Object in the Terrifying Tense / Longing from Taking Place

Leslie Scalapino

1993 • 80 pp. • $9.95
ISBN: 9780937804544
Literary Nonfiction
(Poets and Poets Press Publications)

Purchase from Small Press Distribution

“In this book, Scalapino brilliantly rethinks the essay, the politics of identity, & the projects of poetry. Objects in the Terrifying Tense / Longing from Taking Place is necessary reading, marvelous writing.”
—Charles Bernstein

“An extended tour de force in essay form, turning on an absolute present tense improvisational response to world and word, creating throughout, Stein-like, the terms of its own argument. An astonishing – and at the same time basic – piece of work.”
—Norman Fisher

“We value Leslie Scalapino’s act of writing for taking us to the rim of a textual eros full of mystery and lucidity at one but not the same time. These essays evoke multiple senses of time – a long history of con/texts, a recent past full of local excess and global abuse, and a present surface tension brimming with developing meaning. Here is the brilliance of a writer who acts on her knowledge that ‘we don’t have words at all’’ but also that ‘the text so erotic not simply by withholding,’ but in so far as it touches ‘the rim of occurring.’ How can language with its dense etymologies and indebtedness to institutional inertias do such a thing? Scalapino achieves the shimmering moment of words as forms of life through a transmission that does not attempt, or pretend, to pin anything down.”
—Joan Retallack

“Leslie Scalapino’s meticulous commitment to understanding certain writings has resulted in this wonderful book. It proposes that such an understanding does not fix ideas or limit the attention. Rather ‘to understand’ gives one access to perpetually gliding present – an enormous guided moment of mobile thought. The moment – or what she calls ‘reality’ – is the realm of understanding, and it is also the only grounds for it. Objects in the Terrifying Tense / Longing from Taking Place is a moment of reading, spectacular, in place and with momentum.”
—Lyn Hejinian

Scalapino’s critical writings might already be familiar to readers of poetics journals; this anthology includes pieces on H.D., Robert Grenier, Danielle Collobert, Robert Creeley, Alice Notley, Mei-Mei Bersenbrugge, Lyn Hejinian, and others. There is also a selection from THE FRONT MATTER, DEAD SOULS, political writings she began during the last presidential election. (She calls this “a serial novel to be published in the newspaper,” though the newspapers she submitted it to refused to run it.)

Scalapino practices the poetics of language writers, who insist that the division of labor between poet and critic be done away with. It is what I might call, borrowing one of her lines, the “putting of thought to thought”—but as something done, an action, not a view from above, or a statement of logically prior conditions. Criticism that co-exists with the writings it is “about” (and “about” here becomes a kind of adjacency to or perambulation of the writings) will prolematize its own form, as Scalapino says: “The form of rigor itself has to undercut its concept.” Here, her stated aim is to “allow the shapes of the structures of the texts being considered to emerge.” But there is a characteristic Scalapino line as well, and its structure, familiar to her readers since “That They Were at the Beach,” may at times overlay the structures of the texts she is writing about; this at least was my own feeling about her Collobert piece. But not always; her writing on Grenier is “within the way his text sees.” And then there’s the lines from “The Front Matter” – “Our vice president tries to turn us against the ‘cultural elite.’ Here, the cultural elite are simply people who can read at all.” It seems her remarks have not lost their topicality.
—Charlotte Pressler


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).