Born Harold Rosen to an unmarried Lithuanian Jewish immigrant in Brooklyn. In the early 1950s, he came up with the new last name, Norse, by rearranging the letters in Rosen.
He received his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1938, where he edited the literary magazine. Norse met Chester Kallman in 1938, and then became a part of W. H. Auden's "inner circle" when Auden moved to the U.S. in 1939. (Kallman and Auden later became lifelong partners.) However, Norse soon found himself allied with William Carlos Williams, who rated Norse the 'best poet of [his] generation.' Norse broke with traditional verse forms and embraced a more direct, conversational language. Soon Norse was publishing in Poetry, The Saturday Review and The Paris Review. He got his master's degree in literature from New York University in 1951. His first book of poems, The Undersea Mountain, was published in 1953.
From 1954-59 Norse lived and wrote in Italy. He penned the experimental cut-up novel Beat Hotel in 1960 while living in Paris with William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso from 1959 to 1963. He traveled to Tangier, where he stayed with Jane and Paul Bowles. Returning to America in 1968, Norse arrived in Venice, California, near Charles Bukowski. He moved to San Francisco in 1972 and lived in the Mission District of San Francisco for the last 35 years of his life.
Memoirs of a Bastard Angel traces Norse's life and literary career with Auden, Christopher Isherwood, E. E. Cummings, Tennessee Williams, William Carlos Williams, James Baldwin, Dylan Thomas, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Paul Bowles, Charles Bukowski, Robert Graves and Anaïs Nin. With Carnivorous Saint: Gay Poems 1941-1976 Norse became a leading gay liberation poet. His collected poems, In the Hub of the Fiery Force, appeared in 2003.
Norse is a two-time NEA grant recipient, and National Poetry Association award winner.
In the Hub of the Fiery Force, Collected Poems of Harold Norse 1934-2003, New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003 ISBN 1-56025-520-X
Fly like a bat out of hell : the letters of Harold Norse and Charles Bukowski, New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002 ISBN 1-56025-349-5
The American Idiom: A Correspondence, with William Carlos Williams, San Francisco: Bright Tyger Press, 1990 ISBN 0-944378-79-X
Memoirs of a Bastard Angel, preface by James Baldwin, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1989 ISBN 0-688-06704-2
Carnivorous Saint: Gay Poems 1941-1976, San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1977) ISBN 0-917342-55-0
Beat Hotel, San Diego: Atticus Press, 1983 ISBN 0-912377-01-1
Hotel Nirvana (Selected Poetry), San Francisco: City Lights, 1974 ISBN 0-87286-078-7
Karma Circuit, London: Nothing Doing in London, 1966
The Dancing Beasts, New York: Macmillan, 1962
The Undersea Mountain, Denver: Swallow Press, 1953
The Beat movement and homosexual culture were inextricably intertwined. The Beat writers’ rejection of enforced gender roles and sexual behaviors, their reliance on self-expression through the arts and resistance to censorship, their antimilitarist and antistatist stance, and their insistence on being true to their own vision were all qualities that had been manifested by homosexual communities. Not all Beat writers were openly homosexual, but many were: Allen Ginsberg, John Wieners, Robert Duncan, William Burroughs, Peter Orlovsky, Jack Spicer, Steve Jonas, Herbert Hunke, Harold Norse. Some heterosexual Beats, such as Kerouac and Neal Cassady, also had sex with men. --Bronski, Michael (2011-05-10). A Queer History of the United States (Revisioning American History) (Kindle Locations 4193-4196). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.
Harold Norse, 1988, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl/oneITEM.asp?pid=2032729&iid=1121553&srchtype)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)
In the Hub of the Fiery Force: Collected Poems of Harold Norse 1934-2003
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press (December 9, 2003)
Amazon: In the Hub of the Fiery Force: Collected Poems of Harold Norse 1934-2003
An acolyte of Whitman and Hart Crane, and companion and correspondent of W. H. Auden, Tennessee Williams, Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, Dylan Thomas, and James Baldwin, Norse has never received his due as one of America’s most innovative yet accessible poets. William Carlos Williams called Norse “the best poet of your generation” and pushed Norse toward his groundbreaking work in “the American idiom.” Norse was also of the generation that challenged taboo subject matter in American poetry; his poems of gay love have been recognized as among the first and best of their kind. Norse’s novella Beat Hotel described life with Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Gregory Corso in a run-down Parisian hotel. This retrospective, I Am In the Hub of the Fiery Force, is a collection of almost seventy years of his poetry, much of it previously unpublished, all of it unavailable. It will be recognized as the culmination of one of America’s most vital lives in modern poetry.
Memoirs of a Bastard Angel: A Fifty-Year Literary and Erotic Odyssey by Harold Norse, preface by James Baldwin
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press (March 26, 2002)
Amazon: Memoirs of a Bastard Angel: A Fifty-Year Literary and Erotic Odyssey
Harold Norse has spent half a century simultaneously at the center and in the vanguard of literary and homosexual subcultures. His career began in 1939, when W. H. Auden seduced and “married” Norse’s college lover, Chester Kallman. In Greenwich Village Norse became an intimate of James Baldwin (then working on his first novel) and in Provincetown lived with Tennessee Williams, who was completing The Glass Menagerie. In 1952, William Carlos Williams presented Norse at his reading debut calling Norse “the best poet of your generation.” Other admirers included Anais Nin, Dylan Thomas, Christopher Isherwood, and e.e. Cummings. In the 1960s in Paris, Norse codeveloped the innovative Cut-up method while living in the Beat Hotel with William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso. In North Africa, Greece, and Spain Norse befriended Robert Graves, Leonard Cohen, and Paul and Jane Bowles. Repatriating to Venice, California, in 1968, Norse formed a literary alliance with Charles Bukowski (who called him “one of the great ones”) and lifted weights with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Under any circumstances this book would be a major social document, but because he is a superb, evocative stylist, Harold Norse’s candid autobiography is an engrossing classic of its kind. “Harold Norse’s beautiful Memoirs (are) going to be right by my bedside with Flaubert and Marquez. It’s an exalted work!”—Andrei Codrescu, “All Things Considered,” National Public Radio “Magically evocative and visual, Memoirs of a Bastard Angel literally reads itself. ”—William Burroughs “Harold Norse has lived a life beyond my powers of imagination.”—Armistead Maupin
Whitman's Wild Children: Portraits of Twelve Poets by Neeli Cherkovski
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Steerforth Press (July 1999)
Amazon: Whitman's Wild Children: Portraits of Twelve Poets
In Whitman's Wild Children, Neelie Cherkovski looks at eleven contemporary beat poets - Michael McClure, Charles Bukowski, John Wieners, James Broughton, Philip Lamantia, Bob Kaufman, Allen Ginsberg, William Everson, Gregory Corso, Harold Norse, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti -- chosen because each, like Whitman, has taken "his own road" and had little to do with what was thought acceptable in mainstream American culture during the 1940's and 1950's. As in his highly acclaimed biography Bukowski: A Life, Cherkovski draws on personal encounters and his own reactions to individual poems in order to create biographical portraits that are at once enlightening and full of life.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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