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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 Certain Magical Acts (Penguin, 2016); Songs and Stories of the Ghouls (Wesleyan University Press, 2011); 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 (Penguin, 2001), winner of the 2002 International Griffin Poetry Prize; Mysteries of Small Houses (Penguin, 1998); Selected Poems of Alice Notley (Talisman House, 1993); Margaret and Dusty (Coffee House Press, 1985); and Sorrento (Sherwood Press, 1984).

Her collection How Spring Comes (Toothpaste Press, 1981) received a 1982 San Francisco Poetry Award. Other early titles include Waltzing Matilda (Kulchur Foundation, 1981), Alice Ordered Me To Be Made (Yellow Press, 1976), and 165 Meeting House Lane ("C" Press, 1971). She has also published Tell Me Again (Am Here Books, 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. In 2015, she was honored with the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She currently lives in Paris.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Certain Magical Acts (Penguin, 2016)
Songs and Stories of the Ghouls (Wesleyan University Press, 2011)
Culture of One (Penguin, 2011)
In the Pines (Penguin, 2007)
Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970-2005 (Weslyan University Press, 2006)
Disobedience (Penguin, 2001)
Mysteries of Small Houses (Penguin, 1998)
The Descent of Alette (Penguin, 1996)
Close to me & Closer . . . (The Language of Heaven) and Désamère (O Books, 1995)
Selected Poems of Alice Notley (Talisman House, 1993)
The Scarlet Cabinet (Scarlet Editions, 1992)
Margaret and Dusty (Coffee House Press, 1985)
Sorrento (Sherwood Press, 1984)
How Spring Comes (Toothpaste Press, 1981)
Waltzing Matilda (Kulchur Foundation, 1981)
When I Was Alive (Vehicle Editions, 1980)
Songs for the Unborn Second Baby (United Artists, 1979)
A Diamond Necklace (Frontward Books, 1977)
Alice Ordered Me To Be Made (Yellow Press, 1976)
Incidentals in the Day World (Angel Hair Books, 1973)
Phoebe Light (Big Sky Books, 1973)
165 Meeting House Lane ("C" Press, 1971)

Prose
Reason and Other Women (Chax Press, 2010)
Alma, or, The Dead Women (Granary Books, 2006)
Coming After: Essays on Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 2005)
Tell Me Again (Am Here Books, 1982)

The Descent of Alette ["The water" "of the river"]

"The water" "of the river" "was mild-temperatured," "the current
gentle" "I soon began" "to swim—" "in a moonless," "starless darkness"
"The sky held no clouds—" "no luminous" "spheres existed here"
"Yet the sky was" "a sky;" "for the river air" "was fresh & sweet"

"Then," "as I swam," "the others I contained—" "my companions
from the subway—" "weightlessly" "emerged from me," "looking
shadow-like," "& quickly" "solid-bodied" "began to swim with me"
"I never really" "saw their faces" "We swam quietly," "concentrating,"

"our motions almost synchronized" "In the distance sat" "small yellow
lights" "where presumably" "the other shore lay" "Partway across"
"the river," "something else, a substance," "a state of being,"
"a thick noxious" "distress" "in the form of" "a gray cloud,"

"welled up within me" "& left my body" "from a point along" "my spine"
"The cloud" "hovered near us" "& so we turned onto" "our backs to
watch it" "It was full of" "ghoulish faces," "phosphorescent" "death's
heads;" "one skull grew large" "& open-mouthed" "It had long" "glowing

hair," "screamed as if" "in terror," "then spoke" "to me:"
" 'We are dying" "You are killing us" "killing us'" "The cloud exploded"
"into greenish flame" "which was soon consumed" "by darkness"
"We turned over" "& resumed" "our swimming"

From Book Three of The Descent of Alette by Alice Notley, copyright © 1992 by Alice Notley. Used by peromission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

From Book Three of The Descent of Alette by Alice Notley, copyright © 1992 by Alice Notley. Used by peromission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Alice Notley

Alice Notley

Born in 1945, Alice Notley received the 2007 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for her book Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970–2005 (Wesleyan University Press, 2006).

by this poet

poem
"Presently" "we neared a pale beach," "narrow" "with trees behind it"
"thick & blue-black," "& lights" "many lights" "deep inside the"
"wooded land" "I touched bottom" "& walked ashore" "Then I saw"
"a final entity," "airy image, pass" "out of my body—" "from my

forehead" "A small shape," "perhaps
poem

I'm calling out from pictures to your vision creating it
turn right, that dream building cutglass window in door.
Automatically inside their apartment, you don't have
to get there. This is before the lost sacred corpus vision,
someone says Look at my author photo. I
don't really want to I'm

poem

 

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