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Donnell LibraryNew York CityMarch 13, 1990

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.

way [excerpts]

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 the other students—the boys—would hit the side of the bus everyday

when we went around that corner—our understanding the driver—and clairvoyant

red to me


be con-
vention in
the present
by myself

I was a waitress in a restaurant of a department store—and stole a dress from the store—though it was said that most of the thieves were employees

this had been said to us in the orientation meeting

to make
a person—in
a time


to have
the same
a time

which is in another man—the sense of being aware—we were in bed, asleep. Outside the house an accident occurred. A huge trailer-truck crashed into the base of the overpass—no other cars were around

It was quiet—the cops coming and flashing their lights around the crumpled cab of the truck—a few of their words carrying to us



cial world

in it


weeping in the hall once—before being composed enough to unlock the door and go into the apartment—anyone being in this state

a boy—so it's in the past, though he'd said this about himself—on his father's sailboat

wanting to consider it his; his father jeering at him for that—it being fixed would be to free the past from myself (not necessarily it freed from him)—that would be the life of desire

driving away from the projects—the man seeing them

and so endangering the other men—their being benign—who are motionless outside; saying it wasn't known what people like this are going to do


a func-
of memory


meeting up
a person
like that


I dreamed I was to use rags though a truck came along the street taking them off. I was looking at a river from sun windows where I saw apes that were giant—my knowing it wasn't usually seen and was germane to the rags—a giant ape that was male floating submerged on his back in very blue water, hi genitals seen—floating gently as well. Some in the group stood up wearing the khaki clothes; them walking off into the town—it occurring to me, who would be interested in rags

"cruelty" to
be learned
as a
period but
from some


The thought of the construction workers—seeing them—having occurred then

later—events set in terms of chronology—which may be earlier in time, but emotionally are of a later age

that would be the age—which the boy on his father's sailboat

would be part of—and my being free therefore

—I'm out
walking by
myself—to be
like some


I had insomnia, not because of this—the birds were on the roof, walking around—though it was night; I thought birds slept at night

it occurred to me they were like me—the reverse of me though—owing to their being in that situation


a time
a reason

From way by Leslie Scalapino. Copyright © 1988. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

From way by Leslie Scalapino. Copyright © 1988. 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


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,


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