Harold Norse

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Harold Norse
Norse in 1988
Norse in 1988
Born(1916-07-06)July 6, 1916
New York City, U.S.
DiedJune 8, 2009(2009-06-08) (aged 92)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Alma materNew York University

Harold Norse (July 6, 1916, New York City – June 8, 2009, San Francisco) was an American writer who created a body of work using the American idiom of everyday language and images. One of the expatriate artists of the Beat generation, Norse was widely published and anthologized.


Born Harold Rosen to an unmarried Lithuanian Jewish immigrant in Brooklyn.[1] In the early 1950s, he came up with the new last name, Norse, by rearranging the letters in Rosen.[2]

He received his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1938, where he edited the literary magazine.[3] 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.[4] Soon Norse was publishing in Poetry, The Saturday Review and The Paris Review.[5] 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 to 1959 Norse lived and wrote in Italy. He penned the experimental cut-up novel Beat Hotel[6] in 1960 while living in Paris with William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso from 1959 to 1963.[7] He traveled to Tangier, where he stayed with Jane and Paul Bowles.[5] Returning to America in 1968, Norse arrived in Venice, California, near Charles Bukowski.[7] He moved to San Francisco in 1972 and lived in the Mission District of San Francisco for the last 35 years of his life.[8]

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.[9] 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.

Norse was gay and his poetry reflected his sexuality.[10]


  • The Undersea Mountain, Denver: Swallow Press, 1953
  • The Roman Sonnets of Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, Highlands, North Carolina: Jargon 38, 1960
  • The Dancing Beasts, New York: Macmillan, 1962
  • Karma Circuit, London: Nothing Doing in London, 1966
  • Penguin Modern Poets 13, Charles Bukowski, Philip Lamantia and Harold Norse, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969
  • Bastard Angel Magazine, Issue #1, Edited by Harold Norse, San Francisco, Spring 1972
  • Karma Circuit, San Francisco: Panjandrum Press, 1973
  • Bastard Angel Magazine, Issue #2, Edited by Harold Norse, San Francisco, Spring 1974
  • Hotel Nirvana, San Francisco: City Lights, 1974
  • I See America Daily, San Francisco: Mother's Hen, 1974
  • Bastard Angel Magazine, Issue #3, Edited by Harold Norse, San Francisco, Fall 1974
  • Beat Hotel, German translation by Carl Weissner, Augsburg, Federal Republic of Germany: Maro Verlag, 1975, 1995
  • Carnivorous Saint: Gay Poems 1941–1976, San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1977
  • Beat Hotel (the English original), San Diego: Atticus Press, 1983
  • Mysteries of Magritte, San Diego: Atticus Press, 1984
  • Beat Hotel, Italian translation by Giulio Saponaro, Italy: Stamperia della Frontiera, 1985
  • The Love Poems 1940–1985, Trumansburg, NY: The Crossing Press, 1986
  • Memoirs of a Bastard Angel, preface by James Baldwin, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1989
  • The American Idiom: A Correspondence, with William Carlos Williams, San Francisco: Bright Tyger Press, 1990
  • In the Hub of the Fiery Force, Collected Poems of Harold Norse 1934–2003, New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003
  • I Am Going to Fly Through Glass: The Selected Poems of Harold Norse, edited by Todd Swindell, Greenfield, MA: Talisman House, 2014
  • Karmakreis, German translation of Karma Circuit by Ralf Zühlke, Wenzendorf: Stadtlichter Presse, 2016


  • New Directions 13, ed. James Laughlin, 1951
  • Mentor, New American Library, 1958
  • City Lights Journal, ed. L. Ferlinghetti, #1, 1963
  • Best Poems of 1968: Borestone Mountain Poetry Awards, ed. Hildegarde Flanner, 1969
  • City Lights Anthology, ed. Ferlinghetti, City Lights 1974
  • A Geography of Poets, ed. Edward Field, Bantam 1979
  • The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, ed. Stephen Coote, Penguin 1983
  • Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time: An Anthology, ed. Carl Morse and Joan Larkin, St. Martin's Press, 1988
  • An Ear to the Ground, ed. Harris & Aguero, University of Chicago Press, 1989
  • Big Sky Mind: Buddhism & the Beat Generation, ed. Carole Tonkinson, Riverhead Books, NY, 1995
  • City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology, City Lights, 1995
  • The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, ed. Alan Kaufman and S.A. Griffin, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1999


  • The Harold Norse Papers (1934–1980, 8,000 items) are archived at the Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.[11]
  • Harold Norse, James Baldwin, Anais Nin, William S. Burroughs, William Carlos Williams, Paul Carroll, Jack Hirschman, "Harold Norse Special Issue", Olé, No. 5 (Bensenville, IL: Open Skull Press, n.d., 1966?)


  1. ^ "Norse, Harold", glbtq, on line. Archived October 19, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Harold Norse, a Beat Poet, Dies at 92", The New York Times, Saturday, June 13, 2009, p A15.
  3. ^ Peter Fimrite, "Beat poet Harold Norse dies at 92", San Francisco Chronicle (June 14, 2009)
  4. ^ The American Idiom: A Correspondence, with William Carlos Williams (San Francisco: Bright Tyger Press, 1990) ISBN 0-944378-79-X
  5. ^ a b William Grimes (June 13, 2009). "Harold Norse, a Beat Poet, Dies at 92". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Beat Hotel German tr. Maro Verlag, Augsburg, West Germany (1975); in the original English, Atticus Press (1983) ISBN 0-912377-01-1.
  7. ^ a b Elaine Woo (June 13, 2009). "Harold Norse dies at 92; Beat poet was a literary beacon in the gay community". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ Peter Fimrite (June 14, 2009). "Beat poet Harold Norse dies at 92". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  9. ^ The Return of the Bastard Angel by Mark Athitakis, SF Weekly, November 8, 2000
  10. ^ Grimes, William (June 14, 2009). "Harold Norse, Beat poet had explored gay identity". Boston.com.
  11. ^ Norse Mss. 1934–1980, Lilly Library Manuscript Collections

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