New Narrative is a movement started in San Francisco in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The writers focus on experimenting with the narrative using fragmented stories, meta-text, and other techniques that are traditionally considered more “poetic.” Writing in the New Narrative movement is known for explicit descriptions of sex and identification with the physicality of the author. The New Narrative movement includes many gay and lesbian authors, and the works were greatly influenced by the AIDS epidemic in the '80s. Writers in the New Narrative movement include Dodie Bellamy, Kevin Killian, Bruce Boone, Robert Glück, Sam D'Allesandro, Dennis Cooper, Kathy Acker, Bo Huston, Camille Roy, Steve Abbott, Michelle Tea, Gary Indiana, Ann Rower, Eileen Myles, Laurie Weeks, Masha Tupitsyn, and filmmakers Warren Sonbert and James Benning.
The term "New Narrative" was first coined in Steve Abbott's magazine Soup. The movement was founded by Robert Glück and Bruce Boone, two poets living in San Francisco in the late 1970s as a reaction and growth from the Language poets. The New Narrative writers began to emerge from a workshop held at Small Press Traffic Bookstore by Robert Glück. New Narrative writings strive to combine a representation of the author as theory-based with a representation of the author as a member of a particular identity without alienating any certain demographic of readers.
The Role of the Author
In New Narrative writing, the author acknowledges being a physical being and confronts sexuality directly. This closeness between writing and writer as a body is also achieved by transgressions that appear in many of the New Narrative authors’ works. Authors create a dialogue between themselves and the readers by directly addressing and engaging the reader in their pieces. The authors also situate themselves in time and space by including pop culture references. Some authors define New Narrative writing by physical space rather than actual writing style, since the movement originated from the physical space in the writing workshops held by Robert Glück in the back of Small Press Bookstore.
Characteristics of New Narrative
The characteristics of New Narrative are determined and explained by members of the movement itself. In her essay "Reading Tour" in Pink Steam, with Kevin Killian">An interview with Kevin Killian</ref> In his piece Long Note on New Narrative, Robert Glück defines the New Narrative movement as writings that possess the following characteristics: awareness of physical space, metatext, poetic strategies applied to prose, creating works out of found material of autobiography, and "gossip as legitimate art." [dead link]
New Narrative and Language Poets
In "Long Note on New Narrative," Robert Glück says that Language Poetry seemed very "straight male," and he strove to find a genre that would embrace those of different identities, specifically one affiliated with the gay, lesbian, and feminist writing encompassed in New Narrative. New Narrative authors make "emotions and the experience of the body" and celebrate the idea of experimenting with prose as a community of writers rather than as individuals, two elements that Language Poetry seems to be lacking. To summarize the difference, Dodie Bellamy wrote, "I think of Bob Perelman's parody of lyric poetry, 'I look out the window and I am deep.' New Narrative, at its worst, would be, 'I have sex and I'm smarter than you.'"  In an interview, Kevin Killian said that the New Narrative authors agreed with the Language Poets' ideas of transforming narrative structure, but they thought language poetry lacked "fun." Also, he claimed that Language Poets were more well-versed in theory.
While Killian states that one of the differences between Language Poets and New Narrative writers is the Language Poets' knowledge of theory, Glück says that the New Narrative has its inspiration in the theorists Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin, Louis Althusser, and George Bataille.
Presses that publish New Narrative writing include Hard Press, Serpent's Tail, Black Star Series, and Semiotext(e). New Narrative work is also included on Robert Glück's online magazine, Narrativity, and in the published companion Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative, edited by Glück, Gail Scott, Mary Burger and Camille Roy.
- Glück, Robert. “Long Note on New Narrative.” Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative. Ed. Mary Burger et al. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2004.
- Bellamy, Dodie. “Low Culture.” Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative. Ed. Mary Burger et al. Toronto: Couch House Books, 2004. 226.
- Schultz, Kathy Lou. “Proceed Queerly: The Sentence as Compositional Unit.” Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative. Ed. Mary Burger et al. Toronto: Couch House Books, 2004. 222.
- Cunningham, Brent. Recent Bay Writing.
- Neigh, Janet. Review of Biting the Error.
- Bellamy, Dodie. “The Cheese Stands Alone.” Academonia. San Francisco: Krupskaya, 2006. 115.
- An interview with Kevin Killian