A series of commentaries by poets and writers honoring Scalapino's work
“... schooled by the certainty she brought to her radical syntax...”
From Rachel Levitsky
Brooklyn, New York
The following piece was presented during the memorial to Leslie Scalapino at St. Marks Church on June 21.
In 1996, one year after I began to write, I bought The Front Matter, Dead Souls, a serial novel meant for publication in a newspaper—which Leslie Scalapino did indeed send to a newspaper—though they didn’t print it—Wesleyan did, so that I could find it at the Naropa Bookstore. The moment of this reading discovery has not ever stopped influencing and exciting my writing practice, seriality, time, motion, syntax, form, and that ‘a woman’ must have everything’, including PORNO, in order to anticipate the world. My particular epiphany in reading The Front Matter, its conceit of “writing on space” is the possibility of narrative as ongoing single shot by roving camera walking through a populous urban landscape, one with an ocean boardwalk, well it is in L.A., after all.
Soon after I met Leslie at a reading and over the years I’ve been lucky – I want to say blessed but I don’t use that word, and/or ‘showered in fairy dust’ feels equally strange – to work with her via Belladonna activity. And in fact poets like Leslie and many of her generation, their clear feminist concern and their radical poetics, inspired Belladonna, for there was not a community space to gather in New York City, and Leslie loved that there came to be one and was always up for it, to come. She liked women a lot. She loved them. One day in an email she generously offered, an amazing thing for we who have trouble asking, to read my work in progress and later wrote to me to say what was wrong with it so companionably which is a lesson as to how to be helpful and the whole experience of which serves to remind me that I exist. I was always stunned by her willingness to be there, her yes-ness to presence. I have also been schooled by the certainty she brought to her radical syntax no matter how editors and others screeched against it. “Don’t Change Anything.” The confidence that there are things that can be said because we are willing to step outside the choke hold of language prison, in order to, quoting Lyn Hejinian “outrun the destruction of the world.”
Inspired by Leslie’s being in action/action in time, her unflinching eye’s constant movement “outrunning the destruction of the world” I’ve assembled a montage: sources are from Leslie’s Can’t is Night and The Front Matter, my nightly trolls through internet news and gossip columns, and two lines from Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian’s collaboration, The Wide Road which Belladonna Books is releasing this December.
Silent Parking Lot
“A dialogue about love is utterly crucial to the remaking of the modern world in writing.
Loving our glandular parts: A scandalized actress takes her parts onstage, returning. She, victorious, loves what she does.
Her shunned ex husband claims to be “A liar not a Nazi” We are hating our glandular parts.
There is a plot in continual series of actions.
ij=a+b(i as years since spill)+d (age j)+ e (i years since spill) (age j)= Oil stays.
The wave comes down softly with the great weight floating.
“An epidemic ‘our nation’ will battle.” As ever, as soon as possible. Through good times and bad. Intractable.
This was to be written on billboards, than it never occurs. There’s an opening to not occurring even.
Hole to hole.
Emerald green swans rest in the water not having to move in it; a pool swims in the movement, an ad.
Healthy lifestyle perfect grease Oil, released from underneath.
If there’s not a difference between the ad and the time that’s been eliminated, that’s memory.
Thousands of holes 10 holes each.
The half-closed eyes of the thug’s head lie on the beach on the sagging carcass.
Heidi is weeping into the camera, face shining. “How can she? Knowing I’ve suffered, the glandular parts I’ve been through.”
Maybe memory itself is joy. It hasn’t occurred, and that’s it.
Body spontaneously aborts. Abandons glandular.
night cannot be seen
regarding is separation of one from others only
Professor BB assures me that I love my car and that this is progress.
L& C: Our very abundance has made us unsafe.
Collective self mutilation enjoyment.
collective now—having driven the Iraqis insane
attention now is insane—is dependent on the separation
of character and night 2, not in movement—either—them
in ‘our’ thought, language ‘our’ movement is before
(language) and later.
But of Earth kill which decoy. For those aborting to give reason. Oceans dying. Letters to evangelicals.
I silence your moaning with violins.
Pelican, Weeping Indian, Owl—Lesbian.
fleeing Baghdad because they were there as
--is not ‘our’ movement in that it has occurred already—
I silence your moaning with violins.
Oil and water, mixed.
Sumo with the handsome boy’s head is lying on her
resting in his arms, still and screwing. He delays. He comes.
As much below as above.
He gets up with the part still and extended.
Will return, in a minute. Will always come back. As soon as possible. No, again.
One time, she’s standing and he’s just taken his
member out of her. He’s standing behind her with the member extended up.
Moveable glands. Benzene clouds. Reactionary flip phone. Small town. Gay bar. Hold on. Glandular war. Held over. Broken part.
Which is seen when he’s come to the door. Defoe’s had
a message for her. Then he puts it back in her.
Moveable landscape. Intractable illness. Made the road. By walking. One single continuous shot. Silence, your parking lot.
Rachel Levitsky’s second book, NEIGHBOR, was recently published by Ugly Duckling Presse. In 1999, she started Belladonna* as a reading series at the Bluestockings Women’s Bookstore, and now is a founding member of the Belladonna* collective.
PHOTO of Levitsky by Benjamin Burrill (copyright)