Fishing for Lightning: The Spark of Poetry (2021, UQP)
Fishing for Lightning gathers together acclaimed poet and critic Sarah Holland-Batt’s celebrated columns on contemporary Australian poetry, first published in The Weekend Australian. In fifty illuminating and lively short essays on fifty poets, Holland-Batt offers a masterclass in how to read and love poetry, opening up the music of language, form, and poetic technique in her casual and conversational yet deeply intelligent style.
From the villanelle to the verse novel, the readymade and the remix to the sonnet, Holland-Batt’s essays range across the breadth of contemporary poetry, but also delve into the richness of poetic and literary history, connecting the contemporary to the ancient. Dazzling in its erudition, but always accessible and entertaining, Fishing for Lightning convinces us of the power of poetry to change our lives.
"So boldly insightful, so lightly done. For seasoned readers of poetry, an illuminating reminder of its techniques. And for those who may be afraid of it, clear, uncompromising readings that will take them back to its many pleasures." - David Malouf
"Sarah Holland-Batt is one of the most brilliant poets and critics writing today, and it is exhilarating to witness her mind at work in this rich and wondrous collection of essays. This is a book I will treasure and return to again and again.” - Emily Bitto
"Packed with humour and playfulness... Australian poetry and criticism don't get much better than this. Through its humane attention to the words of others, Fishing for Lightning is ultimately, and perhaps surprisingly for those unfamiliar with poetry, as moving as it is illuminating." - Australian Book Review
"The most thoughtful and fair-minded introduction to contemporary Australian poetry you are likely to find... Fishing for Lightning is indispensable for anyone interested, at any level, in contemporary Australian poetry. And isn’t that all of us?" - The Age
"Poetry is always unsung – mostly because we lack the vocabulary to respond to it. Holland-Batt's essays seek to repair this. They are like being shown under the bonnet of a classic car by a knowledgeable mechanic: everything clearly labelled and patiently explained, down to the valves and pistons that make the whole thing purr." - The Australian
"Her engagement with poetry moves past the lines on the page – although she is brilliant, wise, humorous and empathetic on that level – to cross chronological, geographical and cultural borders and unite poets with each other, and their readers." - Stephen Romei
"A smart, sensible and generous guide to how poetry works under the hood... A container of multitudes!" - Geordie Williamson