In Memoriam

Recent Obituaries
In Memoriam Archive

S. Leslie Scalapino ’66

A picture of Leslie Scalapino

S. Leslie Scalapino ’66, May 28, 2010, in Berkeley, California. As a child, Leslie traveled throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe with her father, Professor Robert Scalapino, founder of the University of California, Berkeley, Institute for Asian Studies; her mother, singer Dee Scalapino; and her two sisters. She grew up to be a writer, and her work, which included poetry, novels, plays, and essays, showed the influence of those early explorations. Leslie wrote her first serious poems in a class taught by Kenneth Hanson [English 1954-86]. “It's then that I realized I was going to write poetry,” she told Gay Walker ’69 in an oral history interview. She earned her BA in general literature, writing her thesis on William Faulkner. “I found that Reed had a philosophy that was very sustaining, and in terms of life preparation it was excellent,” she said. After Reed, Leslie received a Woodrow Wilson fellowship and completed an MA in English at University of California, Berkeley. Her first book, O and Other Poems, was published in 1976; she would publish 30 others, including a detective novel, Orchid Jetsam, under the pseudonym Dee Goda.

In 1986, she founded O Books, a small press focused on young and emerging poets and on prominent, innovative writers. Leslie also taught at University of California, San Diego, Mills College, the San Francisco Art Institute, Bard College, the Otis College of Art and Design, and the Naropa Institute, and was the recipient of two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her poem "way" received the American Book Award, the Poetry Center Award from San Francisco State University, and the Lawrence Lipton Prize. In the ’80s, she met Philip Whalen ’51; they became friends, and Leslie acted as his representative at the end of his life, ensuring that a collection of his work and his personal library would reside at the Bancroft Library at University of California, Berkeley. Leslie contributed a poem to the feature “Memo to Self: What I Would Say to the Person I was at Reed” in the spring 2007 issue of Reed magazine, and wrote an introduction to The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen, which was reprinted in the winter 2008 issue. This spring, she gave Reed more than $1 million to endow a scholarship. Leslie and her husband, Tom White, were together for 35 years.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2010

comments powered by Disqus