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.