Sunday, July 25, 2010

Today is Leslie Scalapino’s birthday. She would have been 66, a number that would have interested her not at all. Because we grew up in neighboring towns, she is someone who has been an integral part of my world as long as I can remember. We gave a couple of readings together – one of which drew exactly three people at the University of San Francisco. It was a great reading, actually, although only she & I may have known that. And we had at least one deep & long-term disagreement, which we carried out in print, & the result of which was that we became friends for life. Since she’s died, it’s her voice that has come back to me repeatedly, the way she always said “Hi” as though it were a question, with just a hint of laughter half-hidden in the vowel. Nobody else I’ve ever known said hello in quite such a signature fashion.

So today I want hear her more than anything. I want to point to a couple of Leslie’s readings & discussions that are available through PennSound. The first is a reading Leslie gave at Kelly Writers House in November, 2007, introduced by Charles Bernstein & -- and this is unique – followed by nearly an hour and one-half of discussion with the audience.

Introduction by Charles Bernstein (3:33)

Complete Reading (41:28)

Discussion (1:25:43)

Next come a pair of shows that Leslie recorded as part of Leonard Schwartz’ fabled radio program, Cross-Cultural Poetics, from KAOS-FM at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. The first is episode 35 – there are over 200 of these programs recorded since 2003 available on PennSound, a great deep record of contemporary poetics. Leslie reads from It's go in / quiet illumined grass / land. In addition to Leslie, there are segments that include Mary Margaret Sloan discussing Moving Borders, the landmark anthology of innovative writing by women, and a poem by Judith Roche. I like situating Leslie’s work in this larger context. The second is Leslie’s portion of episode 95 in which Leslie reads from & discusses New Time.

Episode #35: Making It Happen (entire show 59:53)

Episode #95: New Time/The Long Moment (28:52)

It’s worth noting that ten years ago, you would not have been able to get such resources as these at your fingertips. And given Leslie’s commitment to small presses – SPD’s catalog lists 32 books, which doesn’t include the volumes from Wesleyan, for example – finding her writing itself would have been hard enough. Now, however, we have no excuse should we ever let ourselves forget Leslie Scalapino’s extraordinary contributions to the community of poetry, and beyond.

O Books