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Interview with Lucy Holme

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Author of Temporary Stasis


Lucy Holme

When did you write the book, and what was the inspiration behind it?

I wrote the majority of the book in 2019-2020 after carrying around drafts of the poems as fragments and snapshots for almost thirteen years during a career at sea. The book really came together when it was juxtaposed with a 100 year old book called Hundreds of Things a Girl Can Make which I found in a Cork Charity Shop in 2019. I was inspired by the stories of women I had met at sea and how they were impacted by living and working on the ocean. A lot of the poems explore how they responded to the sometimes extreme, isolating and challenging situations they faced.


How would you summarise this book in 100 words or fewer?

I would paraphrase writer and editor of Poetry Wales, Zoë Brigley, who described the book as foregrounding the stories of often rebellious women through a sequence of small vignettes, which explore how girls and women are conditioned to be small, to take up little space, and to serve. At the same time, water continues to flows through the lives of the narrators and the connection with the ocean offers the possibility of something potentially more sensuous and fulfilling.


How would you characterise the style of your book? For example, would you see it as lyrical, prose or experimental? (to name but a few!) Can you provide some commentary around why you feel it falls into these categories?

I would characterise it as lyrical / experimental. Some of the poems are quite formal in structure but I intersperse the more seemingly straightforward poems with erasure (or 'found') poetry which hints at the tension below the surface.


appliqué 	— from French Knots and Couching in Hundreds of Things a Girl 		Can Make, W. Foulsham & Co., Ltd  Maybe the point is not to push through, to hold firm,  but — to slip the knot.  Desire, space — two kinds of need; one fine and one coarse,  must be the outline.  We thread through the dawn,  make a stitch, inch further along  and continue — as ornaments.   The addition of a touch to the neck  and wrists, is useful   in embroidery.
'appliqué' from Temporary Stasis

During the writing of this book, did you learn anything new? either about yourself as an author or about the crafting of the work itself?

I learned that work takes time and poetry cannot be rushed and that there are stories and ideas I have carried around for years which could not be written until the time was right for me to release them onto the page. There are poems in the book I would have crafted differently had I written them now but I also admire and sometimes miss the innocence and confidence I had as an early stage poet and I appreciate them for their unselfconsciousness and lack of adornment.


Can you list some of your main influences? Feel free to include writers, literary movements, but also any influences outside of the literary sphere that have had an impact?

I would describe my influences as eclectic and I am influenced by the poets and essayists Sharon Olds, Anne Carson, Claudia Rankine, Deborah Levy, Jericho Brown, Natalie Diaz, Joan Didion, Louise Glück, Brandon Taylor, Lucia Berlin, Zadie Smith and Pascale Petit amongst others and contemporary Irish writers such as Sinead Gleeson, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Brian Dillon, James Connor Patterson, and Victoria Kennefick. I am also a big fan of the hyper-confessional French author Annie Ernaux and of Italian writers Natalia Ginzberg and Elena Ferrante.


Please can you list some stylistic or technical elements contained within your work, and why you feel that these are important?

My work is always changing and evolving as it should but at its heart is always a feminist undercurrent and I try to ground my poetry in the emotional and in realistic personal experience as I feel that it is most impactful within those parameters. I also write a lot of nonfiction and am a fan of a autofictional approach where the boundaries between the real and imagined can be blurred. I enjoy the form of the lyric essay and to engage with another artist or poet's work where possible. These attempts to be in conversation with other people's work sometimes work and sometimes miss the mark but I enjoy the challenge of that type of engagement and to immerse myself in the techniques of other writers I admire.


Late Shift     Today may be the day I make it through.  By that, I mean, survive a dinner service  Without him stroking the back of my arm Every chance he gets.   A can of Diet Coke, my trusted friend, stands,  Half-filled with vodka. Waits for the swish of the pantry door,  My return from the main salon.    Used to be I’d sneak one After all was clean and stowed.  Guests in bed, coast clear.   I’d lay on the bow in tuxedo trousers and shirt. Cross tie unclipped, suit jacket ditched.   I’d count stars and feel lucky.   Now it’s earlier. Five o’clock, fresh From break — to take off the edge.  Make it easier to feign strength.   And if my colour is up and tongue loose,  Tonight may be the night I ask him not to touch me again.   Or perhaps I will tidy the aft, hide away. Until this shift is finished.
'Late Shift' from Temporary Stasis

Can you give some commentary around the book’s central themes and why these are so important to you?

The book is concerned with innocence, growing up and the cost of becoming experienced. There are moments of realisation about one's limitations and also what it feels like to challenge former perceptions and make peace with the decisions you took through immaturity or a lack of awareness. I wanted to make sense of some of the passivity I experienced as a younger woman, both in my own actions and the actions of others and to try to show that sometimes the most independent and confident seeming people can still suffer a lack of autonomy. The insidious sexism inherent in the marine industry is touched upon as well as the unrealistically narrow space women who work at sea are often expected to take up.


For someone who enjoys your work, which other authors do you think would also be appealing to them?

I think any Broken Sleep author would be a good bet as the poetry is always daring, fresh, innovative and above all, authentic.


Is there a personal story or inspiration relating to this book? If you feel comfortable, please feel free to share!

I worked at sea for many years so many of the experiences in the book are things I lived through, whether personally or indirectly. I undertook a circumnavigation in 2004 and sailed around the world for eighteen months and during my time in yachting did eight separate Atlantic crossings. Some of the extreme places we visited and the accompanying loneliness and awe of the voyages I embarked upon have informed the work.


The Lament of a Future Daughter of Neptune    A day away from slimy induction  by the King and his helper.  Across the Equator’s watery line,  they catch a fish.   We stand transfixed as the silver light  swoops and sways on its cord  through the waves.   Then — hoisted and hooked,  bashed and sliced, blood sprayed into scuppers,   all remains cleaned  from sun-bleached decks — they hold her up.    We smile, recoil. Peer into one unblinking eye. Register nothing.    Just a baby, they say,  as they gather their tools  and begin their work. 
'The Lament of a Future Daughter of Neptune' from Temporary Stasis

Is there a particular audience you had in mind when writing this book? How did this impact the writing process?

I didn't write any of it thinking that it would find an audience! I was writing to empty my head of a particular body of work and to make space for new material and influences. I often miss thinking about the ocean and how it felt to live on it as it was such a huge part of my life for so many years.


What are you working on now and how does it differ from Temporary Stasis?

Since Temporary Stasis was published I have completed a MA at University College Cork and the thesis from that MA is now the subject of my upcoming PhD in which I will be studying modern interpretations of the muse and its manifestations in contemporary society. I have written a fair amount of poems about the artist Helen Chadwick which I intend to expand and am also working on a sequence of road trip themed sonnets which explore language and connection.



Lucy Holme is a poet, student and mother who lives in Cork, Ireland. Her poems feature in The Stinging Fly, The London Magazine, Southword, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, and Poetry Wales amongst others. She was recently shortlisted for The London Magazine Poetry Prize 2023, won 3rd place in the Southword Subscriber’s poetry competition and was a runner up in the Southword Literary Essay Competition. Her CNF has featured in Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Banshee and Annie Journal and is forthcoming in The Pig's Back and Southword. This year she received a distinction in the MA in Creative Writing at University College Cork and an Agility Award from the Arts Council to complete further research for a new collection. Her debut chapbook, Temporary Stasis, which was shortlisted for The Patrick Kavanagh Award, was published by Broken Sleep Books in August 2022 and a collection of nonfiction essays is also forthcoming from Broken Sleep Books in September 2024. She will commence a PhD in poetry at UCC next term.

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