In 2016 the academic, award-winning poet, editor and critic won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award poetry prize for The Hazards, her much-lauded second collection of poetry.
The Senior Lecturer has attracted international acclaim since her first collection – Aria – came out in 2008. She was editor for The Best Australian Poems 2016, published by Black Inc. In 2016 she was awarded a Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship for outstanding talent and exceptional professional courage.
The Hazards, published by UQP, was mostly written while she was living in New York and Rome, and supported by fellowships at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, Hawthornden Castle in Scotland, and a Fulbright Scholarship at New York University. She has described it as an expansive and cosmopolitan meditation on the brutalities of history and the cyclical violence of the natural world.
The judges of the PM’s Literary Awards praised The Hazards for “the rich texture of the language she uses to express ideas”. The judges state that her writing has been “elevated to the highest level of accomplishment, far above any of her previous achievements”.
Travel plays an important role in Ms Holland-Batt’s creative process. The act of “accelerating through time and place” brings the poet “most forcibly in contact with myself”. She says that travel “wakes her up” and that new spaces are a stark contrast with her familiar life. It’s where her mind works best.
“A book of poetry rarely has a single idea at its heart – poems are animated by change, and each new poem must say something different than the last.”
Ms Holland-Batt says her collections are “gatherings of miscellanea, assemblages of thoughts and ideas and arguments curated over a period of years, textual cabinets of curiosities”.
“A book of poetry rarely has a single idea at its heart – poems are animated by change, and each new poem must say something different than the last,” she explains. “Poetry, after all, is fundamentally of the moment; a collection, then, is a series of moments, like a photo album, each documenting intervals of change”.
One of the poems from the The Hazards collection, ‘O California’, was published by The New Yorker in its 90th anniversary edition in 2015. Many other major international magazines and anthologies have published poems from The Hazards.
Ms Holland-Batt was awarded $40,000 by the Australia Council in New Work Grant funding in 2015 to commence work on her third collection of poems. She is also the recipient of a highly prestigious Australia Council Literature Residency at the B.R. Whiting Studio in Rome, an Asialink Literature Residency in Japan, and the Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship.
Sarah Holland-Batt’s work can be viewed on her personal website.