HAROLD NORSE, American poet, born (d: 2009); An out Gay American writer who created a body of work using the idiom of everyday language and images. One of the expatriate artists of the Beat Generation, he was widely published and anthologized. Norse was born in the Bronx, New York, and grew up in Brooklyn. He attended Brooklyn College, edited the school’s literary magazine, the Brooklyn College Observer, and received his B.A. in English Literature in 1938.
Memoirs of a Bastard Angel traces Norse’s life and literary career with W. H. 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 Anais 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 was a two-time NEA grant recipient, and National Poetry Association award winner. Norse received a B.A. from Brooklyn College (1938) and an M.A. from New York University (1951).
He moved to Paris in 1960, on a tip from William Carlos Williams, who rated Norse the ‘best poet of [his] generation’ and at the Beat Hotel he met Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and others, drawn by their interest in Buddhist meditation, which Norse had recently taken up. Using the cut-up technique devised by Gysin and Burroughs, Norse wrote his experimental novel, Beat Hotel.
Originally titled Sniffing Keyholes, the first chapter — which he describes as “a sex/dope scene between a muscular black youth called Melo and a blond Russian princess called Z.Z.” — made even the often stoic Burroughs laugh. During his time at the Beat Hotel, Norse began creating his ‘random paintings’ or Cosmographs (using the hotel’s bidet), which brought the attention of Paris’ elite art scene.
Norse’s writing began receiving major critical attention during the mid-1960’s. A 1966 edition of avant-garde literary journal Ole was devoted to him. Throughout the 1960’s, Norse’s work appeared in the Evergreen Review, a groundbreaking American literary journal that published the Beats alongside internationally acclaimed experimental writers Samuel Beckett, Günter Grass, and Octavio Paz.
Norse returned to America in 1969 and became involved in the Gay Liberation movement, settling in San Francisco, where he died June 8, 2009.