The love-child of Dorothy Parker and John Donne: you know when you’re “Leaving Eden”

On Thursday I went to the wonderful launch of Liane Strauss’ debut full collection, Leaving Eden. Published by Salt, I’m pleased to say. Wonderful is what it was always going to be, because she is an old friend, a very good old friend – I was there in Michael Donaghy’s workshop when many of these poems were first workshopped – and our gang has been waiting for this book to appear for a very long time. But personal interests aside, I am here to tell you that they are very fine poems, funny and touching and at once discursive and tightly executed. It was always a huge event for me when Liane workshopped one of her poems. “The Little Death,”a re-enactment of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as school play, complete with virtuoso Shakespeare pastiche, reduced me to tears of laughter when I should have been seriously listening to see what insights I could share with the group. And her “Variations on a Theme by Lady Suwo” gave me tears of a different kind, just through the power of its pyrotechnics, even though it is also funny. Funny and wry and poignant. We wrote to each other back and forth about works in progress, and I was there when she had her Radiohead titling phase, of which there are remnants (“Pointless,” another personal favourite) in the book. So it’s exciting to see it all between covers. I’m the wrong person to go to for a clear-eyed critical review, but if I did write one it would still say: “Read this book.’

The launch was in the beautiful, old-fashioned Daunt Bookshop in Marylebone High St, and it was packed, and hot, and in fact very like my own launch two-years-plus ago. We were both even introduced by the same person, Simon Barraclough! (Well, he does a good job…) It was astonishing walking in and seeing the faces, the faces, half the London poetry world was there, a room you can’t get across, and a bit of a Salt-fest: Mr Barraclough, Isobel Dixon, Olivia Cole, me, now Liane – trying to think who else was there, but I don’t want to make you feel bad for missing it, dear readers. You can buy the book, and get the best of it (though it hasn’t got any jelly snakes in it – the room was dotted with them, and bowls of apples).

Todd Swift was there, and the next morning on Facebook he wrote:

Liane Strauss’s debut full collection from Salt (UK) is one of the finest collections of love poems to come out of England this century: it is wry, witty, ironic, perfectly musical, and romantic with a stiletto to the heart – as if Dorothy Parker had been lovers with John Donne and this was the result.


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