In Killings’ On Writing column, we ask writers we admire to reflect on what and how they write. Our first contributor is LK Holt – poet, publisher at John Leonard Press and editor of the magazine Blast Poetry and Critical Writing.
In Randall Jarrell’s poem ‘A Sick Child’, the child says: ‘If I can think of it, it isn’t what I want.’ The writing process, for me, necessarily involves such discontent. Even when you nail an image, then an entire poem, and the little objectivity-bells in the brain chime fair poem, fair poem … in the morning it isn’t what you want. You want something else, and a new poem has begun. Contentment comes when you look upon a finished poem with a reader’s eyes – and you find yourself convinced.
I would say that ninety percent of one’s work as a writer is reading, widely, closely, all the masters and mistresses. It is the only way to learn.
‘Patience, Mutiny’ mainly comprises free-verse sonnets. I agree with Da Vinci when he said that art lives from constraints and dies from freedom. Within the constraint of fourteen lines I was able to forge and/or flee in all directions.
The sonnet form, due to its length, produces a certain type of rhetoric: condensed and authoritative – but oddly unresolved. To write a sonnet one has to be in two minds. One mind deductive, reasonable; the other wishful and as good as mad.
LK Holt’s Patience, Mutiny will be launched tomorrow (27 April, 6pm) at the Gryphon Gallery, the Graduate Centre, University of Melbourne. David Musgrave’s Phantom Limb and Petra White’s The Simplified World are also being launched.