TEXT review

LK Holt, Man Wolf Man

review by Kathryn Hind


LK Holt
Man Wolf Man
John Leonard Press, Elwood, 2007
ISBN: 9780977578771
78 pp. pb. AUD23.95

Man Wolf Man is an expedition through point-blank violence, softened by moments of femininity.

Holt's words gain momentum, gain confidence and curve like waves. They can entertain themselves in the big open spaces of women's sexuality; they heave and swell in moments of aloneness. 'Noon Swim' sees the feminine form free of the shaping eye of masculinity, embracing womanly symbolism; flowers, screams, blood. Free of the male look, the women delight in a one-on-one with being, existing alongside the bees and skinks; no dichotomies, just existence.

Unserious Sirens, we swirl
like blood drops in water
then float, flush against sky,
meniscus breasts bobbing
with pelvises, rose-of-bone.

Holt marries this seemingly effortless balance of being, the waves of softness and lightness, with the vessel of men. The waves encounter these relationships as boats, interrupting the current, cutting through the lull. The open space of the water is inhabited by man. Holt deals with the collision in a way that demonstrates passive-aggressive poise, especially in 'Unfinished Confession':

…the vagina-is-quite possibly-
(such lovely eyes he has) a direct inversion of the greater
organ of man.

The friction of masculinity and femininity is dealt with further in 'Unfinished Confession' as Holt delves into an exploration into the physicality and psychology of sexuality.

I try romancing my penis unblooming on the inside-
timid opus of space that will try to mend like a sore
unless I teach the flesh, like a good Believer, what is right.

Holt allows these themes of presence and absence, of filling space, to reverberate through her poems. She helps us escape the tension of sexuality, placing us on the safe platform of simplicity: everyday objects such as gloves, shoes and houses. 'Nine Steps To a Simple Translation' steps into the idea of space, exploring gaps between people, objects made to be filled, and the zones of words unsaid.

4. This morning I put on my master's shoes.
They slid on easier than I thought.
5. Of course I've got two good shoes of my own;
even my littlest babe is shoed before she walks.
6. But the master's shoes were by the door,
loll-tongued dogs waiting to be let out.
7. My feet slid in like dirtiness.
The unspoken the unspoken the unspoken between us.

While investigating these spaces, Holt stays anchored; the voice is never weak, never lost.

The book pulses with an undercurrent of unease, the beats of violent imagery. We recognize Holt's anxiety with the workings of the world through poems such as 'Slaughter House'; descriptions of funeral rites at an abattoir, the smiling wounds of beasts, and the confusion as to whose funeral it actually is.

This open anxiety amounts to a sense of willingness to dissect themes of discomfort. Matched with moments of connectedness and harmony, Holt has created a set of poems that cling to the reader's curiosity. Her words demand a place in the space of the mind, a place writhing with polarity and convergence, navigated with remarkable level-headedness.


Kathryn Hind is completing an honours degree in creative communication at the University of Canberra.


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Vol 12 No 2 October 2008
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Jen Webb