asked me just a few days ago if anyone knew of my work. I
did a quick calculation and added it up, (fingers and toes
working like an abacus): it comes to a few million people
at least. Boy, was that was a shock.
The truth is that I am both a visual artist and a poet. I
also write short stories and do photography. In the past few
years I've started working with collage and lately I'm now
both a muralist and working on my first novel.
My career as a poet started back in Greenwich Village, (New
York City) in 1964, when I began showing up at the only coffeehouse
I knew about - Le Metro - and I was nudged onto the stage
to read my poems. It turns out that Alan Ginsberg (the Beat
Poet) used to come in there (I didn't know who he was) and
he asked me to contribute a page of poems (it was done on
mimeo paper in those days) for his irregularly issued "Ninth
Street Poets" magazine. Since then I've participated
in many readings and open mics over the past 30-plus years
both here in the USA and Paris, France when I attended American
Center for Students and Artists.
The emphasis for me has been in performance. But poets need
chapbooks because you can't carry a live poet around in your
so I have self-published 3 chapbooks so
far (with more to come). Also, my poetry has been spread around
by others - as when someone says to me: can I send that poem
to my friends? (
all 153, 277 or 841 of them
Therefore, since 1998 my work has been published on the internet
quite a few times and that doesn't include the times I've
sent work out, both solicited and unsolicited. I have read
my poetry on radio programs in Los Angeles, Boston, and Miami.
In the last couple of years several of my poems were recorded
for different CD collections and read aloud either by myself
or others on the radio on both coasts. Three of my short stories
were recorded and broadcast the cable radio network here in
I have belonged to and/or founded 4 or 5 writing groups but
for the past 10 years I've been meeting with one particular
group twice a month and we write for a few hours and round-robin
what we've written. This is an amazing way to write. It certainly
stops a person from getting precious about the act of writing.
What with the noisy din of diners, the clanking and crash
of kitchen traffic and the pressure to finish, there's no
time to be neurotic. So, I consider myself a healthy artist.
My giddiness comes from the high morale of high production.
I started getting out my visual art in 1968 on my first
trip to Europe when I sold my pen & ink with watercolor
drawings as I traveled about by train.
There has also been the conventional exposure of juried shows:
the Jordan Marsh Annual New England Show, the Montparnasse
(Paris) Annual Spring Show, Boston Horticultural Hall Annual
Spring Show, art school and various (but not too many) gallery
shows, art association shows, art school shows and whatever
other opportunities present themselves. The Massachusetts
Legislature Library Archives holds copies of my work because
I was published in several of the Massachusetts College of
Art Yearly Journals. My art work has been purchased as commissions
and for private collections in Boston, New York, Texas, Los
Angeles, Paris, Geneva, Monaco.
an artist who gets out into the public, I have done other
activities: lead an art workshop for art teachers for the
Barnsdall Municipal Art Gallery (Los Angeles), taught calligraphy
to grammar school students in Newton, Massachusetts, run art
workshops for children in Red Cross shelters and neighborhood
art workshops in Hollywood - and most recently designed and
painted the first Youth for Human Rights Int'l mural at the
Micheltorena Elementary School in the Silverlake District
of Los Angeles.
My art has showed up in many varied ways and places. In 1964
I did experimental films while studying acting at the American
Academy of Dramatic Arts, in 1969, my children's play, "The
Golden Fish" was produced at the Theatre on the Wharf
in Boston and in 1979 a poem of mine, "Adelaide Lost
In The Badlands" was turned into a modern ballet produced
by the Dance Program at Antioch College. While I went to art
school in Paris I used to earn extra money gold-leafing furniture
and designing custom pieces for ladies holding onto frou-frou
doggies wearing "Little Huey" ribbons in their doggie
forelocks. Thirty years later I'm selling my photography as
art cards to friends and strangers.
My career so far reminds me of a bowl of wheat germ cereal.
You pour the milk in and it keeps soaking it up. You pour
and pour and the milk never shows up. You could pour a quart
of milk into the bowl and it would never show up. Four million
people (more or less) have seen my work and nobody knows who
I am yet.
It turns out that I couldn't figure out what this artist
bio should say. But what I know is that, even now, my intention
as always has been to keeping producing as artist no matter
what and staying true to my message: "Art has taught
us the soul lives on and anything is possible". And to
this I keep the faith and my word.
Leslie Silton, Los Angeles
Contact email address:
Before I Was Born
Before I was born
the subdued noise and bustle in the delivery room
was still weak and uncertain.
I looked at anxious faces peering close,
looking for signs of me
getting ready to arrive.
There were pursed lips,
wall clock ticking,
private curtain swishing
on shower clips metal gliding talk to ceiling:
it's going to be a little girl
says squeaky rubber bottom nurse shoes to linoleum ...
you can't be sure
say the shoelaces to the wall paint ...
babygirl coming through
says pillow to thermometer ...
Before I was born
I already knew a lot about breakfast dishes, car horns blaring,
subway car sideways shaking
stoplights, newspaper rustling,
someone else's spoon banging on the table
daddywhisper in mother's ear:
it's going to be a little girl ...
Before I was born
the news was good.
It's gonna be a little girl
but was it going to be me
not some other girl?
some superchild of the 21st century
some flapper mad memory of bathtub gin
some dismal milkmaid
some left-behind love of world war one
some disputatious velvet flower of the old south
some child of india slipped through a note
the cowbell tinkle
some cool northern recluse who rarely saw the sun ...
someone who couldn't draw a line to save their life
was it gonna be
someone who would know a toasted bagel
when they saw one?
someone who would know all about sunlight on the wall?
someone who would know about the sound of snow falling?
someone who could reckon the meaning of cloud shapes?
someone who could measure the value of green grass
underneath bare feet
someone who would pass the indian on horseback
with arms fallen wide
in front of the museum
and be moved every time
was it going to be me for sure?
bellyflopping into the doctor's hand?
Before I was born
I had to say goodbye
to the little room I lived in
before the lease expired --
leaving me with no place to go.
And in that very last minute before I was born
there was that inevitable panic and worry,
that amazing certainty,
I am coming home again.
I am know who I am.
In the instance of my birth,
right there, after all,
Life At The Rose Garden Café
Cocky sparrow alights.
The demolished paper muffin cup
is still embroidered with chocolate.
Daring sparrow perches
on the salt shaker
and peers with a left eye
at the abondoned plate.
A recent bread crust hides beneath
a last unseen shrub of romaine.
captures the crust and vanishes.
Two nights ago
while the moon and sun faced off
in amiable opposition
I dreamed about a swan dive ...
perched on a ledge
water rippling below
my arms ascended
sketching graceful arabesques
until I was an arrow
etched on the night
up on tip toe
there was lift and spring
and then I was airborne
the arrow split in two
and my arms went back
flesh pale against the bright darkness
I was in the sky
Do you know about the mild delirium
of such freedom as this
as you waft into the air
and blend with the downward rush? -
arms meeting again
hands in prayer
the arrow pierces the water
a human blade
slicing the thinnest opening
enter the cut
which instantly healed behind me
I rose to the surface
in one smooth evolution.
The swan dive completed
and abandoned now,
in the hollow
of the pillow
that cradled my head
I turned in my sleep,
turned the page
in the book of dreams
to see what would come next
and dream again.
Leslie has 4 chapbooks, which you can order from her at
1800 N. New Hampshire Ave., Apt. 325, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Desert Singer, 22 pages, $12.00
Tightrope Walker and Other Cat Poems, 20 pgs, poems
and drawings, $12.00
A Passover Poem, a narrative poem, $7.00
A Measure of Peace, an 8.5 x 11 format chapbook,
Or, get all four for $40.00 for the set.
Price listed includes S&H, California tax where applicable.
Request author signature if desired. Make checks out to
Copyright © 2003. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Duplication
of this poetry and/or art without permission of the author/artist
is forbidden under copyright law. Please ask permission if
you wish to use for non-commercial purposes