Partner Dick Stryker
Brooklyn College, 2900 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11210, Stati Uniti
New York University, New York, 10003, Stati Uniti
573 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016
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. The coining of the expression ‘Homintern’ is often attributed to Cyril Connolly, less often to Maurice Bowra, and sometimes to W.H. Auden; but Anthony Powell thought its source was Jocelyn Brooke, and Harold Norse claimed it for himself.
Born Harold Rosen to an unmarried Lithuanian Jewish immigrant in Brooklyn. In the early 1950s, he came up with the new last name, Norse, by rearranging the letters in Rosen.
He received his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1938, where he edited the literary magazine. Norse met Chester Kallman in 1938, and then became a part of W. H. Auden's "inner circle" when Auden moved to the US in 1939. In 1939 he and Kallman, both recently graduated from Brooklyn College, attended a reading given by Auden and Christopher Isherwood in their first joint appearance in New York. The two graduates seated themselves in the front row with the admitted intent of seducing Auden. Kallman, who succeeded, became Auden's lifetime companion.
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. Soon Norse was publishing in Poetry, The Saturday Review and The Paris Review. 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.
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Harold Norse was Dwight Ripley's obsession of the 1951 season, and Norse was richly rewarded by him with the gift of an expensive Picasso that made it possible for him to move to Italy. Fidelity was not a Norse characteristic; as Rupert Barnaby,, Ripley's longtime partner, later said, "Dwight is not a griever or a whiner. Gone are the snows of yesterdays." Norse portraied Dwight in his memoirs as the millionnaire "Cyril Reed". Norse had an apartment at 573 Third Avenue, where he lived one floor above a New Zealand painter, Glyn Collins (for a short time in 1945 the husband of Muriel Rukeyser), who was commissioned by Dwight Ripley to paint a portrait of Tony Bower. When Collins gave a party he invited his upstairs neighbor Norse. Other guests that evening included the painter-and-poet couple Theodoros Stamos and Robert Price; the Abstract Expressionist painter William Baziotes and his wife, Ethel; the Living Theatre's founders-to-be Julian Beck and Judith Malina; the social philosopher Paul Goodman and his wife, Sally; John Bernard Myers and his roommate, Waldemar Hansen; the poet Ruthven Todd; and Dwight and Rupert. Dwight, reports Norse in his memoirs, was drunk, fell for him with a "thud heard round the room," and before passing out inquired what he most wanted. Norse had no way of knowing that Dwight a decade earlier had complained, "I long to say just $20." No doubt he did know, but way of Chester Kallman and W. H. Auden, the story of Denham Fouts and the liquidated Picasso given to him by Peter Watson. "Taking it as a big joke," writes Norse, "I blurted out with drunken laughter, "How about a Picasso?" "Is that all?" he screamed. "Daahling, it's yours!" A few days after the party a limousine arrived on Third Avenue, and the surprised Norse opened his door to find a chauffeur, in uniform, who had come to dliver a 1923 Picasso gouache, a ten-by-sixteen-inch study for The Dancers, certified by Pierre Matisse. In his memoirs, Norse gives a vivid account of the ensuing affair (dinners at Le Pavillon and Chambord, trips to the galleries, visits to the New York Public Library, where Dwight read War and Peace in Arabic), and he reveals also that his new admirer never touched him. He credits the forbearance to his own virtue and not to Dwight's. It all came to an end on a winter evening outside the Chelsea Hotel. "He had told me earlier," recalled Norse, "because he was a masochist, if you ever want to get rid of me, and you'll never see me again, just say "I love you" and you'll never see me again. So outside this hotel he said, "Harold, do you love me?" and I said, "Yeah," and I never saw him again." The previous autumn, Ripley recorded in his diary that Norse and Norse's lover during the whole affair, Dick Stryker, were going to Wappingers Falls, Ripley's country house in Upstate New York, to spend the weekend. He made a not to get his drawings down from upstairs. Fifty years later, when Douglas Crase, Ripley's biographer, asked Norse by telephone what he thought of Dwight's drawings, he replied, "I never knew Dwight could draw or would even bother to do something artistic. Dwight an artist, no, I had no idea. I can't believe it."
From 1954-59 Norse lived and wrote in Italy. He penned the experimental cut-up novel i>Beat Hotel in 1960 while living in Paris with William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso from 1959 to 1963. He traveled to Tangier, where he stayed with Jane and Paul Bowles. Returning to America in 1968, Norse arrived in Venice, California, near Charles Bukowski. He moved to San Francisco in 1972 and lived in the Mission District of San Francisco for the last 35 years of his life.
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, NYU, New York City
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. 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.
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