Sharmagne Leland-St. John

Sharmagne Leland-St. John is a 21st-century poet. Leland-St. John is best known for the poem "I Said Coffee," for which she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2007. With its “deadpan puncturing of the male ego and its assumption of sexual implication where there is none,”[1] this piece has become one of her most frequently published and requested poems. She has received a total of 17 Pushcart Prize nominations and won the 2013 International Book Award honoring Excellence in Mainstream and Independent Publishing for best Poetry Anthology.

Sharmagne Leland-St. John
Poet Sharmagne Leland-St.John
Poet Sharmagne Leland-St.John
NationalityUnited States/Lineal Descendant of The Confederated Colville Tribe of Nespelem, Washington
SpouseRichard Sylbert (1991–2002)
ChildrenDaisy Alexandra Sylbert-Torres


Early yearsEdit

Her father Jerome was an actor at the time of her birth, but gave up acting to become an animal trapper in the jungles of Tegucigalpa in Honduras. During her childhood he would disappear for months at a time, collecting exotic animals with which to supply zoos and private estates. He also had a pheasant farm and quail ranch in Mexico City, tried his hand at ranching in Las Vegas, and eventually settled down in Tarzana in California's San Fernando Valley.

Leland-St. John's mother, child actress Roseanne Gahan, worked with Cecil B. DeMille. Sharmagne's maternal grandfather, John Harvey Gahan, was a child prodigy and virtuoso violinist in Canada, known as Arvé. He began playing at age 3; at the age of 5 he played a command performance for the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). Gahan married Josephine Morong Runnels, the granddaughter of Que Que Tas [2] of the Sanpoil (tribe) and Chief of the Nespelem (tribe)in the Pacific Northwest.

When Leland-St. John was three years old, her father left the family, sued for custody, won, and then placed her and her older sister in a Catholic convent.

A year later, the girls were moved to a private home in downtown Los Angeles with a guardian and a governess. At age 10, she and her sister were moved to Whittier, California, where she contracted polio and spent the next two years bedridden. During this time she became an avid reader, devouring hundreds of books. She began to write poetry and experiment with writing what would now be termed "flash fiction. She has often been quoted as saying, “Reading and writing are two of the deepest joys I have ever known.”

In 1958 her father returned to the U.S. and brought his daughters to live with him and his new wife in Tarzana, which caused his wife to leave him. The girls enjoyed life as teenagers with a bachelor father.

Leland-St. John's high school years were uneventful, though she had left home and had her own apartment while still in school. She enjoyed art and drama, performing in productions such as Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, and several other high school productions and Thespian Festivals. As early as junior high school, she had exhibited a flair for writing short stories. After graduation from high school, she pursued a career as a model to pay for college expenses.

In the mid-1960s she met and was dating Peter Yarrow from the folk singing group Peter, Paul and Mary. Through the group's road manager, she was introduced to guitarist Peter Walker with whom she began performing in concert and writing song lyrics. Under the name "Peter and the Countess," they performed the music behind former Harvard professor Dr. Timothy Leary’s “Celebrations,” a series of psychedelic slide shows. They also performed in venues such as The Fillmore East and West, The Psychedelic Super Market in Boston, The Ark in San Francisco, The Ash Grove in Los Angeles, and worked the high school concert circuit with their band the original Orient Express, which included band members Bruce Langhorne and Lowell George.

In the late 1960s, while working for songwriter Jimmy Webb, Leland-St. John began writing poetry and song lyrics in earnest and has collaborated with Peter Yarrow, Peter Walker, Darby Slick, Jefferson Airplane, Hedge Capers, Hedge and Donna, Wes Farrell and several other well-known composers. At age 19, she co-wrote two episodes of the TV series "The Beverly Hillbillies." During this tumultuous decade, Leland-St. John was close friends with actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski and was living with her boyfriend, Jay Sebring, the famous Hollywood hairstylist, until the Manson Family murders in August of 1969. After the murders, according to author Peter Biskind, Leland-St.John was an "...actress who lived for a time with director Harry Falk in the Chateau Marmont in LA.[3]

In the 1970s, Leland-St. John acted in TV commercials and appeared in features and on TV. She returned to writing and has published seven books of poetry and prose, co-authored a book on motion picture design and for the past 20 years has spearheaded publication of the online literary and cultural arts journal, Quill and Parchment. Her work is widely anthologized, and her poetry and short stories appear in numerous online literary journals.


Leland-St. John was married to Richard Sylbert, the Oscar-winning production designer.[4] They had two children: A boy, Nikolai, who lived for only a few hours (her poem “Tiny Warrior” was written about Nikolai), and a daughter, Daisy Alexandra (currently a costumer in the film industry).

In 1980, Leland-St. John began working as assistant and researcher/design consultant to Richard Sylbert. In 2001 she designed her first film Tricks, starring Gail O'Grady and Michael Murphy. It was honored at the RiverRun International Film Festival in North Carolina and the Angel City Film Festival in Hollywood. That same year she co-founded and became Editor-in-Chief and publisher of the aforementioned magazine and literary journal Quill and Parchment.[5] She co-directed and co-produced the short film Being With Eddie[6] in 2003. It was honored at the USA Film Festival,[7] and The First Native American Film Festival in Ventura County (2004). Her short film screenplay Butterfly Catcher was filmed by the Native American Film and TV Alliance (NAFATA) in 2004.

During her daughter's early school years, Leland-St. John engaged in fundraising for school libraries in Los Angeles through donations and a recycling program. She was instrumental in creating a library at Pacific Hills School in West Hollywood, funded a playground and created a learning garden at The Oaks School[8] in Hollywood.

In 1992, Timothy Leary appeared at a library fund raising event at The Oaks School. When she asked what he had been up to, he told her he had discovered a new drug, "the Internet!” Leland-St. John investigated this new medium and published her first poem on the Internet in 1998.

After an extended illness, husband Richard Sylbert died in March 2002 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Calabasas, California. Three months after his death Sharmagne produced a memorial tribute to him at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. More than 700 people attended.[9]

With a journalist, she co-authored the memoir her husband had begun but left unfinished at the time of his death, Designing Movies: Portrait of a Hollywood Artist (2006)).[10]

Leland-St. John divides her time among her home in the Hollywood Hills, her fly-fishing lodge in the Pacific Northwest, her writer's retreat in Taos New Mexico and her villa in Tuscany. She tours the world performing her poetry either solo or with her band of poets called Poetry in Motion, The Quill and Parchment Poets, and the poet group known as "Emerging Urban Poets."


  • Unsung Songs (2003) ISBN 978-0-9764244-0-6 Quill and Parchment Press
  • Silver Tears and Time (2006) ISBN 978-0-9764244-1-3 Quill and Parchment Press
  • Contingencies (2008) ISBN 978-0-9764244-2-0 Quill and Parchment Press USA/WynterBlue Publishing Inc Canada
  • Designing Movies: Portrait of a Hollywood Artist (2006)– Greenwood/Praeger ISBN 978-0-275-98690-2
  • La Kalima (2010) ISBN 978-0-9764244-3-7 Quill and Parchment Press USA/WynterBlue Publishing Inc., Canada
  • Empty Shoes: Poems on the Hungry and the Homeless ~ Editor Patrick T. Randolph ISBN 978-1-4495-1779-3 Popcorn Press (Oct. 2009)
  • Many Mountains Moving – ISBN 978-1-886976-23-8
  • Literary House Review ~ (Fall 2008)
  • Emerging Urban Poets (June 2008)
  • The League of Laboring Poets ISSN 1937-6499 (Best of Issue Award)
  • Villanelles (March 2012); edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali; ISBN 978-0-307-95786-3; Everyman's Library/Random House UK
  • Cradle Songs (April 2012) Editor: ISBN 978-0-9764244-5-1. Quill and Parchment Press
  • Taj Mahal Review, edited by Dr. Santosh Kumar ISSN 0972-6004 Publisher: Webpage:
  • “Charles Manson: The Final Words” (2017)
  • “Beverly Hills: 100 Years, 100 Stories” (2017)
  • A Raga for George Harrison (October 2020) ISBN 978-93-88125-90-1 Taj Mahal Press/
  • IMAGES: A Collection of Ekphrastic Poetry ISBN 978-93-88319-55-3 Publisher:


  1. ^ Professional review by David Matthews
  2. ^ Chief Que Que Tas
  3. ^ Biskind, Peter (1998). Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 50. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ McKinley, Jesse (March 30, 2002). "Richard Sylbert, 73, Designer Of Oscar-Winning Film Sets". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-03-04. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Sharmagne Leland-St. John at Quill & Parchment
  6. ^ Being With Eddie
  7. ^ USA Film Festival
  8. ^ The Oaks School
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Designing Movies

External linksEdit