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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.

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

Alice Notley, 1945
"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 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

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poem
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
and
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