Tuesday, December 11, 2012


The Kenyon Review's end-of-year book recommendations.

(Very nice company, including
Mary Ruefle, Jack Gilbert, Lyn Hejinian, Nourbese Philip.)

"Other books worth shelf space: Linda Norton’s cross-genre The Public Gardens: Poems and History, full of sharp and anxious writing, delivers on its title while dismantling the notion of autobiography. “All is possible / Sleep’s reason is neutral,” Lyn Hejinian writes in The Book of a Thousand Eyes, at once a serial poem, a collage of disparate thoughts, and a dream diary. The Ancient Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry by Raymond Barfield snapshots the thorny relationship between art and inquiry, as does Christian existentialist Nikolai Berdyaev’s less recent (1916) and, it seems, vanished volume The Meaning of the Creative Act. M. Nourbese Philip’s Zong! tests the respective allegiances of history and philosophy to morality."

Thank you to ANDREW DAVID KING for this mention, and for the interview he did with me for Kenyon Review last spring. You can access that interview here.

Click here for The Kenyon Review's complete list of recommended reading, December 2012.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Check out the new issue of NOT ENOUGH NIGHT for ten of my collages, a poem by Fanny Howe, an interview with Gary Snyder, a talk by Alice Notley, and new work from students in Naropa's MFA program. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, Baghdad reads."

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here

     "It was a summer day in 2003, when Iraq was still filled with the half-truths of occupation and liberation, before its nihilistic descent into carnage. Mohammed Hawayi, a bald bear of a man, stood in his shop, the Renaissance Bookstore, along Baghdad's storied al-Mutanabbi Street . . . .

A car bomb detonated last week on al-Mutanabbi Street, leaving a scene that has grown familiar in Baghdad, a collage of chaotic images, disturbing in their brutality, grotesque in their repetition. At least 26 people were killed. Hawayi the bookseller was one of them." -ANTHONY SHADID
Washington Post, March 12, 2007

Anthony Shadid died in Syria in February 2012 while working as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times.

Shadid's reporting from Baghdad is the first essay in AL-MUTANABBI STREET STARTS HERE, the new anthology of prose and poetry edited by Beau Beausoleil and Deema Shehabi, just published by PM Press.

The list of contributors to this anthology includes Naomi Shihab Nye, Meena Alexander, Kenneth Wong, Diane di Prima, Lewis Buzbee, Josh Kun, Mahmoud Darwish, Etel Adnan, Kazim Ali, Adrienne Rich, Cornelius Eady, Amy Gerstler, Azar Nafisi, Owen Hill, Susan Moon, Dana Teen Lomax, and Summer Brenner, the editor-at-large who invited me to contribute. 

Thanks to Julie Allen, my colleague in The Bancroft Library, for bringing some of her favorite contributions to my attention (see Gazar Hantoosh's "Destinies" and Dima Hilal's "The Sudden Cessation of Electricity").

I look forward to reading everything in this anthology.

        From the book:

     "For part of my life, I worked as a bookseller on al-Mutanabbi Street. In the early 1990s, I was well known for buying the libraries of writers who were besieged by hunger because of the
sanctions . . . "
From "Escape from al-Mutanabbi Street" 
     by Muhammad al-Hamrani

"The six men, all relatives,
were hunting for a teenager's remains. The boy had been
shopping for notebooks on al-Mutanabbi Street, named
for a tenth-century poet. They had been digging since
Wednesday, morning till night."

From "March 9, 2007 Al-Mutanabbi Street, Baghdad" 
     by Julie Bruck

     "For so many Iraqis, books have always been like the food of life. If you can't get them, you starve, and al-Mutanabbi Street is where you came for nourishment."

From "The River Turned Black with Ink" 
     by Maysoon Pachacki

Collection of al-Mutanabbi Street Broadsides
Jaffe Library, Florida Atlantic University

The broadsides commissioned by Beau Beausoleil for this project are now part of library collections around the world. Thanks to him for his untiring efforts toward peace and understanding, and for bringing us all together.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Huckleberry Finn in Arabic

Huckleberry Finn

Psalms and Ashes, My Dream of Pasternak, Stanzas in the Form of a Dove

The sea has swallowed the honey
And love turned to ashes in the roads.
— Hamid Mokhtar, “The Rabble” 
"Near the old Jewish quarter of Baghdad, at Al Rasheed Street, there is a meandering alley named after the Iraqi poet Al Mutanabbi. Bookstores of every description occupy the street-level spaces, selling technical manuals, ornate copies of the Quran and a nice selection of pirated software. Al Mutanabbi then runs downhill toward the mud-brown bend of the Tigris until veering west at a covered market and the high walls of an old mosque school. Right at the bend in the road is Baghdad’s legendary literary cafe, the Shabandar, where for decades writers and intellectuals have come. 

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2005, walking carefully under the white-hot sun, a man carried a bag down Al Mutanabbi Street and walked into Hajji Qais Anni’s stationery store, stayed for a short time, then left without his package. When the package exploded a short time later, the blast killed Hajji Qais, who was sitting near the door where he kept watch over his shop." - Salon
In March of 2007, another bomb exploded in the booksellers quarter in Baghdad (read about the bombing and reconstruction of al-Mutanabbi Street in NYT articles and blogs here  and here).

[In 2007], the San Francisco bookseller Beau Beausoleil started the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition "Because I felt this connection … If I were an Iraqi, a bookseller, a poet, I would be on that street. I felt we needed some sort of response (to the bombing) from our own arts community.'"
Since then, at Beau's invitation, book artists and printers have created incredible broadsides that have been exhibited all over the world and are archived in many special collections and libraries.

PM Press has just published AL-MUTANABBI STREET STARTS HERE (edited by Beau Beausoleil and Dema Shahabi), an anthology of poets and writers responding to the bombing. You can get it from the publisher, at your local bookstore, or here

The volume includes my story/essay "Psalms and Ashes," commissioned by contributing editor Summer Brenner. The anthology includes work by Owen Hill, Susan Moon, and many other terrific writers from around the world, including Iraq.
Huckleberry Finn has been translated into many languages, including Arabic, so my essay about the booksellers quarter in Baghdad mentions Mark Twain.

I thought his books might have been there along with with the Book of Psalms, computer software, reams of paper and stacks of envelopes, American soldiers and Iraqi booksellers. What could be more American than Mark Twain's anti-imperialism?

I also included him because I work in The Bancroft Library, home of the Mark Twain Papers.

"They did not know that it was impossible and so they did it." - Mark Twain
Check out this
 very interesting interview with Beau Beausoleil.

New Issue of ELEVEN ELEVEN  

A los diecinueve años escribí el poema / más lindo del mundo." It really *is* the most beautiful poem in the world, and it's by Eduardo Chirinos, a writer new to me. It's the first thing in the new issue of this beautiful CCA magazine Eleven Eleven.

I have work in this issue, too (my "Dream After Reading Pasternak"--probably the first time Jean Genet, Palestinian refugee camps, the Black Panthers and  Tip O'Neill have ever been in the same place). 

Nakba (Palestinian exodus, 1948)

Michael Cammarata, NYFD,
died in the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001--
cugine, paisan

"The past isn't over. It isn't even past."

- William Faulker

Tip O'Neill (with reporter Garry Armstrong)

"All politics is local."


On 9/11/2012, last week, out of the blue, I received a letter forwarded by my publisher, Bill Corbettt (Pressed Wafer), telling me that my poem"Stanzas in the Form of a Dove" will be included in NEW CALIFORNIA WRITING 2013 (edited by Gayle Wattawa, published by Heyday).

"Stanzas in the Form of Dove" comes from Borges' "Invocation to Joyce" and is one of two 9/11 poems in the last section of my book, THE PUBLIC GARDENS: POEMS AND HISTORY.

I am so honored and pleased to be part of anything published by the wonderful people at Heyday.

Monday, August 13, 2012

"A Playpen in the Democracy of Art"

Sebastian Smee profiles Bill Corbett, "The Man Who Nourished Boston's Literary Scene"

     "Jhumpa Lahiri wasn’t sure she could be a writer. Although as a child she had harbored dreams of doing just that, they had gradually been eaten away by self-doubtshe could scarcely believe the books she loved had been written by real people.  “At twenty-one,” she recalled in a 2011 New Yorker essay, “the writer in me was like a fly in the roomalive but insignificant, aimless, something that unsettled me whenever I grew aware of it, and which, for the most part, left me alone. After graduating Barnard in 1989 with a degree in English literature, Lahiri moved to Massachusetts to take classics courses at Harvard. She also found work at the cash register in a Harvard Square bookstore with a friend of a friend, Marni Corbett, a daughter of poet William Corbett and his wife, Beverly, Marni’s father, a tall man with a commanding, jowly face and mischievous eyes, used to visit the store to say hello to his daughter and to buy books. Big armloads of books. . . . "

How many of us has Bill supported, encouraged, published, celebrated? Read this long and interesting profile to get a sense of the legacy he is leaving as he and his wife Beverly Corbett head to Brooklyn after forty-something years in their South End townhouse in Boston.

Here's a link to WBUR's interview:
Bill Corbett is Taking His Legendary Literary Salon to Brooklyn

Go here and here to see some of the books Bill has written, edited, and published.

John Wieners, Lee Harwood, Lewis Warsh, Bill Corbett at Walden Pond.
(Photo: Jud Walker)
Sebastian Smee's Boston Globe Mag profile

Saturday, June 2, 2012


          Here are things that have
no Latin names
          or none
          that men would know.

The last lines of "Self Portrait as a Meadow" tumbled around the internet after the Poetry Foundation posted the poem online.

Monday, May 21, 2012

AS IF IT FELL FROM THE SUN, new Etherdome anthology

Publishers, poets, and editors Colleen Lookingbill and Elizabeth Robinson have culled ten years of work from their Etherdome Chapbook series and have issued a beautiful new anthology, AS IF IT FELL FROM THE SUN. 

Poems from my chapbook HESITATION KIT are included in this anthology, along with some of my newer work. Brilliant book designer HR Hegnauer adapted one of my collages for the cover.

AS IF IT FELL FROM THE SUN is available from Small Press Distribution.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bookstore as Pawn Shop

From Robert Lowell's "91 Revere Street"

I mentioned Robert Lowell in the Kenyon Review interview, then went looking for the book on my shelf and couldn't find it. Perhaps I'd sold it? I've sold thousands of books over the years. We had a tiny apartment, we needed money . . .

I went into Moe's to get a few things last week. Found Lowell's LIFE STUDIES/FOR THE UNION DEAD in the "used poetry" section. It was my own copy! I'd bought it in Brooklyn in 1990 and sold it to Moe's in December of 2010, before moving to this new apartment in Oakland. They sold it back to me for $2.50 (half-price). Bookstore as pawn shop!

Massachusetts 54th
Robert Gould Shaw Memorial on the Boston Common

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kenyon Review interview with Andrew King

My Singing Teachers; and John Brown's Body

Susan Hiller's "Monument" (1980-81) *

Very interesting to talk with Andrew King at Kenyon Review about THE PUBLIC GARDENS, poetry, history, time, suffering, Robert Moses, pillars of roses, Robert Lowell, John Brown's body, the Old Testament, my grandmothers, my daughter, and the best thing Mark Twain never said.

Gertrude Jekyll's gardens

"Years ago I read about a pillar of roses in an English garden, 
and so I own it, I have the deed by heart."

* The plaques in Susan Hiller piece, "Monument," are copies of originals in the 
a modest and moving tribute in a public garden in London. 
Please go to the link to read more about these individuals 
"who might otherwise be forgotten," but who continue to live "in representation."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sweet! (East Bay Express review)

Alison Peters reviews The Public Gardens for the East Bay Express     

Click HERE for the review.

"Dickinson's privacy, Whitman's barbaric yawp, Thoreau's hermitage, Emerson's and Olmsted's public spheres, and the beauty and mess of the commons, including cemeteries that become gardens, playgrounds, places for kissing — these things nourish me," said Norton. "I hope my book is like a public garden, a place where everyone belongs, in any season, alone and with others."


Monday, May 7, 2012

The Poetry Foundation has posted two poems from 

Click on the titles to go to the poems:


Friday, April 27, 2012

"That Bird Has My Wings"

Re-reading Jarvis Jay Masters' FINDING FREEDOM . . .

and listening to J Dilla: "So far to go . . ."

"It ain't so much what the music says, 
it's what you can't do about it."   
Chester Himes

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stephen King and me in one LA Times sentence

Pretty amusing!

"There are five finalists in each category -- current interest, fiction, first fiction, biography, history, mystery-thriller, science and technology, graphic novel, poetry and young adult literature. Among those in the running are Stephen King, poet Linda Norton, memoirist Alexandra Styron and novelist Joseph O'Connor."
            Los Angeles Times, 2/21/2012

I had a great time at the Los Angeles Festival of Books  with wonderful writers and readers. More than 100,000 people came to the festival, all kinds of people, all ages, many languages. Judy Blume said "hi" to me in the VIP room. ("Are you there, God? It's me, Linda.") 

Here's a wrap-up: LA Times Book Prize Winners  

I'm reading Ismet Prcic's novel now. It is terrific. I love that he thanked Eileen Myles in his acceptance speech on Friday night at USC. 

I thank Eileen, too, and Fanny Howe; without their enthusiasm for my work, I wonder if anyone would have opened my book at all!

Eileen Myles (photo: Robert Mapplethorpe)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Click here for the schedule for the LA Times Festival of Books in April.

On Saturday, April 21, I'll be on a panel with Henri Cole, Bruce Smith, and Carl Phillips in the morning; I'll be reading from THE PUBLIC GARDENS: POEMS AND HISTORY in the afternoon. (The book is going into its second printing--please ask your local public or school or college library to order a copy from Baker & Taylor, Small Press Distribution, or other booksellers.)

Lots of other great things on the program on both days of the festival. Check it out.

                                                        LA Times Festival of Books

Hecho in other former colonies

Friday, March 16, 2012

Love & Work (author bio)


Updated November 2018

"Certainly these ashes might have been pleasures."          
ROBERT DUNCAN, "This Place Rumord to Have Been Sodom"

LINDA NORTON is the author of THE PUBLIC GARDENS: POEMS AND HISTORY (Pressed Wafer, 2011; introduction by Fanny Howe), a hybrid work of poetry and memoir and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for poetry, 2012. She is also the author of two chapbooks, HESITATION KIT (2007) and DARK WHITE (2018). WITE OUT, her memoir with poems, will be published by Hanging Loose Press in autumn 2019.

Norton's poems, essays, and collages have appeared in many journals including Colorado Review, Poetry Foundation, Denver Quarterly, New American Writing, Poetry Flash, Five Fingers Review, Eleven Eleven, Zen Monster, Ambush, Volt, and in several anthologies: AS IF IT FELL FROM THE SUN (EtherDome), AL-MUTANABBI STREET STARTS HERE (PM Press),  NEW CALIFORNIA WRITING (Heyday Books), and RESIST MUCH / OBEY LITTLE: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance (Dispatches Editions). In 2014 Irish writer Dermot Healy chose her memoir "Pearl Paint" for inclusion in the annual FISH anthology. 

Norton grew up in Boston and spent many years in New York; half of THE PUBLIC GARDENS is a prose memoir called “Brooklyn Journals.” She lives in Oakland. She was a senior editor at The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, until fall 2017.  Since 2016, she has worked as a teacher and tutor at San Francisco State and as a writing consultant for the LEAD/Unite Here initiative. 

She is a graduate of Holy Cross, a Jesuit college in Worcester, Massachusetts, and of the MFA program (with a certificate in the teaching of composition) at San Francisco State University (fall 2018).

In 2017 she became a dual citizen of Ireland/EU and the U.S.A.

You can read Andrew King's Kenyon Review interview with Linda Norton here, Stan Mir's "The Quiet Influence of Patience" (a review) here, and Alison Peter's  East Bay Express review of THE PUBLIC GARDENS here. Evan Karp's Litseen interview with Norton is here (scroll down). 

     Art, Music, Collaboration

Norton's art work has been exhibited at the Kitchen in New York, the Morrison Room at UC Berkeley,  Cafe 504 in Oakland, and, in 2014, with a grant from the US Embassy in Dublin, at the Dock Arts Centre in Carrick-on-Shannon, Ireland (Curator: Alice Lyons).

Her collages illustrate her own books and her essay "The Great Depression and Me" and have also appeared on the covers of AS IF IT FELL FROM THE SUN, and volumes of poetry by Claudia Rankine and Julie Carr.

"Landscaping for Privacy," her collaboration with composer Eve Beglarian, is available on iTunes and on the CD “Tell the Birds.” 

Beglarian also composed and performed a new piece with lyrics by Norton ("Wet Psalm") as part of her River Project. You can read Norton's interview with Beglarian on the occasion of Beglarian's Herb Alpert Award here

Norton was a resident at the Guthrie Centre in Ireland in 2015 and at the Lannan Foundation in Marfa, Texas, in the summer of 2002. In 2014 she was awarded a William Dickey Fellowship at San Francisco State University. In 2018 Norton was awarded a Ucross Foundation residency in Wyoming.

She has given talks and has been a guest writer at the Oakland Book Festival, Brown, Harvard, UC Riverside, SFSU, CCA, the Athenian School, the Pierogi Gallery in Brooklyn, the LA Times Book Festival, Moe's Books, the SoundEye Festival in Cork, and many other places. 

      University of California Press 

Norton worked for the University of California Press in Manhattan (1987-1995) and then in Berkeley (1995-2001), publishing trade and scholarly books in many fields, including history, politics, biography, music, art, literature, current events, and classics. In the New York office she was publicist for books by Oliver Sacks, William Finnegan, and many other authors on the UC Press list. In Berkeley she founded the New California Poetry series with Calvin Bedient, Robert Hass, and Brenda Hillman, and she published books by Rebecca Solnit, Alan Lomax and Jelly Roll Morton, Theresa Cha, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Janet McDonald, Carlo Rotella, Fanny Howe, Harryette Mullen, Donald Allen, and others.

     History, Research, Advocacy

Norton has conducted interviews for NPR’s Storycorps Griot series and has worked as a historical consultant for the Peralta Hacienda, a community museum in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. She has served on the advisory board of the Irish American Crossroads Festival and worked as a researcher and writer on Cary Virtue's documentary film about the last piano bar in Oakland.  From 2007-2012 she was a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for foster children in Alameda County.

In 2014 she received a Creative Work Fund grant for "Home and Away," a collaboration with the Peralta Hacienda Historical Museum and Park in Oakland. In an exhibit, interviews, workshops, field trips, writing, and public events, Norton and community members explored issues around the growth of prisons and prison populations in California and questions about freedom and history.

Introduction by Fanny Howe
Pressed Wafer, Boston 2011   ISBN 978-0-9831975-1-5   $14.00

A memoir of place (Boston, New York, Oakland and San Francisco) and of the commons—gardens and libraries, streets and subways, marriage and family—and a hybrid work of poetry and prose, THE PUBLIC GARDENS is a documentary (with lyrics) of a life lived in, around, and for books. 

"THE PUBLIC GARDENS is a brilliant, wonderful book, a sort of a wild institution, intense and readable. Linda Norton looks at the world like a dog who likes to tear apart couches—repressed but not for long. Though full of shame, this book is shameless. A life is freely divulged as are the multitude of homeopathic bits from the author's reading list. The overall experience of moving through THE PUBLIC GARDENS's shuttling prose and poetry is quietly breathtaking. I have felt and learned much from this book! Her 'Gardens' are both organized and entirely disorderly—anything and anyone from any point in history might saunter through, and that's the meaning of public isn't it? I find myself loving this writer's mind, light touch, and generous heart and I, reader, didn't want to go when it was done. My bowl is out. More!"Eileen Myles

“Have you ever heard Dinah Washington sing ‘This Bitter Earth’? Have you ever seen the movie by Charles Burnett called Killer of Sheep? This little book, THE PUBLIC GARDENS, conjures up the experience of that movie and that song, the fate of families and neighborhoods in 20th-century America. Although the title of the book shows that its ultimate point of reference is Boston, the work inside travels through New York and Oakland. Part poetry, part notebooks, it is a model of the camera made human, made humanist, a part of arm, leg, hand, a moving-picture taker pregnant with literature. What she sees, we have all seen and passed by. But she has paused to note it. 

Steeped in the language of Scripture and Emerson, the poetry here is fresh and wild, cultivated and desperate. Linda is Sicilian but everything in her is modern. She hates what she loves. This makes her lonely, inspired, uprooted, still hunting, and blissed out whenever possible. She documents her losses and loves, both as a free person and a mother, and every word she writes has the bittersweet taste of Dinah Washington."Fanny Howe 

She looks back on her personal history with tough self-reckoning which she then crystal cuts to near sparkling perfection. Her bearing down on experience to yield the truths of life lived has no fluff. .. .  Norton shares her losses: at the death of brother, the unfolding of her marriage, historical readings/visions of society in her visits home to family in Boston, and finally her relocation to California for work. She's found what abides is observing moments of one's life, being aware of what's happening as it happens. There's joy to be found round daily business.” Patrick James Dunagan, Galatea Resurrects, #17, December 2011

“Norton’s rejoinder to suffering, shame, loss, and the drudge of economic necessity is to encounter the world with a keen interest that is by turns plaintive and robustly humorous. . . . Right inside [the] gap of transition and loss, Norton locates a site of empathy and mystery.”-- Elizabeth Robinson, Otis Review

at Small Press Distributionamazon.com, your local bookseller, or the Oakland Public Library.