Sunday, 14 February 2016

Leslie Scalapino

“Leslie Scalapino’s voice and vision were unprecedented, a product of her unique and rigorous intelligence and compassion. She belonged to no school; her engagement with continual conceptual rebellion would have prohibited that.” (Lyn H Hejinian)

Leslie Scalapino was born on July 25, 1944, in Santa Barbara, California. She received a Bachelor’s degree from Reed College and an M.A. in English from UC Berkeley. Throughout her career she published thirty volumes of poetry, plays, fiction, and essays, with an additional three books published posthumously.

Her work, in its Steinian grammaticalism and a quirky typography which might remind of Emily Dickinson, is highly concerned with process and “continual conceptual rebellion” (Scalapino). She explained: “I am trying to use the writing to be an examination of the mind in the process of whatever it’s creating.”

In addition to her work as a poet, Scalapino was the editor and founder of O Books, a publisher of experimental poetry. She taught at the Naropa Institute, Bard College, Mills College, and UC San Diego. Scalapino died in Berkeley, California in 2010.

Links: (obituary written by Lyn Hejinian)

My below poem took its inspiration in part from Scalapino’s use of real life events as a basis for her work, but it also drew on broader considerations about writing poetry in general.

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red lost
on Valentine’s Day
a symptom of a process
rather than a sign on the page
folded words aligned to expectation
I am not - I am having to doing
like previously (ED, GS, LS etc)
revealing the chipped paint
on fingering – dashes -
the white space
settled all

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