Saturday, May 29, 2010

On the Poet Leslie Scalapino's Death

Although I don't write a lot about it, I also have been a member of the poetry reading and writing community for years. A few minutes ago, a friend posted on Facebook that Leslie Scalapino just died. While I was in grad school, she visited our program for a reading and interview. Those of us who enjoyed experimental work, loved the wild ride of her poems, some of which were influenced by Buddhist writings. One of things I found fascinating about Leslie was that her interactions in person felt almost exactly like her poems. She spoke like she wrote, and almost seemed to move through life like her poems did. Sometimes, you had absolutely no idea where she was coming from or what she was talking about, but the way the language appeared on the page, in your ear, rattled what you thought you knew to be true. I don't know what happened to her, but I'm grateful that she's been an influence on my writing, even if only in small ways most of the time.

Many of her writings were the size of novellas. Poems that simply couldn't stop at a single page, or set of pages. So, I'll just offer you a small taste, from Avril, which is from "The Forest is in the Euphrates River."

People cruising

Toyotas the rose desert breaks

everywhere because they are on its surface then

a woman ignorant and from eyes blank gloating savaging
others speaking only no one speaks there they’re

not reflected in her eyes her

either for her anywhere

tyranny of inverted in her/gloater’s being defined as the
social outside

their kindness a train hurls on tiers seen in the sky

no sight admitted
into the gloating one savaging others then doesn’t make

sights cattle came to a blossom

in others

Here are a few resources for those of you who love poetry, or who might just be curious.

A short write up of her life and death.

An essay considering her writing, including comments on Buddhist influences.

A blog post about her.

A link to some of her poems.

Another, more complete obit

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