Poetry: Michael Donaghy introduces five poems by Liane Strauss | clivejames.com
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Michael Donaghy introduces five poems by Liane Strauss

Frank O'Hara's voice looms huge in the contemporary poetry landscape, in Britain as well as in America. Even when filtered through layers of mediating influences, you can still make out that trademark insouciance. You can hear O'Hara in Strauss if you like, but notice how she transmutes O'Hara's nonchalance into something more linguistically charged. She has a fine ear for cadence, rhythm and rhyme — half, quarter, eighth.... nano? — and she can certainly pull off the tight, concise, exquisitely crafted thing, though she usually prefers to give her poems a freer rein and let them build up their characteristic dizzying momentum, as in the present selection.

The overall effect is one of opulent elaboration, but every turn, every angle, feels rooted in a governing strategy. But the most characteristic mark of a Strauss poem is its rhetorical authority. Strauss writes as if she's confidently mapping the secret grammar and physics of the universe. Consider 'The Speed Of The World' or 'How to Do Things With Words' — named for J.L. Austin's work on Speech Act Theory — in which she rings changes on Austin's distinction between performative and constative utterance in the context of sexual politics and, er, Mickey Mouse.

Liane Strauss writes fresh compelling, edgy, intelligent poetry and I'm delighted to play a part in introducing it to a wider audience.

Limelight, October 2003