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Leslie Silton

Someone 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 hip pocket … 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…) Sure.

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 Los Angeles.

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.

Mural is located at Michaeltorena Elementary School, LA, Calif, USABeing 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: Leslie Silton

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,
checking watches,
looking for signs of me
getting ready to arrive.

There were pursed lips,
straight-line mouths,
frowning nurse,
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,
piano playing,
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
for sure?
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
           in 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,
and then …
and then
that amazing certainty,
that clarity
that happiness …

I am coming home again.
I am know who I am.
In the instance of my birth,
right there, after all,

was me

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.

Fearless sparrow
captures the crust and vanishes.

Swan Dive

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
evenly balanced
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
          of the sky
          with 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, illustrated. $15.00

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 Leslie Silton.

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
Last updated: Monday, January 26, 2009