Leslie Scalapino was born in Santa Barbara, California, and raised in Berkeley from which in childhood she traveled with her family, mostly in Asia (but also Africa and Europe). She’s continued these travels in adulthood (Tibet, Bhutan, Japan, India, Yemen, and elsewhere). Her writing is influenced by the process of traveling and by the difference of being here. After Berkeley High School, she attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she received a B.A.; after Reed, she was a graduate student in the University of California, Berkeley English Department for two years.
Scalapino has written thirty books of poetry, fiction, plays, and criticism. Books of poetry include way (1988), New Time (1996), and It’s go in quiet/illumined grass/land (2001). Works of inter-genre/fiction include Defoe (Sun & Moon Press, 1995) and Dahlia’s Iris (2003). Her writings are usually intent on breaking the insular shell (created socially) separating oneself from seeing the inside with the outside at once, producing each other.
In Scalapino’s sense of a practice of writing and of action, the apprehension itself that “‘one is not oneself for even an instant’—should not be” (italics added), is to be participation in/is a social act. That is, the nature of this practice that’s to be (her sense of that as) ‘social act’ is it is without formation as custom. Such event occurs in fact, but perhaps can only be contemplated in writing? She touched on this as a problem of perception as language in her Autobiography: “My writing ‘the act of an emotion or sight in its present-time/as it qualifies its own occurrence even’—was said by others to be ‘merely’ narrative of emotional experience. I would try to say this. This drove me ‘outside it’ to attempt it again.
“[Again. Syntax is entirely different from physical motion. Thus (in early works, through the 1980s) I wanted the writing to be that gap: the writing being life, real-time minute motions (physical movements or events) but being or are these (minute motions) as syntax (abstraction, not representation).
“Syntax is memory trace or conceptual shape. Yet it was to replace, or to be, the (its) present-time motion only. It can’t be a memory, or a life then.
BOOKS OF POETRY
O and Other Poems (Berkeley: Sand Dollar Press, 1976); The Woman who Could Read the Minds of Dogs (Berkeley: Sand Dollar Press, 1976); Instead of an Animal (Berkeley: Cloud Marauder Press, 1978; This eating and walking is associated all right (Bolinas, California: Tombouctou, 1979); Considering how exaggerated music is (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1982); that they were at the beach — aeolotropic series (San Francisco: North Point Press, l985); way (San Francisco: North Point Press, l988); Crowd and not evening or light (Oakland, California: O Books, 1992); Sight [with Lyn Hejinian] Washington, D.C.: Edge Books, 1999); New Time (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1999); The Tango [text and photographs by Scalapino, collaboration with artist Marina Adams] (New York: Granary Press, 2001); It’s go in quiet/illumined grass/land [with Petah Coyne] (Berkeley: The Post-Apollo Press, 2001); Zither & Autobiography (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2003); Day Ocean State of Stars’ Night: Poems & Writings 1989 & 1999-2006 (Los Angeles: Green Integer); It's go in horizontal, Selected Poems 1974-2006 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008)
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