Leslie Scalapino Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

As one of the most original experimental writers of her generation, Leslie Scalapino did not limit her writing efforts merely to a single genre. She boldly ventured into the writing of novels, plays, and essays, and served as editor on occasion. In none of the genres that she chose did she show any concern to write in a conventional manner. Her fiction has poetic qualities, her poetry has fictional attributes, and so on, with every genre. Three of her novels, The Return of Painting (1990), The Pearl (1991), and Onion (1991), make up a trilogy. She also published the novels Defoe in 1994 and Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows in 2010. In both of these novels, Scalapino employs a wonderful sense of wordplay. The reader must be willing to not be derailed by the author’s disjointed landscape. The novel The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom was published posthumously in 2010. Her first play, Leg, was produced in 1985. During the 1990’s, four of her plays were produced: Fin de Siècle in 1990, The Present in 1993, The Weatherman Turns Himself In in 1994, and Goya’s L.A. in 1995. Two other plays, Flow-Winged Crocodile and A Pair/Actions Erased/Appear, were published in 2010. She also put forth her theories on writing and life in such stimulating works as Objects in the Terrifying Tense/Longing from Taking Place (1994) and The Public World/Syntactically Impermanence (1999).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Leslie Scalapino received several honors during her illustrious writing career, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976 and 1986. Way won the Lawrence Lipton Prize, an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and the San Francisco State University Poetry Center Award. Scalapino received a Woodrow Wilson fellowship in 1996.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Lagapa, Jason. “Something for Nothing: The Disontological Poetics of Leslie Scalapino.” Contemporary Literature 47 (Spring, 2006): 30-61. Lagapa speaks of Scalapino’s Buddhist training and how the readers of her writings must exhibit “a level of nearly meditative concentration” in order to more fully appreciate what the poet is attempting to do. Her process can appear at times “hypnotic” and/or “jarring.” Lagapa makes the point that for Scalapino, a poem does not constitute the end result of a way of writing, but “an ongoing action or process.” Like Buddhism, the poem is impermanent, is merely “transitory.”

Perloff, Marjorie. Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Includes a fascinating discussion of how Scalapino takes on established notions. Scalapino is nothing if not a “radical” in her approach to writing.

Scalapino, Leslie. “An Interview with Leslie Scalapino.” Interview by Edward Foster. Talisman: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry and Poetics 8 (Spring, 1992): 32-41. The poet stresses the need to think of writing as something that unfolds or reveals itself through study. For Scalapino nothing is frozen, nothing will ever be simple.

_______. “An Interview with Leslie Scalapino.” Interview by Elisabeth A. Frost. Contemporary Literature 37 (Spring, 1996): 1-23. The poet emphasizes that the very idea of “closure” in poems is wrongheaded. She refuses to employ any poetic form that is fixed and pushes the idea of open-endedness. For her there is no true beginning, middle, or end.