in different ways, most movingly in ‘Long Sonnets of Leocadia’, a sequence about Goya, the master of the abominable and grotesque. In a reinvented sonnet form and in stanzas effortlessly rhymed, love and loyalty are held in tenuous balance with horror and death. The poem, and the other three sequences, ‘Unfinished Confession’, ‘Glove Story, Paraphrased’, and ‘Time of Houses’, reveal a capacity for sustained exploration of the subject and a delicate, thrilling fusion of intuition and intellect. Holt wears her learning lightly, gracefully: Galen, Donne, Shakespeare, Kristeva, Primo Levi, Althusser – all cohabit harmoniously in a language and form that is intricate and sinuous. In total effect, the book has a wonderfully coherent feel to it, as inexpressible truths are intuited or glimpsed rather than overtly stated.
From Maria Takolander, Australian Book Review, May 2008:
‘Holt’s poems are marked by an innovative blend of erudition and profanity, tradition and radicalism, revisiting form . . . while embodying a refreshingly edgy and blasphemous feminism.
[She] makes exceptional and disciplined use of imagery and rhyme . . . a collection perhaps thematically united by an insistent connection of the sublimity of death with the earth and art. . . . rich and risky.’
Could it be time for young Australian women to shine? Are these two poets [Holt and Elizabeth Campbell] among the bright young things of a Generation of ’08?’
From Gus Goswell, Cordite Poetry Review, June 2008:
‘These latest releases from John Leonard Press are further evidence of this newish publisher’s determination to make room for new poetic voices in Australia.
Reviewing Holt’s 2005 chapbook Stories of Bird in Cordite, Angela Meyer pointed to the control that Holt exerts over her material, producing private, precise and vividly-realised poetry. This control is also evident in Man Wolf Man. Although thematic or tonal unity is not essential to the success of a collection, her book inspires attention as she persuades the reader through successive poems.
The book’s title is derived from one of Goya’s sketches, and the Spanish master’s presence here is palpable. The eight ‘long sonnets’ projected from the mind of Goya’s housekeeper (and possible mistress) Leocadia go beyond appropriation or pastiche, displaying real empathy and respect for one of the world’s great artists. . . This is what Holt’s best poems give us: an alloy of longing and lust, cast in a mould where death is ever-present and the time to love and be loved, to speak and to listen, is diminishing.
Campbell and Holt are both capable of great insight. Both books prove that their authors have the special capacity for speaking authentically about themselves, their subjects and their readers. It’s a pity that first collections struggle to get enough coverage outside poetry circles to draw many new readers towards poetry because, in different ways, both Man Wolf Man andLetters to the Tremulous Hand give something new to Australian poetry. There is in both an undeniable determination to say something about the world we live in now, however hidden beneath layers of the past. Their next books, if they choose to share their words with us again, may well be books that inspire a change in how our poets are received and read.’
From Jen Webb, Review essay: Poetry in Australia and the John Leonard Press,http://www.textjournal.com.au/oct08/webb.htm, 2008:
LK Holt’s Man wolf man is a highly visual, highly intelligent collection. Like many products of young contemporary artists, it shows its erudition. Holt’s work also offers some lovely evocations of traditional poetry and Australian imagery. Read, for example, about ‘Two women’, who:
will never seem so strange as in this light’s
benign haunting, alive in a paddock of bones.
We are the two in the bush not the hand,
We pass without stopping a little dinosaur of bull skull,
disowned by a spine corded with roots, rushes;
his mad teeth sprouting like hearsay from the earth’s
fresh gum. He is Dürer’s precisian; sockets for eyes,
witness to our endurance
From Kathryn Hind, Text Journal, October 2008, www.textjournal.com.au:
Holt has created a set of poems that cling to the reader’s curiosity. Her words demand a place in the mind, a place writhing with polarity and convergence, navigated with remarkable level-headedness.
From The Age, ‘Favourite Literary Encounters of the Year’, December 13 2008:
[There] is formal elegance and fierce intelligence [to] these brilliant, difficult poems. . . . Holt’s is one of those voices that blast from the sky now and again, like a lightning bolt. Be forewarned. Enormous future.
From David Kelly, Famous Reporter, issue 39, 2009:
[Man Wolf Man is] accomplished, riotous, and glittering. […] For me, poetry should be interesting. have meaning (just a personal quirk of mine) and a quality some may call music or rhythm or fluency. The long sequence ‘Unfinished Confession’ tick all the above boxes. It concerns operations called orchidectomies but the fact that the word ‘orchidectomist’ can be used in such a casual, everyday manner in a poem that floats on its fluency is a testament to something like a good ear and a capacity up there with CK Williams…
From Stephen Lawrence, Wet Ink, Issue 12, 2008:
Holt possesses a solid grounding, and Man Wolf Man is a superior first collection.