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Leah Fritz, talented activist poet with frank style

Before coming to England, Leah was best known for her political activism in support of the Civil Rights, feminist and peace movements

07 February, 2020 — By Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

THE London literary scene lost a notable presence on January 20 with the death of American poet Leah Fritz.

Leah had lived in Primrose Hill for over 30 years after moving from New York with her artist husband Howard in 1985.

Only in the last year or two, after Howard’s death, did she move a little way up the road to St John’s Wood. Before coming to England, Leah was best known for her political activism in support of the Civil Rights, feminist and peace movements.

Her work alongside such celebrated figures as Andrea Dworkin and Susan Brownmiller is described in her books, Thinking Like a Woman (1975) and Dreamers & Dealers (1980). Her many journal articles, correspondence and other papers from this important period in history are archived at Duke University.

On arriving in London, Leah chose to focus on her poetry – which until then had been a relatively minor activity – and she soon made many new friends at such venues as the Poetry Society and the Troubadour in Earl’s Court.

She was particularly loyal to the poetry meetings held every Sunday at the Torriano in Kentish Town where she was still a frequent visitor until shortly before her death. Within two years of coming to England Leah had published her first poetry collection, the intriguingly titled From Cookie to Witch is an Old Story (Loxwood Stoneleigh, 1987).

After two further collections from this company and another from Bluechrome Press in 2007, she gathered much of her work into a substantial new and selected entitled Whatever Sends the Music into Time (Salmon Poetry, 2012). Its cover featured one of Howard’s elegant and enigmatic paintings. This was not quite the end, however, because in November last year, Hearing Eye published one last chapbook, Gone, which included moving elegies for Howard who had died in 2018. Leah was not well enough to attend the book’s launch but she did live to see at least one positive review in the poetry press.

Leah’s poetry often made skilful use of classical forms, but she also knew when and how to slip into free verse when it suited the tone and subject matter of a poem.

Her writing covered many subjects: love and human relationships; travel; art and literature; and, of course, politics. She was always frank and tackled themes head-on. She was also a sharp-eyed and forthright reviewer for several magazines.

Leah’s dry sense of humour and fondness for debate will be greatly missed by all who knew her, and she will be particularly remembered as a loyal defender of any friend she felt was being treated unfairly.

She leaves two daughters, Monica, who lives in Turkey, and Amy, who lives in the US, as well as two grandsons, Leon and Luca, who are currently studying in Germany and Italy.

To have such a widely scattered family seems fitting for a writer who loved travel and made herself well and truly at home in two different countries.

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