Friday, March 16, 2012

Love & Work (author bio)


Updated May 2019

"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 (2019). WITE OUT, her memoir with poems, will be published by Hanging Loose Press in spring 2020.

Norton's poems, essays, and collages have appeared in many journals including SFMoMA's Open SpaceColorado 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; before that she had a long career in publishing at the University of California Press (after starting out at Yale University Press and David Godine Books).  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. (The school was an all-male institution for 130 years until the first cohort of women was admitted to the college a few years before Norton's freshmen year.) She is also a graduate of the MFA program (with a certificate in the teaching of composition) at San Francisco State University.

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, the AWP, the American Literature Association (Amiri Baraka Society), Counterpath in Denver, 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, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, 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 Hak Kyung Cha, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Janet McDonald, Carlo Rotella, Wallace Stevens, Eileen Chang, Fanny Howe, Harryette Mullen, Donald Allen, Lyn Hejinian, 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, your local bookseller, or the Oakland Public Library.

Update: My wonderful publisher, Bill Corbett, died in 2018, and Pressed Wafer was dissolved. So The Public Gardens, like all other PW books, went out of print after two editions, three printings, and three appearances on the Small Press Distribution bestseller list. You may still find second-hand copies at,, etc. You can also contact me directly if you need a copy or want to read (or assign to your students) a pdf of the book.