Mary Norbert Korte (1934-2022)

Mary Norbert Korte (1934-2022)

We might be at the risk of turning this into a Thana-blog..  But we would be amiss if we didn’t note the passing, last month, at age 88, of Mary Norbert Korte, “Beat Nun” – or, more accurately, long-time Beat ex-nun – poet, teacher, environmental activist.

Paul Nelson has an illuminating 2019 interview with her – here

Dan Roberts for local Mendocino public radio KZYX produced this audio tribute

Cindy McMann’s 2008 interview with Mary Norbert Kelly is a useful first-hand report

“In this interview Korte speaks about growing up a writer at the time when Kerouac changed how literature was being written and read, being an artist in a strict religious environment wary of artists, and trying to make it as a woman poet in the masculinist culture of the San Francisco Renaissance. She recounts how her spirituality and her commitment to environmental activism have shaped her writing… over 40 years,”

Here’s another interview, from 2014, by Karen Rifkin

Korte’s legendary moment of discovery at The Berkley Poetry Conference is recounted (along with much more) in Iris Cushing‘s The First Books of David Henderson and Mary Korte: A Research. A section from it can be read – here

That first book was the elegantly-produced   Hymn To The Gentle Sun

More Korte text and scholarship – the inestimable Lost and Found at CUNY, in 2019, published – “a strange gift”.. (Mary Norbert Korte’s Response to Michael McClure’s Ghost Tantras) by Mary-Kathleen Kinnenburghcapturing that particular heightened communication

Korte formally left the Dominican order in 1968, and continued to publish poetry, participate in anti-war activism, and spearhead environmental protection projects -including, most notably, the preservation of over 200 acres of old growth redwoods in Irmulco, California,  her home-base, where she’d moved in the early 1970s.

“Redwood Mama Activist”, Brenda Knight heads her section in Women of The Beat Generation  and includes this poem:

Eddie Mae The Cook Dreamed Sister Mary Ran Off With Allen Ginsberg

The halls dark long hard
enough to have survived
the ’06 Quake where survival
was measured by the Sound of
Mother Superior’s Rosary Beads
she dreamed
the cook dreamed the other nuns
dreamed impossible dreams of silver
visions pelagic noises in the
groaning night
Dreaming was a mission she could not
renounce night as a place to see
all freedoms looming ahead
like a sweet dragon like
a cross with its circling tail
She ran away in everybody’s dreams
calling out like a booming flame
running running into the lines
of bards & lions, lovers & birds
running with her arms out wide
into the bright flapping dark

(A true story about a dream dreamed by the cook at the St.Rose Convent after Sister Mary Norbert Korte attended the Berkeley Poetry Conference)

Sister Mary Norbert Korte with Jack Spicer in 1965 at the Berkeley Poetry Conference – photo by Tove Neville

Rest in peace

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