back toJacket2

This piece is about 27 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Leslie Scalapino and EOAGH and Jacket magazine 2010. See our [»»] Copyright notice.
The Internet address of this page is

Leslie Scalapino


History/Memory/Body: Language is the Trace of Being. Written for the Segue Panel “Language Poetry and The Body” (New York City, May 12, 2007), curated by Erica Kaufman and Tim Peterson.
This piece was originally published in 2008 in EOAGH:
It is republished here with gratitude.  — Ed.

We are sad to report that Leslie Scalapino died after a brief illness on 28 May 2010. This piece was accepted for Jacket early in 2010.

Leslie Scalapino

Leslie Scalapino


“Disbelief” is a performance work/talk/essay dedicated with deep and abiding respect and admiration for poets of the San Francisco Language scene, Steve Benson, Ron Silliman, Bob Perelman, Lyn Hejinian, Tom Mandel, Barrett Watten, Carla Harryman, and others.


Patients with hippocampal amnesia cannot imagine new experiences. The hippocampus is thought to have a role in recall of episodic memories, recall of experience of rich spatial setting or context rather than ‘simple’ visual imagery (for faces or single objects). Patients with hippocampal damage could not ‘see’ detail and as such could not construct future contexts or events. Cued to create fictitious situations, their imagined experiences lacked spatial coherence, consisting instead of fragmented images in the absence of a holistic representation of the environmental setting. “The hippocampus, therefore, may make a critical contribution to the creation of new experiences by providing the spatial context into which the disparate elements of an experience can be bound.” [1]


I’m not juxtaposing ‘healthy’ as convention of sequence in poetry. Nor does the poet have a damaged hippocampus presumably. The mind’s recall (past/present) is necessarily tied to the making of the future; the brain is conceptual as spatial imaging. I’m suggesting as writing one can intentionally recall-as-simultaneously-obliterate past events as creating (as to create) their future.


Taking the view that “the self is a guinea pig” [2] (and herein I’m creating a foil) in considering presentation of “one’s body and that of others’” in writing, I will try to see the relations between “our bodies” and “future” in an example from my early writing, “buildings are at the far end,” a poem sequence in that they were at the beach, not because I’m so attached to that early poem sequence but because it was written in the period of radical as “communal” language writing. I’m only speaking of the San Francisco Language scene; I think the New York Language scene was very different. A description of that writing of mine is only possible in hindsight, though when writing it I had a sense (a “feeling”) of what I’ll here describe. I’ll describe it as the sensation of an idea; given a few passages of “buildings are at the far end,” you would (will) not have to have read it to understand the idea. As writing, one can’t conceive of a future without changing the past and present. Corporal body and the future are separated, detached, though the body must be there for there to be an individual’s future; maybe there can’t be sense of body without sense of future? The body must happen simultaneous in order to invent the future. Before speaking of “buildings are at the far end,” I’ll describe my earliest poem, titled hmmmm.


One not being oneself, total change, utter transformation: In my poem hmmmm, a man is seen at once to be a seal; he’s replaced by a seal, but both are there. A man is seen at once (both present) to be a man and a baboon, etc — that erupting (interrupting) of /as undoing the present — in relation to a state of being (that’s not present) as an act of hope — is ‘state outside one’s being that would be future.’


The basis of hmmmm (a sequential poem published in ’76, before I was aware of Language writing, and again in Considering how exaggerated music is, in ’82) was my sense of experiencing in the general ‘outside’ context — as if our culture’s-the-same-as-one one’s — state of hierarchical polarization, which I wanted the writing to puncture as if throughout it, to reverse or transmute this simultaneously violent state. I couldn’t/can’t describe the experiencing of ‘hierarchical polarization,’ except as inside and outside coming together destroying/as being that which is at once one and public, the permeation of the violence of the outside society by [its] altering seeing and (therefore) altering all occurrence. There was no separation of one from outside. [3]


None of the segments of hmmmm narrates that origin as I ‘felt’ it. They are ruptures, tongue-in-cheek (rather than ironic, a tone valued, for example, in the Language setting then but which in my view entailed the poet having control by distancing himself from experiencing) and pertaining to individuals as imitation of, in the sense of one relexifying, the sensorium of the collective. Collective is not mentioned in hmmmm, yet is regarded in it as background made up by one and having the sensory quality of an original paradise. One has to change one’s physical being, has to physically leap out of one’s self as if to elude social hierarchical polarization by doing so — be a different being. [I asked poet Suzanne Stein to comment on this essay and I retain some of her remarks: Yes. Leap out of paradise?] As if it were partaking of the sensorium of the collective by the figure/one being (having to be) altered altogether even physically, one’s description or imagination, that of a relexified collective, becomes sensation also. At the same time corporal body is outside that which is social. [Suzanne Stein: the only social [corporal] body is the one that includes [carries?] the internal corresponding [to the collective?] social “being”?]


How can I help myself,                                              as one woman said to me about wanting

to have intercourse with strange men,                         from thinking of a man

How can I help myself,                                         as one woman said to me about wanting
to have intercourse with strange men,                         from thinking of a man
(someone whom I don’t know) as being like a seal. I mean I see a man
(in a crowd such as a theatre) as having the body of a seal in the way
a man would, say, be in bed with someone, kissing and barking,
which is the way a seal will bark and leap on his partly-fused hind limbs.
Yes. Am I not bound, I guess, (I say to myself) to regard him tenderly,
to concentrate on the man’s trunk instead of his face, which in this case,
is so impassive.                                Seriously, I am fascinated by the way a seal moves. [4]


Recently I read an essay on Walter Benjamin, titled “Benjamin and Cinema/Not a One-Way Street,” by Miriam Hansen, which seemed to translate for me what I wanted that early sequence to do and how, though the description could never substitute for its action; that is, a description will never be an action. I used to think that all statement, as idea, is hierarchical polarization, itself; idea is split from its being. Any idea, in being ‘outside’ the instance, imposes authority as structure. So, no ideas could be articulation, there could only be actions’ mimicry as writing, liquidationist. Yet for Benjamin of course ‘idea’ was its rupture: that is the action. That was the occurrence I wanted in hmmmm, both.


Furthermore, the cinema has spawned creations, like Mickey Mouse, that unhinge experience and agency from anthropomorphic identity, and thus enact Fourier’s project of “cracking the teleology of nature.” Finally, the cinema provides a structural equivalent to the radical integration of “image space” and “body space,” which Benjamin discerned in the experiments of the surrealists, projecting a “world of universal and integral actuality,” but one that, in the case of cinema, is institutionally, qua mode of reception, predicated on the sensorium of a collective.


Benjamin is well aware that the “leap into the apparatus,” effected by the collapsing of “body-and image-space,” is itself an image… [5]


Now we’ve become inured to either integration or disruption as filmic illusion, one’s translation of film image as disruption having become inured to be only image again. That is, disruption of image requires continual change as introduction of new mediums. Format academic argument — idea as discursive/as such outside of its performance, the intent being to separate from its demonstration — is hierarchical polarization (is rendering of the social act of one’s conceptual split: that’s its purpose! — the enactment of the format having to do with definition of power, among other things). Incorporating that split itself may be enactment of disruption. I was trying to take that separation apart in life as writing at once.


In hmmmm: The person’s physical alteration being literal, the image (of seal/and of man) is just that optical sight not a literary metaphor, yet an optical sight known by viewer/reader to be only idea, as such impossible undertaking: impossibility that is its rupture. Any optical sight is always the past — it has to be duplicated, a memory at once its first occurrence seen by the eye. Erupted, the present burst (in hmmmm) removing the barrier separating outside and one. This has to be done in one, such as by humor. As if ‘inner’ or private, the optical sight (of seal and/as man) seen in solitary reading is thereby not social, in the sense that it’s not experience outside.


In Benjamin’s genealogy of art, this polarity has been tipped toward semblance, autonomized in the Western tradition of “beautiful semblance”… which has dead-ended in aestheticism (illusion, phantasmagoria, aura in the narrow sense). Play, by contrast, is linked to repetition and iterability, as both an internal principle and the modality of imagining a second chance, the hope of sidetracking a catastrophic history. [6]


In hmmmm, corporal body is split image, occurring by humor — the reader’s response. Image is disjointed from itself as being idea (being the object being the seal/man, its optical sight and this idea). In the segment “How can I help myself,” the original sights occurring at once are: a viewer (woman seeing and speaking); ‘myself’ (another woman who originally saw these sights and spoke to the woman who is the speaker of the poem) seeing a man walking on the street/a man in bed; and all these seen by a reader being present. Both ‘seal/man’ being seen optically for an instant at once — all these are present-time: “What seems important to me regarding Benjamin’s concept of innervation and its implications for film theory is the notion of a physiologically ‘contagious’ or ‘infectious’ movement that would trigger emotional effects in the viewer, a form of mimetic identification” [7] [Stein: mirror neuron patterning?] with the non-human. The past (in hmmmm) has no ground, isn’t there, only rupture of present. So, past and “the state that is longed for” (as if future, an empty state, not the seal, and outside the two speakers and the man) have been compressed to make that rupture of present, a burst that is clarity as of emptiness, none of the components but all of them; though there is the viewer of the present, there is no present either.


The poem-segment of this sequential poem, not comparing a man to a seal, not a metaphor denigrating either man or seal (as moral juxtaposition of ‘animal’ and ‘human’) only optical, is, on the other hand, most certainly a feminist action as: disbelief is the action of not being duped ‘inside’ any kind of seeing either optical or conceptual. One is not ‘contained as’ the seeing of man/woman, not as their actions, behavior (social customs), or definitions, one is to be only in the present/as reading. But there is the un-formed ‘experience’ of the collective-paradise, the outside/present in/of the writing only.

Comparison of hmmmm to that they were at the beach (1985)


To show duration, the body’s sense of continuance and my order of placement of ‘a body’ in that duration, as this occurs in one book, I’ll describe sensation of future/past in that they were at the beach’s four sequences. (They are: “buildings are at the far end,” “that they were at the beach — aeolotropic series,” “A Sequence,” and “Chameleon Series.”)


The ship (so it’s in the foreground) — with the man who’s the beggar in back of it, the soil is in back of him — is active. So it’s mechanical — there aren’t other people’s actions — I don’t know how old the man in back is. Who’s older than I, desire’d been had by him for something else. I’m not old.

And with him being inactive back then. [8]


It took intense concentration to ‘find’ the linkage of elements in space so as to ‘allow’ these not to be linked, the distance to be widened between instigation and any aftereffect so we can see in reading, there being no cause and effect. I only see now I was basing this writing (that’s the sequential poem “buildings are at the far end”) on visual illusion, the sense that cause and effect occur from interaction between the immediate elements of present-time location, though I know it/interaction of cause and effect doesn’t occur as being only (isn’t only) interaction in the present, rather than the past impinging on/affecting the present there. Even the beggar, who was in the past, is only locational ‘there.’ No elements of the space inactive, in the text we’re seeing after and before any actions happen and at once. So ‘we’re’ (as if there is optical sight of plural viewers, not solitary reader) as viewers/‘just seeing’ freed from the making of events even — even single events; and instigations as chains of history are removed. We’re seeing the open area between any happening, thus death ceases there, as in the beggar lying between the ship and the area behind the beggar, who in real-time of my early childhood memory was dying, starving, seen lying in garbage on a dock of a port (in my early childhood age seven, a famine in Pakistan, a man lying in garbage holding out his cup to me as I walked through the strewn garbage though he did not seem concerned about receiving sustenance; it was too late); but my responses or memory are not the issue, only his action/inaction relative to the real-time-space.


The writing as action of ‘finding’ the linkage in time of elements in real-time space so as to ‘allow’ these not to be linked (in the writing) is undoing history (undoing in the future what that history — of that event — has become in the future, now at the time of reading). Interpretation, for example, of this writing as “autobiographical” isn’t simply irrelevant, that interpretation is itself the action of hierarchical polarization. A notion of this as “autobiography” (the word used now defined as personal/removed from world, as split) would remove its relation (the relation it is) to “history” (that is, being real-time — there being the man lying in garbage).


The ship being mechanical (its movement is motorized) is not caused by us (as an event is, when we act — what’s now, that’s not caused by us either) and the mechanical ship is also ‘caused’ (in the sense of machine production). Thus the writing is a state in which one can see the ship is both static and not static. Writing can be a state that is seen entirely, at once. There is no build-up or plot; therefore in the text when I lose my job as a result of my expression of emotion (which removed from action had in life been seen by me, and is regarded in the poem, as only ‘for itself’), that the emotion had an effect is a shock (in the text).


In real-time a man had been bullying me in public actions that were misogyny also fostered by the context (San Francisco Grand Piano setting). After his writing was reviewed, praised by a leader for having “gone beyond self,” I answered the poet satirically in a private letter (sent also to only one other, the reviewer); he responded publicly by sending out letters across the country. (Amidst his negative comments about my writing, one of his minor comments was that the purpose of my writing was to seduce men.) Though he was not in the place of my new employment, I lost my new job, leaving me destitute — I’m let go by another man who’s his friend. Referencing that man/his friend with whom I argued (who himself in the future healed the rift between us), the man who fired me said “you cannot come now” to the teaching job, after my having a negative exchange with his friend. [Suzanne Stein: Leslie as I’m in the middle of this paragraph I’m going back to the beginning to remind myself what is the panel title, wanting to understand why you’re taking this side-route, I think there’s a need to directly reference that these actions/emotional situations are affecting the [your] body. I mean, be specific about that, about these things happening to real time to your real body/person, isn’t that part of the discussion of ‘language poetry and the body’? I think I’m just wanting you to name it directly here.] The effect on my body (after the removal of the job following the letter-‘attacks’) was a sense of no distinction between body and mind in their utter cessation of my having been blasted; body-mind suspended in a sensation of obliteration. (The poem thus corresponded with — as suppression/shock — and then altered that physical state.) The poem is not expression of shock regarding either the dying of the beggar (past) or the losing of the job (present then): it’s doing the action of seeing in a space there not being cause and effect. Even though there is (death, and consequences of actions — the consequence there being personalized, as such illegal labor practice; death, the beggar’s future-past is tactilely attached to these also). By the writing’s action being apprehending not doing the links forming events, so they do not form, though the events are there, the future without any of these effects is possible as apprehension (in the sense that it’s possible for one to change the immediate past and present — in the text, when seeing that space tactilely). So one can ‘see’ (mind’s eye as knowledge about it) how to act (everyone’s actions apprehended at once) throughout real-time.


I had not read any Buddhist texts by this time — or any I remember. On a panel at UC Berkeley several years ago (it was on the subject of Buddhism and poetry) when I described doing writing that does not form events solidly in the sense that events potentially occur multiply spurring forming each other (so there wouldn’t be any independent events, only interdependent, nor therefore hierarchy of perception though there are consecutive actions; and as such there couldn’t be social hierarchy represented or occurring there either), a man who was a younger Language poet panelist (in the delivery of “Disbelief” at Segue I used the name of the poet who is from New York, known to all in the audience) remarked “I don’t think Leslie’s doing what she thinks/says she’s doing.” Rereading “buildings are at the far end” now, as a different person than I was as the writer of the poem, I ‘got’ that idea of the text allowing lapsing of cause and effect, the lapsing there tactilely. At any rate, the act of disbelief (that one’s capacity and experiencing as one’s nature also are only within events are not valid, seen by others as not even understood by oneself) — so one can not align actions of actual historical events, is not doing so as writing or apprehending, is hierarchical polarization forming conception/ action there.


The man who was the younger Language poet fellow-panelist may have been implying a conclusion I used to hear in my context, about my writing, that it’s only that event (or as was said to me a number of times in the ‘80s, “That’s just narrative!” solidified presentation or reconstruction of a story, so it’s past, as if an event was the subject when the writing was attempting to undo past). Responding to a student who after a reading compared my writing to Gertrude Stein’s, a contemporary close in age (which I cite because it is my own context) Language poet with whom I’d read scoffed: “Gertrude Stein is the human mind! Leslie’s is just human nature! A man having AIDS!” His scoffing reference — as if a man having AIDS is merely ‘emotional’/low content, rather than elevated/’mind’ — is to “Delay Series” in way, which I’d just read then. The division is between mind and living (experiencing): being in events is one’s body, one’s impermanence.


Disbelief is an operation of (the) writing, one being formed in it before the writing, however free one may be (or not) from the effect of being disbelieved (one being created by social pressure, either disbelief or acceptance).


The early and mid ’80s was the height of San Francisco Language writing as a communal movement when the idea was articulated of a ‘collective’ syntax eschewing the identity of the individual writer. I can remember Ron Silliman commenting that you could still actually identify individual Language poets in their works by their style or quirks, they had not fully merged — implying that the political experiment was still: that one/they practice a writing eschewing individualism. This extreme erasure, as deemphasizing recognition of even individual identity in favor of communal syntax, was a temporary stage of what I saw as a vital experiment. Interest in collaborations, as a form of procedure (perhaps Lyn Hejinian’s practice in many of her collaborations of dropping the names of the collaborators throughout the text is an example) arose from this spirit of communal project. In the context of critiquing predecessors, such as Charles Olson’s poetics, to say nothing of confessional poetry, ‘There is no self in this writing’ is/was a common woven aside or positive assertion occurring within the poet’s text as a cue to indicate their intent (say in texts by Lyn Hejinian, Ron Silliman, and others). The transgression of individualism also as such entailed erasing the conventional formal distinction between thought (critique) and ‘poetry.’


A communal objective combined with group resistance to commentary by poets present but considered outsiders/resistance to definitions or analysis of Language group’s processes or ideas continually displacing the outsider-participants, the rejection of analysis being transformative to others by producing the sense (in them) of ‘not-this not-that.’ At this time alongside these other poets, I had the concept that one had to make a new language (as minute imitation that reverses/is) outside of any social syntax, sound, and (thus) outside of any ‘social seeing’ in order to break the continual social (the general society’s whole past and present) ordering that’s framing and defining one. Sound/syntax as a thought-shape is the struggle (motion) to apprehend (and is) one’s actual mind-shape, its physical-as-conceptual phenomena, separate from social programming which is exterior and becomes deterministic. I was aware then that my attempt to render in language as thought-shape sensation and feeling was in dialogue with — as if the other side of the coin of — purposes of a ‘collective’ communal syntax. I also acknowledge that at the time the words “social world” had for me an aura of both ‘area of internal split and suffering’ that also as if contained ‘non-hierarchical state of communing,’ reveals it, a kind of paradise not actually envisioned — the realistic goal, as I saw it.


Communal: Poets were urged to drop the use of line breaks, for example, to adopt paratactic syntax in paragraphs. Line breaks apparently denoted subjective sounds? Thus, Ted Pearson described to me in the early ’80s giving a reading of poetry with line breaks, during which reading Barrett Watten scribbled by hand, keeping pace with Pearson’s voice; at the end presenting Pearson with a rewritten poem devoid of line breaks, to show these weren’t necessary. The first time I used paragraphs rather than line breaks was “Considering how exaggerated music is” in 1982, a sequence in which I was not aware of using a ‘required’ syntax (because it was what the writing needed to be in that instance, as other poets also were seeing in their various works), that poem being ‘on’ (concerning) social subjective-objective alteration of being. In recent years when I mentioned to Lyn Hejinian this communal syntax, which I thought the most radical intervention of Language writing and therefore positive as mode, she did not remember this articulated goal (perhaps because she has changed and become interested in other modes in doing new work?).


Strategies, such as describing their own writing as not having content and calling for ‘no content’ (late ‘70s-early ‘80s) had the effect of throwing the outsider-participant off balance by refusing any of the outsider’s (others’) strategies, describing any as plots or narrative with content. They belied the senses effectively, I thought, as a transformative gesture, a provocative ploy (whether or not intended as such), which if imaginatively solidified as if fact (such as asserting the completed Language project is the future-present) belies our senses falsely. If you replace the actual event (not existing — therefore open) with yourself there is nothing of reality. The assertion that the writing was without content was a radical intervention — ‘no content’ taken literally by some new imitators erases the earlier intent, which was a political gesture. Bruce Andrews, in his talk for “The Body and Language Writing” panel, was I think making this point.


My language, which I intended as study of individual’s thought-shape and sensations, Ron Silliman apparently saw as self-expression. Thus he criticized me in letters (“You refuse to question self.”). However related to their endeavors (as I thought my study as my syntax as a person’s thought-shapes/nature-of-being to be), the latter concept of being (thought-shapes as sound-shapes of language, etc) as being any individual’s mind might be considered irrelevant or anathema in Marxist terms (puritanical tenets, however). Silliman’s writing is always graphically sensory-sexual filled with references to, as if one person speaking about, his own bodily functions, actions, and senses (sex, shitting, sense of smell). Also, he’s a brilliantly original poet. In the early 80s the word “original” was regarded negatively. I was critiqued a number of times by poets for “originality” while being told that there is no such thing (all ideas and gesture are appropriated). Obviously, ideas and gestures in their arising and alteration are interdependent.


In the early ‘80s in San Francisco the phrase “Language bashing” or “Language basher” arose (from Ron Silliman?) as a term for those who criticized Language poetry, appropriated from the term “gay bashing” (meaning episodes of beating or even killing people who are gay). That is, critique of Language poetry was equated with a civil rights or human rights violation. As if any criticism were inherently wrong and violent. This sequestered and sequestering tendency obviously is anti-social. Yet I think this insular gesture was related to the sense that a social communion was possible. That is, actual community ‘there’ was the ideal.


Playing ball — so it’s like paradise, not because it’s in the past, we’re
on a field; we are creamed by the girls who get together on the other
team. They’re nubile, but in age they’re thirteen or so — so they’re

(No one knows each other, aligning according to race as it happens, the color of the girls, and our being creamed in the foreground — as part of it’s being that — the net is behind us. [9]


The second series in that they were at the beach is the title piece, “that they were at the beach — aeolotropic series,” intended as randomly-generated-as-mind-shape past or past-present events as such ‘punched out’ of space (of reality), so one is to be without certain individual memories — then without memory at all — as the means of one being only in future. My sense of it (the past, the writing) being on its own, it was random arising, impermanence originating the writing of segments. ‘Punching these out,’ however, occurs by recalling episodic memories, which different as they are, are all subjected to a single sound scheme throughout, which happened to ‘come up’ unknown: Paired within itself — as if somehow in internal conflict or harmonious pairing which was not yet understood by me — each segment is the same sound that recurs throughout the sequence, each segment a double paragraph as whatever its single event is/was, that creates the sense of it being duplicated as each segment is motions in space of writing. Now it occurs to me that this syntax (sound as double-pairing) gives one/the reader the conceptual implication — as the corporal sense — of other events at once (any, present or future there) that are occurring or could occur. With only present memories, the syntax as sound (as if one’s body in space) and its repetition also makes the sense of future (there but unknown)?


In “that they were at the beach — aeolotropic series,” the episodic stream was associational, especially memories of racism that was at the basis of or ‘causing’ altercations in my junior high school and high school. At the time of these events I had the sense that we, the girls in the poem-segments (it was public, Berkeley High School, but the gym class had only girls) who collided or beat each other — the black girls beat the white — sometimes a group on one, were not producing the events (which I felt as ‘context,’ chain of events, all events being interdependent) in which we were acting. Though we were in the midst of it, and all were suffering, it had been formed by others (the adults) before us in time. This is why we were as negative space of writing [not] — as — in — paradise (by there being a sense of it, before us, missing), we were innocent at once pre-social construction, not forming our then present context or actions (therefore in a sense we were outside of the later context, our present); so there is an opening for the future though (and because) the present has been formed by others — at the same time we’re not doing the historical construction of the violence, its background.


That is: Inversely, since we are only ‘there’ (present), we are not socially constructed. By being so (constructed). [This logic is the spatial syntax.] I had the sense then and later that the kids there (in Berkeley) were forming a new way of being (they/we were doing so) that exists now (after, in the effect of the civil rights movement — though that was outside before us, a different time). I’d have to grasp it was ‘we’ forming (not just a ‘they,’ outside) in order to change (the writing’s relation of, as) the actual relation of past/present to future. Also, such events have to be articulated by everyone present, be the experience of everyone, not the experience of only those who are black. Otherwise, it is commoditized by whites, separated to serve as a ‘subject,’ a topic, but it is not real to them. (See my essay, “Picasso and Anarchism.”) The intention is not for my text to describe this topic of history — it’s not even present as topic — but for its syntax and unfolding as duration to undo particular events in history/as also to indicate process, as freeing oneself from history.


Some people disliked “that they were at the beach — aeolotropic series” on the basis of its being “nostalgia;” others admired it apparently for that very reason, being nostalgia and autobiography, neither of which were my intention: which was to eliminate memory as basis or vehicle, liquidationist, thus to eliminate the social constructions that had deformed ‘our’ present and that became part of us. The effort again is also to thereby actually change the fabric that is the past, literally. [Suzanne Stein: to change the body’s past/or the single body’s past is one thing, to change the historical past [which doesn’t exist anyway] is an undertaking with terrible implications. I don’t disagree with you, I’m just frightened by it.] [Answering Stein: While the implications of my thought here is to change one’s historical events by, in the poem’s syntax and structure, altering (all of the) one’s ‘seeing’ enabling change of actions to allow a future-space (possibility) free of the suffering produced from past actions of one-with-others — (yet) a terrible implication which I don’t intend, but which is occurring in some writing as also events, similar to tactics of some political regimes, is the rewriting of history supplanting what did occur with what did not occur. Substituting oneself — one’s corporal-as-actual actions altered, re-imagined — there is no history whatsoever. I think, considering your point, that the implications of changing one’s own actual historical events are also terrifying whether or not introducing simply rewriting: voiding events would be to have no history and therefore no bounds or ‘life.’ This was in fact my purpose.]


A man — I was immature in age — was a stowaway so not having been active, taken from the ship we’re on in a row boat.

A sailor had fallen out of the row boat then, was embarrassed. So it’s like paradise — the embarrassment, therefore it’s depressed — seen by his waving at us as the other sailors are coming to him). [10]


“I don’t like that because it’s too nostalgic.” It seems like “beautiful semblance”? but given my intention I think it has to in order to be a past event at once distanced as ‘decal’ and also not ‘personal’ as subject matter of pain rather than random events inclusive. That is, if all of the memories are painful/charged, that skews it. The senses/corporal memory as the past was necessary to that past being ‘punched out’ (and thus ‘not being’ at all), by that past actually having motion that as a sequence acting upon itself (not single segments) seems, if a poem as sound can have a sensation of unbounded motion, to also create a future (tactilely sensed — [unknown future] only heard in the present).


The next to last sequence of that they were at the beach, titled “A Sequence,” is a prose poem composed of continual same-scene of sexual encounters in which ‘she’ comes as a result of her thought of seeing some partners are men with leopard’s parts when she has no leopard’s parts and some are men without leopard’s parts. It’s in the middle of that book, that they were at the beach, in order there centered to be removing hierarchical structure. The parts of creatures whether leopard’s or people’s, both, as one writing the missing sensation of our collective physicality, physicality is the closest one can be to invisibility in relation to language: Physicality is invisible to writing, therefore one can’t identify the leopard parts as oneself though erotic response may be felt in thought; not reassembled — in the text intentionally can’t be reassembled as experience (we don’t have experience with leopards). In my view, since sensual-sexual actions (objective, hard-edged, unlike psyche) are as far separated from writing as can be (because writing is not physical action), as such sensual-sexual action/written can ‘pick up’ trace of monumental history. As a fine line between only event-mimicry in syntax rather than writing that’s narration of events, material sensual-sexual action as that (as any physical action) diverges far from writing — invisibility (disbelief) is their link.


In the leopard sequence, there is no hierarchy, no domination (of either men or women over anyone), not heightened imagination, only subordination of all in the flattened surface. [Suzanne Stein: Yes. I experience that to be true.] It is not ‘inner,’ being only its surface, it is dependent on duration in which there is neither past nor future. The continual scenes are without supplying culmination, only continuous acts where many people may come, but the sexual acts in a scene of various people coming don’t stop as a result. Seamless as wallpaper (except where the seams are visible) at the same time that, as idea, it is anti-seamless, everyone is on an equal level as interchangeable actions. In the context of the book in which it is published (that they were at the beach) whose concept was to void both individual’s memory and historical, real-time events by one’s writing articulating these as an individual’s thought-shape the outside and inside as syntax, I intended “A Sequence” both as erotica (subject ‘only’ of sex) and as a deconstruction of the social creation of the erotic by being its genre only; it is ‘within’ — it can’t do an action that’s an omitted action of no hierarchy, no domination; only we can do that (if we do). So the writing itself can’t be representation, even of idea of lack of hierarchy there because that (theory acting is outside of the writing) would be domination — as doctrine/representation it would be exterior to itself. The poem is neither utopia nor doctrine; not prescribing or describing people’s behavior or feelings (it is looking at these by somehow ‘containing’ this idea? yet it may stimulate physical response by simulation of it).


At that time (early ‘80s), poets in my San Francisco context advocated in talks and conversation eradication of eroticism in writing, described as expression of personal ego assertion. I recall Charles Olson being given as an example of such negative-Eros. This dictum was akin to eradicating gesture of individualism. A few years ago in conversation with Bob Perelman, whose oeuvre includes love poems that are erotic, he noted that he did not recall this phenomenon and would not have such a view now. Yet Michael Palmer, Robert Gluck, and others have said (as do I) that the critique of eroticism then as being personal egotism was commonly uttered; the concept was so ordinary that we’d heard this frequently.


The last sequence of that they were at the beach: “Chameleon Series” is wobbly sound-syntax spurts not on a timer but not random, subconscious/warped series using repetition of subject: having to do with odd spatially in the sense of askew, private bodily actions and the word “bourgeoisie” in locations, people pleasurably urinating or vomiting pleasurably or at least with curiosity, bodily functions that are occasionally in the space as offbeat syncopation without that subject matter determining sound or direction; it’s just squirted as if one had stepped on the physical middle here and there. “Chameleon Series” is not adequate as a poem by itself: it turns out, it’s the future of the other pieces — in the sense that the book may be read throughout, coming to “Chameleon Series” at the end, before the sense of that poem’s haphazard spurts is evident, is heard/felt.


Reading “Chameleon Series” by itself, it doesn’t form or proceed. In that sense it doesn’t have a present, is empty, and is only future outside of its self (it is not future — if not read as part of, as attached to, its past, the preceding sequences). Some men who were leaders in my context stated “No, not that!” simply, in regard to that poem; some specifically rejecting the word “bourgeoisie” as if my usage were a literal, on my part failed social analysis, only cliché; whereas the word “bourgeoisie” in the poem is a decal (disbelief); throws it off as there not being only single trajectory: deform by using words out of place makes it wobble only, but in the presence of some ‘actual’ setting (really, as if there is none ‘actual’ anywhere). The present of “Chameleon Series” being warping of reading, the poem’s progress is ‘intentionally’ (subconsciously) deformed as it’s movement/sound or modality. The scale (as in looking at a map) of the series is: points (segments) are connections (as in places where bodies connect in certain mannerist paintings — that were in fact my models for intuitively sequencing these actions — sending all the figures into extreme, oddly ‘violent’ connections), spurring sequencing ‘crucial’ spots of change as if on a space of behavior so large that the whole can’t be seen.


there not
having been

had been
to the sense

being at war


the way
in which
were treated
— since
they were


as in
the sense

in my
— occurring
once — of
not being
at the time [11]


The middle piece, “A Sequence,” considered as solely erotica (my poetic definition of genre is: being within its self) the poem is to be without social credibility; it can only be free from social outside by not having socially conferred credibility. Even given the writer respecting readers for taking the time and care to read the book, which is a form of their bestowing credibility on a book, I had the overt intention of taking away possibility of the mode (genre) of the poem being regarded as ‘high.’ Apparently meaning the entire book, at its publication, one liquidationist man/a leader of my context phoned to give his comment: “There’s too much sex in it [the book]! How can you stand it! All that sex! Aghh!”


Social disbelief of one leads one (at least it did me), in a dialectical relation, to do other ‘erotic’ writings, with a sense of these as an opening of freedom because these have been opposed, are ‘senses as such, and thus knowledge’ of people, rather than all being gender-determined-curtailed. Erasure of self as basis of poetics — and the poetics of applying this erasure to others — resembles American fundamentalist, moralist, negative condemnation of phenomenal being which as such is regarded as if outside oneself. Thus in “Chameleon Series” I was making the figures be regarded outside themselves — as in one vomiting in space being also the outside entering one’s inside — space created by being in an unknown rhythm of presentation. In the early ’80s Kathy Acker did a residency at Langton Arts in San Francisco during which she was attacked, called onto the carpet particularly by a panel held during her residency, the Language poets who were panel-members citing her for anti-social violence linked with content of sexuality, the conception being that representation of anti-social content teaches/reproduces that violence in society. An opposite perspective of that issue would be that inclusion of transformative content transforms our perception. The panel was advocating positive, morally appropriate subject matter as poetic writing, a position suggesting sanitation that is opposed to realism. I thought that the problem raised was that sanitized (or utopian) writing would not allow what is: Without realism there can be no change.


I attended this panel and one of Acker’s readings at Langton but missed the last part of Acker’s residency as I drove to Canada for a reading, where I happened to stay with a friend of Acker’s who greeted me by saying “Kathy Acker is being attacked by the Language poets in San Francisco.” Acker had been calling her Canadian friend daily in a state of great distress. (Barrett Watten remarked to me after her residency that Acker treated the circumstance as “just to get through it” rather than to engage the criticisms as put to her.) [12]


The line-up on the panel aggressively interrogating visiting artist Acker, similar to the critique as erotic, though non-violent, material in my own writing, occurred at the time alongside articulated emphasis on “realism,” the two contraries posited at once from the same poets. Carla Harryman’s oeuvre, in particular, demonstrates thorough knowledge of and fascination with the literary history of utopias and is creating a dialectic in present writings that are forms of utopias (such as Gardner of Stars). The issue itself is the content of Harryman’s vision, the tension between her construction of a utopia as the writing and the pull or force (and contradiction) of the actual world outside that. In Harryman’s writing there is also I think a passionate tension between the speaker being a director directed by their (their own, and others’) theory/doctrine at all times — the use of the word ‘we’ as communal (the title of one of her early plays is “There is Nothing Better Than a Theory”) as opposed to their/the writing’s person as if consciously subconscious sensuality-sexuality seeming in fierce rebellion hurling itself against ‘their’/unknown other person’s doctrinal (seen as social) obduracy. Thus apparently stymied, ‘her’ eroticism is a positive, altering force. Hidden but displayed as energy.


Explicit and fine in Harryman’s work, the contradictions of narrative versus ‘no content’ — the phrase used for a time in the San Francisco poetry scene in the early-mid ‘80s, indicating, I think, inclusion ‘at random’ as a factor of energy and choice-in-process, rather than intentional selection as crafted that as such determines the future of a piece of writing in advance — and the phrase ‘no content’ related to exposing contradictions of determination of content (in pre-determined, composed writing, for example) versus realism, were and are issues of writing as the very nature of Language poetics.


As related to social formation, thinking and being: Lyn Hejinian and I, collaborating throughout the ‘90s up to the present to write the five senses, have completed Sight and are presently writing Hearing. Considering Hejinian’s writing the senses, one might examine the play occurring created in exchange itself, hers a social-sensory action becoming a faculty that’s being created impacted by the exchange of a collaboration in which her thought is the senses’ filter. The senses rather than ‘directly visible’ in her writing are there, palpable obverse:


Oblivion takes the world in obverse. The colorful world there seen in negative is very colorful. Yellow plums fall into the red grass. There cannot be (in a world susceptible to oblivion) any distinction between inside and outside.


The works of oblivion hang like pictures at an exhibition in a museum abandoned by ghosts (memory). [13]


There, statement becomes sensation of sight. Still, if oblivion allows the world to be at the same time its obverse, intellect (or “reason,” which she celebrates, a version of which as her poetic invention, becomes a replacement for the overworked word “imagination”? — That is, she may mistrust the word “imagination” now and relies on her inclusive sense of “reason” as more realistic?) as the operation of poetry, for Hejinian, retains and imprints a distinction between body and mind: “Before this, science declared that we are physical machines that have somehow learned to think/Now it transpires that we are thoughts that have learned to create a physical machine.” [14] There, even questioning a mind/body split, she reinforces it, as if weight given to, or inclusion of, the body is pessimistic: “Diderot may have been right/The mind may be nothing without the impulse-ridden body.” [15]


A powerful demonstration for me of mind/body dichotomy was a collaborative presentation between myself and another poet, a Language writer who (referring to written notes — I also wrote notes as my colleague spoke, anticipating a question-and-answer) described the basis of their poetry as pleasure (probably intellectual pleasure), maintaining: “Pain is merely depersonalizing, pleasure is liberating.” Their implication was that my writing expresses pain therefore is not free, a generalization overtly articulated two weeks later when this poet, introducing my writing at a reading, characterized it, seemingly all of it: “The subject of Leslie Scalapino’s writing is suffering.” That is, mine is depersonalized, theirs is liberated. This collaborator in referencing the subject of pain in mine as comparison of my writing to theirs may have had in mind my poem-play, which we’d discussed privately earlier, As: All Occurrence in Structure, Unseen — Deer Night, [16] the text/syntax of which itself is to be sensational as if text is cells and tissues filled with nerve-endings that are sight and feeling, perceived as if by sight and feeling, as if the senses are seen but also experienced by the mind’s eye reading. [17]) I was writing physical sensation; because spine-injury pain was what was happening to me then, I investigated it as phenomenal being. Neither that writing nor myself were depersonalized by pain; rather the intent is to make all conscious. I was considering the fact that commonly pain is physically prolonged after its cause has been removed, the phenomenon of the spine’s memory / the pain-present continuing is the spinal cord’s memory, “the spine’s dream.”


We are (and are in) evolution cognating and being manifesting sensations. Writing that’s examining as mimicking motions/events producing sensation may undertake the future by being limitless sensations, that are also dualism: instructions to feel sensation are a language sent to the brain by the nerves experiencing. The significance for me of the speaker’s polemic, “Pain is merely depersonalizing, pleasure is liberating,” was that at the very instant of this defining of poetics, the US was in the act of the first bombings (later invasion) of Afghanistan that was at that very instant keenly suffering. Distinct from physical pain, the definition of the word “suffering” is: “to undergo or experience.” If “Pain is merely depersonalizing,” those others bombed are not even allowed their own ‘being’ — if defined as depersonalized by someone, they are as such rendered outside and without themselves, languageless — as well as their having to suffer, being bombed. If they are merely depersonalized by their own experience, “pleasure is liberating” sounds like “Let them eat cake.” Pain may accentuate one’s being, and do so even while splitting one’s being in two as on-looker and actor. Sensual pleasure tends to be experienced as one (as union), not split.


The poetic issue is akin to the Kathy Acker residency, inclusion of suffering equated by the panelists with mere reproduction of suffering, a writer seen by such critique as necessarily embedded in the pain rather than the writing altering all the seeing that is taking place. Articulation other than that which is socially ‘proper’ is as such associated with confessional, with egotism. It was the political meaning of my collaborator’s poetics based on pleasure (“Pain is merely depersonalizing, pleasure is liberating”) that I found disturbing, a meaning the speaker did not intend in the sense that they did not see event in the world (political) as being connected to physical pain (also social, psychological). Yet they meant social, psychological as also physical pain depersonalizes. The meaning of their articulation is: detached from physicality and suffering (as: to undergo or experience) the pleasure they envision is as if an objective vehicle of poetry, rather than swayed, as emotion is. One can be ‘objective’ because one is not suffering — itself regarded as ego, or expression of it? The two sides of the issue of utopia in this example are: ‘individual experience/ everyone’s/intrusion of pain/as realism’ versus ‘utopia/as ideal of a collective/pleasure/ liberated /separated from physicality.’


Hierarchical polarization is authority-infused throughout, the past and future. An example of the latter polarization is Barrett Watten’s definition (in “The Turn To Language”) of Language writing: “The textual politics of the Language school are commonly opposed to the “expressivist” poetics (Black Arts, Chicano, feminist, gay/lesbian) that emerged in the same decade, for good reason. With the former, the self-presence of the expressive subject is put under erasure, while for the latter the formal autonomy of modernist poetics is rejected as a politics.” [18] The polarization describing these other poetics as rejecting formal practices of modernism is a generalization (if one were to list the exceptions of poets in these categories whose formal practices are related or can be compared to inventions of modernism, the exceptions would compare to the numbers of white avant gardists in a sea, a majority, of white non-avant gardists). Further, though Watten wants in his essay “to locate a common ground for such diametrically opposed approaches to poetry,” his definition or basis as division of “expressivism” versus “expressive subject put under erasure” and his notion that his standards should determine other poetics, such as Black and feminist art would of course preclude these other poetics. 1960s-70s feminism and Black Arts were avant garde movements as was the Beat movement, the term used by me not meaning prestige or elitism, not necessarily stemming from/ related to modernism, but meaning art that is as its formal medium / change as political intention and vision.


Critical writing, as if the exterior’s objective language of discourse, is Watten’s form. He has not published poetry or other literary art for many years. Having written poetry that’s original idea — events of history as (and as if) rendering the events’ sound-shapes/thought-shapes in language/as the writer’s construction of events/time — he seems to have given up poetry.


In “The Turn to Language,” Watten sees California Language writing beginning in the ’60s political movements in Berkeley, the Free Speech Movement in particular. Praising Allen Ginsberg as a precursor (in the ’60s) of the Language movement — though he regards Ginsberg as falling short, his poetry still image-based, whereas Language writing eschews image — Watten envisions history is leading to Language writing. Statement is to be substituted for image. As separation of thinking and being, in his works (as in “The Turn to Language”) Watten substitutes critical writing for poetry. Statement that history has arrived at its purpose and that Language writing replaces all else — is itself to be the avant garde gesture, in Watten’s assertion. The text of poetry not existing in/as his writing, it is as if his statement were (it becomes) the act. Of writing history. That is, statement is the imaginary act of oneself being the culmination of history, history would be/is (stated to be) ‘over.’


In regard to Ginsberg being image-based: Ginsberg’s mode is akin to Tantric Buddhist meditation practice wherein evoking and concentrating on image (such as corpses seen on the burning ghats along the Ganges River in Varanasi, India) is used by Ginsberg as a meditation device intended as a means of ‘watching’ entity’s/ image’s disintegration, impermanence. In poetry that is its medium, concept is in and is that language itself, and only transpires. Watten is viewing ‘image’ as fixed in the sense of as-literary, separated from relation to phenomena. His singular definition of Language writing as eliminating “expressivism” is an overt example of mind/body split.


Dictating the terms of other movements such as Black and feminist arts, as to bring these under rule of white, heterosexual avant garde males, contradicts the nature of the new as avant garde — their need (as Black and feminist arts, for example) to undo definition and re-definition. Watten contradicts the necessity, certainly, to bypass and offset that which describes one as inferior to white, heterosexual, ‘avant garde’ men. His argument in “The Turn to Language” is akin to the argument given by Ron Silliman regarding minorities, gays, and women in an exchange between Silliman and myself, titled “What Person?” — published in the Poetics Journal, [19] edited by Barrett Watten and Lyn Hejinian. I objected to Silliman’s use of poems published in the Socialist Review: poems written by Nathaniel Mackey, Aaron Shurin, Beverly Dahlen, and myself. Silliman, the chief editor, introduced his selection in relation to his assertion that while white, heterosexual men are free to experiment, to create new, avant garde work — minorities, gays, and women, owing to their conditions of oppression, have the need to “tell their stories;” thus they supposedly tend to write “conventional narrative.” The poets whose excerpts he published in SR were to be examples of the latter pejorative category. None of these poets write conventional narrative. My sequential poem had been excerpted to give in the few poem-segments chosen the impression of there being narrative with characters (a figure of an elderly woman) to illustrate Ron’s argument.


My response, briefly stated, was that people’s conditions of suffering, an element of which is continual re-definition by a ruling group, people pressed even to the point of revolution, do not necessarily respond by creating conventional narratives as such definitions of reality that arise from within the ruling group’s perspective and dictation. It is like saying the Russian Revolution was accomplished solely by aristocratic men because they had leisure time. One may respond to constraint of oppression by creating a language whose syntax/structure is (as such, does) its conception — thereby altering the ruling language. (See my essay “Picasso and Anarchism.”)


Early 1980s manifestations of Language writing de-emphasizing individualism by use of procedures or dropping first person — statements that writing should be without content, that there should be no narrative/there should be no eroticism — were provocative as the process of being formed by different participants of a group resisting being fixed by outside interpretation, not solidified. As such, the abundance of invention (of the ‘80s) was not mind/body split as mainstream convention. However, the concept of a central authority defining that movement reductively as ‘opposed to self,’ ‘opposed to “expressivism”’ — poetics in which the separation of thinking and being is so extreme as to eliminate ‘being’ as supposedly ‘self’ viewed only negatively [20] — removes the element of multiple forms of play.


Different from critical thinking in and that is the poetic work itself, critical format as substitute for the language of the poetry is to undo it.


IFLIFE is a recent book-length vibrant poem by Bob Perelman, who was a participant in the ’70s-’90s California Language poetry scene. This is one of his best works, it seems to me. However, in the conclusion of IFLIFE, similar to Pound’s dictum “Make it new,” Perelman considers ‘the new’ as poetry’s goal and conclusion, and even its demise — since Perelman remarks the possibilities of writing and thought are now derivative; “personality” (he implies) is a dead-end by being merely repetition (of self). ‘The new’ being the basis of poetry (just make ‘new’ items or forms as such? suggesting a mechanistic view, as if he apparently separates ‘formal’ from ‘conceptual’), Perelman suggests rethinking the present of Language poetics: “the gestures that Language poetry triumphantly says are still radical are actually super-codified now. And that’s my whole point. We need to rethink that equation.” [21]


Personality is one’s mind-imprint simultaneous as one body’s imprint, trace of being. If it’s seen as a dead-end or as mere repetition, this suggests a division between one’s inventing, vital mind and one’s nature body-related. [22] In Gertrude Stein’s distinction between the human mind and human nature, poetry (she says) arises from or is a characteristic of mind. Stein was saying “mind” is the abstraction of the self or is beyond it (somehow collective)? One’s “nature” is merely akin to other animals? Her dichotomy is merely dualism of mind-body split? While a personality presumably can’t ever be “new,” one’s knowledge in regard to it, of it’s relation to phenomena, could be. Her dichotomy as rooted in mind-body split is a peculiarly American mainstream expression?


American dualism as separation of ‘self’ from history, from sensation as separation of self from phenomena — is one side of/a view of everything in relation to power and domination of world/of environment.


Erasure of the self (as the intent, and that as negative sense of ‘self’) is not an avant garde tactic, the history of the avant garde being to devise tactics which exploded or inundated the barrier between ‘self’ and recognition that it is (we are) of the real. This is related to the fact that rewriting history stultifies the future.


Making new forms, that as ‘the new’ just as such, as the goal of poetry seems indicative of an aspect of our cultural dualism. If one invents to investigate phenomena as also the language one is broaching, it’s an infinite endeavor, wide open. I think the latter description is similar to early descriptions of Language poetry given by the participants.


One friend, a Language poet, hearing and reading a version of the first fourteen pages or so of this (performance of the section on that they were at the beach) at “The Body and Language Writing” panel, saw it as a critique of the Language movement. When I commented that that critique is not of the Language movement as such but of sexism and gender custom as the social construction of reality, he exclaimed (with curiosity) he had not in listening to my talk even noticed or considered this issue! Did he not notice this issue because he does not see/wasn’t seeing a relation between mind-body split and political behavior and poetics? Being in events is one’s body, one’s impermanence.


Reading this essay, Charles Bernstein commented, in relation to my description of that they were at the beach: “You’re doing Language writing — You are! — That is Language writing!”


If assumed as authority, separated critical intellect as the presiding ‘voice’ in works of poetry tends to become a renewed reliance on first person as a return to descriptive and/or polemical writing unrelated to, and outside of, its language — maybe intentionally unrelated to the sensory phenomena/the ‘being’ of its language.



My thanks to Suzanne Stein for her reading and critique of this essay. Also, my thanks to Steve Benson (with whom I collaborated in performances several times in past years) for his thoughts on this essay and on past events.


I delivered parts of this talk-performance-essay (passages on 1980s poetics) on the panel “The Body and Language Writing” condensing my performance to fit into the time frame. Also participating were panelists Steve Benson, Bruce Andrews, and Maria Damon. Thus delivered in a Language context (Segue, New York, 2007), “Disbelief” was not intended as definitive of any poets, in that I anticipated qualification and dispute of it from the audience. It was to be apprehension in the instant of social behavior and points of view. While I spoke I heard merry laughter from the audience (I believe it was primarily or entirely feminine voices). I noticed this merry laughter when I was critiquing myself by including comments and questions from Susanne Stein. Merry laughter occurred particularly when I commented on my being critiqued by men. A number of young women whom I did not know remarked afterward how much they liked the talk. One lovely young woman came up to me to say “That was wonderful, wonderful! — I feel so relieved!” Though I could not anticipate response (except that I might be disapproved), her response was my ‘purpose’ in the mode of my constructing my talk-performance-essay. Perhaps her feeling a sense of relief was in response to an act of free speech articulating what she herself experiences (in some other context than the older Language movement of course, since she is young)?


In conversation after “The Body and Language Writing” panel, I recalled to Steve Benson that I was, at his invitation, one of the three co-directors at the end of the Grand Piano Reading series. I described how when he’d first asked me I hadn’t been interested but reconsidered because I recognized that I was so sensitive to sexism, a problem causing me the greatest suffering of anything then, that (I decided) I should de-sensitize myself by entering the hurley-burley and familiarizing myself with this phenomenon. I thanked him for inviting me, remarking I’d learned a great deal, generally in the social world, and about sexism, the latter especially from my fellow-co-directors, men who were not Language poets but were followers. He was surprised and apologized for neither remembering that I had been a co-director nor that he had invited me. It occurred to me then that currently The Grand Piano/An Experiment in Collective Autobiography, San Francisco, 1975-1980 is being published serially. “Disbelief,” though as an afterthought on my part, is a contribution as a part of memoir.


[1] D. Hassabis, et al. (2007) “Patients with hippocampal amnesia cannot imagine new experiences.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 104: 1726 — 1731.

[2] How Phenomena Appear to Unfold, Leslie Scalapino, “My Writing,” Potes & Poets, 1989.

[3] One is not this and there being no separation of one/us from war, from being in the midst of power that is trying to break resistance to it, and this power supposedly synonymous with ‘cultural seeing’/as oneself being being articulated as total division between thinking and being.

[4] Considering how exaggerated music is, North Point Press, San Francisco, 1985, page 11.

[5] “Benjamin and Cinema/Not a One-Way Street,” by Miriam Hansen in Benjamin’s Ghosts, Interventions in Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory, edited by Gerhard Richter, Stanford University Press, Stanford California, 2002, page 54.

[6] Ibid. page 51.

[7] Ibid. page 53.

[8] that they were at the beach, Leslie Scalapino, North Point Press, 1985, page 13.

[9] Ibid. page 17

[10] Ibid. page 18.

[11] Ibid., page 93 and 97.

[12] After our 2007 panel, I asked Steve Benson what he now recalls of the Acker residency.

He said he’d written a documentation of the event for the Langton Arts publication, which Acker regarded as an attack, but which he had thought favorable. He does not recall issues of violence and body in relation to her residency.

[13] Sight, Lyn Hejinian & Leslie Scalapino, Edge Books, 1999, pages 40-41.

[14] A Border Comedy, Lyn Hejinian, Granary Books, N.Y. N.Y., pages 99.

[15] Ibid., page 130.

[16] “As: All Occurrence in Structure, Unseen — Deer Night, Leslie Scalapino, Wesleyan University Press, 1999.

[17] Mindsight, Image, Dream, Meaning, Colin McGinn, Harvard, Boston, 2004.

[18] “The Turn to Language,” Barrett Watten, Critical Inquiry 29 (Autumn 2002), 2002 by the University of Chicago, page 1.

[19] Poetics Journal #9 The Person, edited by Barrett Watten and Lyn Hejinian

[20] Qui Parle, Vol. 12, no. 2 Spring/Summer 2001, guest edited by Barrett Watten,

Introduction/ “The Poetics of New Meaning” by Barrett Watten.

[21] IFLIFE, Bob Perelman, Roof Books, N.Y. N.Y., 2006, page 52.

[22] Perelman cites a problem but does not venture commenting on a solution; whereas a solution, it seems to me, would entail dropping these customs as prescriptions on separation of thinking and being (leading to a return to old-time ‘academic poetry,’ writing that is not its gesture).

Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that all material in Jacket magazine is copyright © Jacket magazine and the individual authors and copyright owners 1997–2010; it is made available here without charge for personal use only, and it may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.