Harold Norse

Harold Norse (1916-2009) – “Poet Harold Norse in his apartment kitchen, 157 Albion Street, San Francisco, May 28, 1988 – For HN with old affection from Allen Ginsberg- AH” – Photograph by Allen Ginsberg

Harold Norse executing a tour jete en l’air, circa 1938

Harold Norse‘s Selected Poems have just appeared lovingly presented in an essential little edition from Talisman House.

Here’s Harold singing the praise of William Carlos Williams and recollecting how he first met Allen

“…Earlier, as a matter of fact, in 1944, Allen Ginsberg and I met on the subway in New York. it was about four in the morning and I was going home to my room in the Village, Greenwich Village, and I saw this young boy of about eighteen with eye-glasses and a red bandana around his neck reciting poetry. There was nobody else in the whole train, And at the stops, I heard parts of what he was reciting and it was French and I realized it was (Arthur) Rimbaud. And the first thing I said to Allen Ginsberg was, “Rimbaud!”. And he said, “You’re a poet!”. And at that ppoint we began talking about it. He ended up with me in my small room on Horatio Street, Greenwich Village, talking till seven o’clock in the morning. He showed me his unpublished poems (he hadn’t published any yet – and I’d published a long poem in Poetry magazine called “Key West”, which is also in my first book, The Undersea Mountain….”

From the same session, here he is  reading  “the first poem that I wrote in San Francisco” – “At The Cafe Trieste” (a poem that, as Neeli Cherkovski points out, in his Introduction to the Talisman Selected, “begins with Norse’s description of reading Virgil’s Eclogues and ends in a corner cafe”)

Here’s more Harold Norse recordings from the similarly-essential Harold Norse Of Course (recorded in Amsterdam and originally released on cassette tape in 1984 by Ins and Outs Press, now re-released and available on CD from Unrequited Records) – “I’m Not A Man” and his sequence “The Muhammad Poems”

Eddie Woods‘ recollections of Harold Norse in Amsterdam may be read here

Here‘s the 91-year-old Harold in 2007 at the Beat Museum reading “I Am In The Hub of The Fiery Force”, the title poem of his 2003 Collected  

Here’s the cover of the most recent edition of his Memoirs of A Bastard Angel – A Fifty Year Literary and Erotic Odyssey  (with a preface by James Baldwin)

Here‘s, last year, Todd Swindell discoursing on Norse, the man and the achievement.
Todd Swindell has been a devoted student and custodian of Harold’s work, since 2000, when they first got together, before Norse’s death. From a contemporaneous SF Weekly article – “Swindell cleans Norse’s apartment, organizes his papers, proofreads his letters and runs the occasional errand. Mainly though Swindell and Norse simply talk. When they get together, Swindell, 27, recalls his experiences as a young gay man growing up in straight-laced Orange County, and talks about his work with ACT UP S.F. Norse, 84, recalls his experiences as a young bi-sexual man growing up in New York..”..”Swindell first discovered Norse as a teenager when he ran across a copy of…Carnivorous Saint..in the Orange County Public Library. Living in that hotbed of conservatism, Swindell figured it was only a matter of time before the powers-that-be discovered the provocative book of gay liberation writing in their midst and purged it. So, with a tinge of regret, he stole it. “More than any other gay poet, he touched a nerve to me.” Swindell says, “at a time  when I had no one, I had Harold’s poetry. It’s very erotic, and I came from an unerotic repressed environment”.

Greg Bayson’s note in LGBTQ

Harold Norse at the American Museum of Beat Art

Four Harold Norse obituary notices from 2009 here, here, here and here

Todd Swindell keeps haroldnorse.com, the memorial web-site laudably up-to-date (Scroll down to see, for example, Norse’s extensive CAAS (Volume 18)  (Gale Research Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series) entry.)

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