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About this poet

Born on July 25, 1944, in Santa Barbara, California, Leslie Scalapino received a Bachelor's degree from Reed College and an M.A. in English from UC Berkeley.

Her numerous collections of poetry include It's go in horizontal: Selected Poems 1974-2006 (University of California Press, 2008); Zither & Autobiography (2003); The Tango (2001); New Time (1999); Sight (1999), a collaboration with Lyn Hejinian; way (1988), which was the recipient of the American Book Award; that they were at the beach (1985); Considering how exaggerated music is (1982); and O and Other Poems (1976).

She is also the author of many plays and works of prose, such as The Weatherman Turns Himself In (1999), Dahlia's Iris: Secret Autobiography and Fiction (2003), The Public World / Syntactically Impermanence (1999), Green and Black, Selected Writings (1996), and the trilogy The Return of Painting, The Pearl, and Orion (1991).

As publisher, she was the founder of O Books. She also edited numerous books, including The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen (2007).

Of her work, the poet John Ashbery writes:

Leslie Scalapino's language is often of the disenfranchised kind that rubs elbows with us every day—from graffiti, computer terminals, and cereal boxes. Sometimes this language corresponds with life... Most often it seems to be standing in for life when it has to absent itself for a few minutes, which happens so often.

Scalapino received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976. She taught at the Naropa Institute, Bard College, Mills College, and UC San Diego, where her papers are held in the Mandeville Special Collections Library.

She died on May 28, 2010, in Berkeley, California.

that they were at the beach [excerpt]

Playing ball—so it's like paradise, not because it's in the past, we're on a field; we are creamed by the girls who get together on the other team. They're nubile, but in age they're thirteen or so—so they're strong

(No one knows each other, aligning according to race as it happens, the color of the girls, and our being creamed in the foreground—as part of it's being that—the net is behind us).

A microcosm, but it's of girls—who were far down on the field, in another situation of playing ball—so it was an instance of the main world though they're nubile but are in age thirteen or so.

My being creamed in the foreground—so it's outside of that—by a girl who runs into me, I returned to the gym.

It's in the past—yet is repressed in terms of the situation itself, poor people who're working, the division is by color. We're not allowed to leave the airport on arriving—others not permitted to stop over—we're immature in age, so it's inverted.

(Therefore receded—we get on the bus going to the city and look around, seeing people dressed shabbily).

A man—I was immature in age—was a stowaway so not having been active, taken from the ship we're on in a row boat.


(A sailor had fallen out of the row boat then, was embarrassed. So it's like paradise—the embarrassment, therefore it's depressed—seen by his waving at us as the other sailors are coming to him).

The class period endinng—it's evanescence not because it's in the past, they'd stamped their feet while seated since the teacher hadn't been able to discipline them. She's old—the red hair coloring had been mocked—they're inactive.

(So it's evanescent because they're inactive. Though I am as well. She'd asked me to pull on her hair to indicate it was her real hair, which I do—them being unaware of this—as the class is disbanding, composed of girls and boys).

It is also an instance in the past, so it's depressed—yet the people on the bus aren't nubile, rather are mature.

We're girls—have to urinate which is unrelated to immaturity—refusing to do so in front of others; we require the bus to leave us. Therefore there aren't other people, we urinate, and then look around.

(So it's inactive—is depressed).

Tall, though they are nubile—playing leap frog is out of place; we're required to do so. It's contemporary in time so it's not depressed—I was immature, thirteen in age or so; responding to the other girls kicking as they jumped over some of us.

(So it's not depressed—but not as being active. I'm creamed, until the crowd of girls is pulled off by an instructor who's in the gym).

Attending a funeral—it's contemporary in time, not being in itself depressed; taking a ridiculous aspect—birds that sing loudly in the chapel where the funeral service is being held. The birds are mechanical—so it's being creamed.

(Like in the earlier episode of playing ball. Our being creamed in the foreground of the field by the other girls).

A microcosm, but it's of sailors—though I'm given attention standing in pictures with one or two of the men. They've come into a port at one time—I'm immature in age—it doesn't occur for that reason but is inverted, the sailors flirted with girls.

(Which is contemporary in time therefore. And being mechanical since I'm interested in the sailors, then merely interest).

A boy who was actually at the funeral—so it's inverted—was later playing ball, really occurring.

(Inverted also because of being at the funeral, mechanical birds part of it; so it isn't creamed in the future—not because of that).

The boy who was actually at the funeral—corresponds to work as a chimney sweep which I had for a short time—is inverted

(I didn't take the job seriously since it was in the past—I was supposed to do it awhile, was contemporary. So it's related to the boy; I got sick from the soot—so my leaving after working only two days stemmed from that).

Someone else driving—the funeral having taken place—is getting speeding tickets, with us in the car—we're older than he

So we don't say anything because we're older. Not about the police stopping him, the drive is several hundred miles at night—which is like him later going below the border


Him not being sentient

A man whoring—it's from the standpoint of a girl, is a situation of trying to finance going below the border to whore and staying down there as long as he can before having to return to get some job.

(It's a microcosm, is also inverted—not retroactive).

From that they were at the beach by Leslie Scalapino. Copyright © 1985. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

From that they were at the beach by Leslie Scalapino. Copyright © 1985. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Leslie Scalapino

Leslie Scalapino

Born on July 25, 1944, in Santa Barbara, California, Leslie Scalapino taught at UC San Diego, where her papers are held in the Mandeville Special Collections Library

by this poet


She heard the sounds of a couple having intercourse and then getting up they went into the shower so that she caught a sight of them naked before hearing the water running. The parts of their bodies which had been covered by clothes were those of leopards. During puberty her own organs and skin were not like this

to have
ed still—
though not
wanting to
be serene

I was in school; the bus driver seeing a girl crossing the street hadn't stopped—she'd been hit—so