Leslie Scalapino

1944 –

Leslie Scalapino, a poet, prose writer, and editor, was born on July 25, 1944, in Santa Barbara, California. She received a bachelor’s degree from Reed College and a master’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley.

Scalapino’s numerous collections of poetry include It’s go in horizontal: Selected Poems 1974–2006 (University of California Press, 2008); Zither & Autobiography (Wesleyan University Press, 2003); The Tango (Granary Books, 2001); New Time (Wesleyan University Press, 1999), rereleased in 2011; Sight (Edge Books, 1999), a collaboration with Lyn Hejinian; way (North Point Press, 1988), which was the recipient of the American Book Award; that they were at the beach (North Point Press, 1985); and Considering how exaggerated music is (North Point Press, 1982).

Scalapino is also the author of plays, works of prose, and hybrid genre collections, such as Dahlia’s Iris: Secret Autobiography and Fiction (FC2, 2003); The Weatherman Turns Himself In (Zasterle Press, 1995); The Public World / Syntactically Impermanence (Wesleyan University Press, 1999), rereleased in 2011; Green and Black: Selected Writings (Talisman House Publishers, 1996), and the trilogy The Return of Painting, The Pearl, and Orion (North Point Press, 1991), rereleased in 1997 by Talisman Publishers.

Of her work, the poet John Ashbery writes:

Leslie Scalapino’s language is often of the disenfranchised kind that rubs elbows with us every day—from graffiti, computer terminals, and cereal boxes. Sometimes this language corresponds with life.... Most often it seems to be standing in for life when it has to absent itself for a few minutes, which happens so often.

Scalapino received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976. She taught at the Naropa Institute, Bard College, Mills College, and the University of California, San Diego, where her papers are held in the Mandeville Special Collections Library. As a publisher, she was the founder of O Books. 

Scalapino died on May 28, 2010, in Berkeley, California.