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About this poet

Born on November 8, 1945 in Bisbee, Arizona, Alice Notley grew up in Needles, California. She received a BA from Barnard College in 1967, and an MFA from the the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1969.

She moved about frequently in her youth (San Francisco, Bolinas, London, Essex, Chicago) and eventually married the poet Ted Berrigan in 1972, with whom she had two sons. In the early 1970s, Notley settled in New York's Lower East Side, where she was very involved in the local literary scene for several decades. After Berrigan's death in 1983, she married the British poet Douglas Oliver.

Though she is often identified as a prominent member of the eclectic second generation of The New York School, her poetry also demonstrates a continuing fascination with the desert and its inhabitants.

Notley's collections of verse include Culture of One (Penguin, 2001); In the Pines (Penguin, 2007); Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970-2005 (Weslyan University Press, 2006), which was awarded the 2007 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets for the best book of the year; Disobedience (2001), winner of the 2002 International Griffin Poetry Prize; Mysteries of Small Houses (1998); The Descent of Alette (1996); Close to me & Closer . . . (The Language of Heaven) and Désamère (1995); To Say You (1994); Selected Poems of Alice Notley (1993); The Scarlet Cabinet (with Douglas Oliver, 1992); Homer's Art (1990); At Night the States (1988); Parts of a Wedding (1986); Margaret and Dusty (1985); Sorrento (1984).

Her collection How Spring Comes (1981) received a 1982 San Francisco Poetry Award. Other early titles include Waltzing Matilda (1981), When I Was Alive (1980), Songs for the Unborn Second Baby (1979), A Diamond Necklace (1977), Alice Ordered Me To Be Made (1976), Incidentals in the Day World (1973), Phoebe Light (1973), and 165 Meeting House Lane (1971). She has also published Tell Me Again (1982), an autobiography, and experiments with visual arts; her works include collages, watercolors, and sketches.

She has said that her speech is the voice of "the new wife, and the new mother" in her own time, but that her first aim is to make a poem, rather than present a platform of social reform.

Notley has received the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. In 2001, she received both an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Award. She currently lives in Paris.

Woman in Front of Poster of Herself

Alice Notley, 1945
Said I shouldn't.
         Fingering me.
Everything I did.
A litter of chewed knucklebones

I've spread them out over the
rectangular floor as regularly as
I can; so I can account for them.

	

Her hands are crossed over her breasts and each holds a feather; her face has no features Have I come to beg What do I wish — to be judged?


Is it an accumulation of what I've said, that counts, that I'm counting is it all alphabet and abacus everything rhymed?


You still don't have a face.


Suddenly she has the face of a cat.          No that's a different goddess. I tell you this bloodthirsty jaguar . . .


I haven't any idea what my word is, I mean fault. Is it a word or an act. The whole thrill is ripping me apart Inside these words there's nothing but a pumping bloodsoaked . . . but clearly, everything I said, did, was a long shot


We didn't hear a word What have you ever heard?


Now I'm here — black-caped in a chair. Animal staring at me I sink into your disaffected ambiance to name. What emotional charges have been laid on me from earliest times and my own earliest resulting in the bone strewn carpet I had to grow the dice of accounting to your love; for you made me speak to you lovingly; or did I do that naturally oh just, bloodthirsty face who doesn't have to understand. I don't know who I'm speaking to is pushing me


Judgment maybe it's when being fragile I hallucinate you best


I don't want to use my name! "Where I was born we girls ran free. and named ourselves," Justice says. She may kill me, it depends on whether she's hungry

From Songs and Stories of the Ghouls, published by Wesleyan University Press. Copyright © 2011 by Alice Notley. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Alice Notley

Alice Notley

Born on November 8, 1945, Alice Notley is the author of many collections of verse and the recipient of the 2007 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

by this poet

poem
No world is intact
and no one cares about you.

I leaned down over
don’t care about, I care about
	you
I leaned down over the 

world in portrayal
of carefulness, answering

something you couldn’t say.
walking or fallen and you
	were supposed
to give therapy to me—

me leaning down
brushing with painted feathers
poem

 

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poem
St. Mark's Place caught at night in hot summer,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now.
Tompkins Square Park would be midnight green but only hot.
I look through the screens from my 3rd floor apartment
As if I could see something.
Or as if the bricks and concrete were enough themselves
To be seen and found