Thursday, 28 May 2009


Queer Beat Poet

Political activist and writer Born 1916, New York City. B.A., Brooklyn College 1938; M.A., New York University 1951. At age 22 in 1939 he became a member of W. H. Auden's inner circle, cited by scholar/critic Nicholas Jenkins in The New Yorker, April 1, 1996. William Carlos Williams called him "the best poet of your generation." The 10-year correspondence between Norse and Williams (1951-1961) was published by Bright Tyger, San Francisco 1990. [...]
That year City Lights published Norse's Hotel Nirvana: Selected Poems, establishing him among the leading Beat poets. He was nominated for the 1974 National Book Award.Norse lived in the "Beat Hotel" in Paris, 1960-63, with
William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. There he wrote his experimental cut-up novel, Beat Hotel, published in German by Maro Verlag, Augsburg 1973, now in its 30th printing. [...]
With Carnivorous Saint: Gay Poems 1941-1976, Gay Sunshine Press 1977, Norse became the leading gay liberation poet. His Memoirs of a Bastard Angel (William Morrow), 1989, preface by James Baldwin, further established his reputation. [...]Norse has produced 12 books of poetry and 3 of prose. He has received 2 NEA poetry grants and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Poetry Association.

Classic Frieze in a Garage

I was walking thru the city past umberembassies
& pine-lined palaces
fat palms beside balconies
the heat something
you could really touch

the kids with cunning
delinquent faces
after american sailors

-thinking of nerval tends-moi le pausilippe
et la mer d'Italie & living
on the hill posillipo under
a gangster's dancefloor
among goldfinches

on the bay of naples
in a stone cottage
over tufa caves in which the sea
crashed in winter sweet gerad
one hundred years
have made the desolation greater

the tower is really down & the sun blackened
beyond despair the loudspeaker drowns
finches cliffs caves
all in the hands of racketeers
yet i have passed my time dreaming thru this
fantastic wreck
walking thru incendiary alleys of crowded laundry
with yellow gourds in windows &

crumbling masonry of wars
human corruption
so thick and hopeless that i laugh

when suddenly i saw among the oil & greasy rags
& wheels & axles of a garage
the carved nude figures of
a classic frieze
there above the dismantled
parts of cars!

perfect! & how strange! garage
swallows sarcophagus!
mechanic calmly spraying
paint on a
observed in turn by lapith and centaury

of unthinking flesh!
frank thighs!eyes
of aphrodite!
the myth of the mediterranean
was in that garage
where the brown wiry

youths saw nothing unusual
at their work
among dead heroes & gods
but i saw hermes in the rainbow
of the dark oil on the floor

reflected there
& the wild hair of the sybil
as her words bubbled
mad and drowned
beneath the motor's roar


SquirrelQueen said...

You find some of the most interesting people, ones that I should know but somehow I have missed.

I have read some Ginsberg, and of course Kerouac as well as other writers of that era. Harold Norse's name if familiar so perhaps I had just forgotten.

The poem is wonderful, my favorite line "hermes in the rainbow of the dark oil on the floor."


SquirrelQueen , I adore you! You are a interesting woman, with a very special taste.