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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

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)

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)

Woman in Front of Poster of Herself

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.

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 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

"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

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

Why do I want to tell it
it was the afternoon of November
15th last fall and I was waiting
for it whatever it would be like

it was afternoon & raining but it
was late afternoon so dark outside my
apartment and I was special in that
I saw everything through a heightened

tear, things seemed dewy, shiny