1999 • 100 pp. • $14.36
(Wesleyan University Press)
“I hesitate to introduce any such terms as ‘meditation’ or ‘reflection,’ because this work is not apart from its thinking and/or composition, so to speak–and that, among other things, constitutes its exceptional value. I find the whole work to be a deeply engaging preoccupation with, and articulation of, what life might be said, factually, to be. But not as a defined subject, nor even a defining one–but as one being one. That is an heroic undertaking, or rather, place in which to work/write/live. Its formal authority is as brilliant as any I know.”
“Great writers–Blake, Whitman, Dickinson, Joyce, Stein, Zukofsky, Ginsberg, Kerouac, even Pound–re-envision the present. Literally, the present tense. In our time, New Time, it is Leslie Scalapino who most fully articulates the constantly changing meaning(s) of now. This crystalline epic may be Scalapino’s most ‘accessible’ book yet, but its surfaces perpetually peel back to reveal a further that could never have existed before, nor in any other way. ‘This is eternity,’ Olson once wrote. You bet.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leslie Scalapino (1944 – 2010) is the author of thirty books of poetry, prose inter-genre-fiction, plays, and essays. Granary Book just published a collaborative book by artist Kiki Smith and Leslie Scalapino, titled The Animal is in the World like Water in Water. Scalapino’s It’s go in horizontal/Selected Poems, 1974-2006 was published by University of California Press at Berkeley in 2008. Other books of Scalapino’s poetry include Day Ocean State of Stars’ Night (Green Integer), a collection of eight years; Zither & Autobiography (Wesleyan University Press), The Tango (Granary Press), Orchid Jetsam(Tuumba), Dahlia’s Iris—Secret Autobiography and Fiction (FC2 Publishers); a reprint of the prose work Defoe (Green Integer); and It’s Go In Quiet Illumined Grass Land (The Post-Apollo Press).
Scalapino has proven to be one of experimental poetrys most successful genre-crossers, reducing narrative to its component agents and verbs and fusing them with epistemological investigations. Her disjunctive flow of phrasal units is a familiar post-modern strategem for replicating the minds mad race with time, but her inimitable staccato remains one of language poetrys signature achievements: landscape, delicateas sensory deprivationmilitary boyswearing training spurs of bottle capsgas stations, differentiatedcattle being. More diffuse than the brilliantly focused Way (1988), and a turn from recent prose-based works like Defoe, Scalapinos latest collection is conceived in stanza-like movements, and deliberately keeps narrative momentum in check, preoccupied with the contradictions between our inner and our outer lives: sleep-deprived one/ pressure so that the mind comes into the social unitonly/ the flowering trees, that have nothing but swimming on sky. Fragmentary perceptionsa river in Kyoto, the brown night, taxies, black silk irisesground aphoristic units of text that display influences from Emily Dickinson and Gertrude Stein to Wittgenstein. From page to page, phrases like the mind collapsing get recontextualized (the mind collapsing not on the surface; is the mind collapsing on its surface, its own space?) in a manner that many will find opens out into delicate meaning, but others will find frustrating. What emerges is an anxious paranoia over the selfs place in an exhausted body on the one hand, and a disintegrating social unit the othera vision that is not without a tentative hope.
Abstract verse revolving around the inner thoughts and intimations of a poet and novelist (Defoe, 1994, not reviewed) whose faith in the avant-garde appears fully intact. Experimental verse has become so old-hat that the term can hardly be used with a straight face any longer, but Scalapino brings a certain fresh innocence to her efforts thats at once touching and brave. Dispensing almost entirely with narrative, she uses images quite sparingly and relies upon highly recondite interior perceptions (if the nature of this is struggling wall of birds flying that (arent) on their own. if were not going to do this with people there isnt any existence) to animate her work, which in its essence is about as coherentand as hauntingas a febrile dream. Although the authors recollections of Japan and her daily routines in Berkeley feed her pronouncements (being in tradition is not being a corpse / (here), Kyoto with the river running through it), this is not an account of any particular placeor an account at all, for that matter. As the poet observes early on, The writing is not narrative telling the story or stories of events. Rather it is movements, a movement that was a real event where all is fictional as phenomena. So history is scrutinized by phenomena, observed as minute, particularand thus fictive as haphazard moving. Haphazard, certainly, and frustrating as well (in its apparent lack of focus), Scalapinos work is not without its rewards of austere grace and harsh clarity. But these dont come without hard effort on the readers part.