by Anneli Rufus
One of the East Bay's most famous contemporary poets died last Friday.
A bulletin composed by Leslie Scalapino's family and forwarded to me just now by Rusty Morrison of Richmond-based Omnidawn publishing house reads that Scalapino "was born in Santa Barbara in 1944 and raised in Berkeley. ... After Berkeley High School, she attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon and received her B.A. in Literature in 1966. She received her M.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley in 1969, after which she began to focus on writing poetry. Leslie Scalapino lived with Tom White, her husband and friend of 35 years, in Oakland, California.
"In childhood, she traveled with her father Robert Scalapino, founder of UC Berkeley’s Institute for Asian Studies, her mother Dee Scalapino, known for her love of music, and her two sisters, Diane and Lynne, throughout Asia, Africa and Europe. She and Tom continued these travels including trips to Tibet, Bhutan, Japan, India, Yemen, Mongolia, Libya, and elsewhere. Her writing was intensely influenced by these travels. She published her first book O and Other Poems in 1976, and since then has published thirty books of poetry, prose, inter-genre fiction, plays, essays, and collaborations. Scalapino’s most recent publications include a collaboration with artist Kiki Smith, The Animal Is in the World like Water in Water (Granary Books), and Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows (Starcherone Books), and her selected poems It’s go in horizontal / Selected Poems 1974-2006 (UC Press) was published in 2008. In 1988, her long poem "way" received the Poetry Center Award, the Lawrence Lipton Prize, and the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Her plays have been performed in San Francisco at New Langton Arts, The Lab, Venue 9, and Forum; in New York by The Eye and Ear Theater and at Barnard College; and in Los Angeles at Beyond Baroque.
"In 1986, Scalapino founded O Books as a publishing outlet for young and emerging poets, as well as prominent, innovative writers, and the list of nearly 100 titles includes authors such as Ted Berrigan, Robert Grenier, Fanny Howe, Tom Raworth, Norma Cole, Will Alexander, Alice Notley, Norman Fischer, Laura Moriarty, Michael McClure, Judith Goldman, and many others. Scalapino is also the editor of four editions of O anthologies, as well as the periodicals Enough (with Rick London) and War and Peace (with Judith Goldman).
"Scalapino taught writing at various institutions, including 16 years in the MFA program at Bard College, Mills College, the San Francisco Art Institute, California College of the Arts in San Francisco, San Francisco State University, UC San Diego, and the Naropa Institute.
Of her own writing, Scalapino [once wrote], 'My sense of a practice of writing and of action, the apprehension itself that "one is not oneself for even an instant" —- should not be, is to be participation in/is a social act. That is, the nature of this practice that’s to be "social act" is it is without formation or custom.' ...
"Scalapino has three books forthcoming in 2010. A book of two plays published in one volume, Flow-Winged Crocodile and A Pair / Actions Are Erased / Appear will come out in June 2010 from Chax Press; a new prose work, The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihredals Zoom will be released this summer by Post-Apollo Press; and a revised and expanded collection of her essays and plays, How Phenomena Appear to Unfold (originally published by Potes & Poets) will be published in the fall by Litmus Press. ...
" There will be a memorial event for Scalapino at St. Mark’s Poetry Project on Monday, June 21st.
"A Zen Buddhist funeral ceremony will be conducted by Abbott Norman Fisher in about a month with the arrangements in a subsequent announcement. Tom requests that in lieu of flowers, Leslie's friends consider a charitable donation in her memory to: Poets in Need, PO Box 5411, Berkeley, CA 94705."