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Leslie Scalapino:

Roof Books
c/o Segue Foundation
303 East 8th St. New York NY, 10009

82 pp., $9.95

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 problematize 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 writings on Grenier are "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

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This review originally appeared in TapRoot Reviews #5,
Copyright Burning Press 1994, 1996.

Contact the editor, luigi-bob drake, at Burning Press