Though it’s been a while since any new posts to this website, there are exciting new developments around the work and legacy of Harold Norse that will be shared in the coming weeks. First among them is a series of Spanish language translations out of Sevilla, Spain where an energized group of young writers have launched Hojas de Hierba Editorial. A passion project of the young poetry aficionado Javier Romero and his comrades at Bukowski & Co. who are on the move with making the work of writers from the 20th century’s counter-culture accessible to a new generation of Spanish readers.
They recently published the second issue of their flag ship underground art magazine Big Sur that’s described as exploring new discursive and aesthetic territories. It’s packed with 300 + pages of poetry and photography, painting and illustrations, essays and interviews on cinema, music and dance. The section Ars Poetica features Romero’s translation of an essay I wrote about my friendship with Harold Norse and his influence as a mentor along with my ongoing work at preserving his legacy. The splashy layout includes two photos of myself and Harold around the time of his last poetry reading in 2008.
The issue begins with an essay “¿La otra generación Beat? Retazos de las sin ‘sombrero’ de America” that highlights women Beat writers including Hettie Jones, Joyce Johnson and Elise Cowen along with memorial tributes for recently departed ruth wiess and Diane di Prima. Hojas de Hierba Editorial translates as “leaves of grass” in reference to Walt Whitman who was an inspiration to fellow Brooklyn-native Norse. Big Sur also spotlights an essay by poet Eduardo Moga titled “Whitman: en los suburbs de la poesía” about Leaves of Grass. Morga’s translation of the great gay poet’s seminal collection was recently published by Galaxia Gutenberg.
Hojas de Hierba Editorial will publish the first foreign language translation of I Am Going to Fly Through Glass: Selected Poems of Harold Norse, translated by Moga, to be released in 2022. This marks the first time that Norse’s poems will be published in an entirely Spanish language edition. Previously his work has been printed in Greek and German translations. Five poems from the collection are featured in Big Sur accompanied by Ira Nowinski’s iconic 1978 black-and-white photograph of Norse sitting, with cigarette in hand, in North Beach’s Caffé Trieste.
With cutting-edge design and brimming with pages of full color photos, the second issue of Big Sur can be purchased online, but with only 1,000 issues printed, copies are certain to sell out, as happened with the premier issue shown below. Harold Norse’s love of language led him to fluency in French, German, Italian and Spanish. It’s inspiring to see a new generation of readers moved by the strength of Norse’s writing to ensure his poetry reaches readers who would otherwise miss out on the opportunity to explore his life and work.
The international attention to Harold Norse’s legacy continues with a new German translation of his book Karma Circuit by Stadtlichter Presse. The translation and publication are the work of Ralf Zühlke who first discovered Beat literature through a paperback edition of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road while a young man growing up in East Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Ralf discovered translations of Burroughs and some poetry by Ginsberg but none by other Beat writers.
His series of publications titled Heartbeats focuses on work by lesser-known writers that are printed in small editions so they may be kept in print over time. Among the titles are works by John Wieners, Diane Di Prima, Gregory Corso and Lenore Kandel. Harold’s original title is translated as Karmakreis.
The first English language publication of Karma Circuit was by Nothing Doing in London in 1966 and it was later republished in 1972 by San Francisco’s Panjandrum Press. The book was assembled during Harold’s time living on the Greek Islands and features some of his best known poems including “Classic Frieze in a Garage,” “I Am in the Hub of the Fiery Force,” and “William Carlos Williams.”
The book features what appears to be an informed afterword by Judith Pouget that runs nine pages. Additionally Ralf has included six pages of footnotes explaining some the poems cultural and biographical references.
Harold was rightfully proud of the many languages in which his poetry had been translated, among them Spanish, Italian and French. In 2014, Norse’s poetry was translated into Greek by the poet Yannis Livadas.
It was thanks to the German translator Carl Weissner that Harold’s cut up novel Beat Hotel was first published in 1975 by Maro Verlag then republished in 1995.
Weisnner, along with Claude Pélieu and others, was among those who continued to explore the cut up approach to writing which had begun at the Beat Hotel. His influential publication Klacto featured work by Norse, Burroughs and Bukowski.
Stadtlichter Presse has certainly succeeded in making Harold Norse’s life and work available to German speaking readers. Next year, they plan to publish translations of poems by San Francisco poet A.D. Winans whose “Poem for Harold Norse” was included in a memorial collection of poetry for Norse published in 2010.
Harold was always proud that his poems had been translated into many languages- Spanish, Italian, German, French- all languages in which he was fluent. Now we can add Greek to that list thanks to Yannis Livadas, whose recent translations, Harold Norse – Poems, with introduction and notes, was published in 2012 by Heridanos Books, Athens.
Harold arrived on the Greek Islands in 1964, having left Paris after the closing of the Beat Hotel. In Athens he reconnected with poet Charles Henri Ford, whom he knew from their days in Greenwich Village, but it was on the island of Hydra that Harold lived the next couple years. It’s also where he met poet Jack Hirschman, Zina Rachevsky and a young Canadian folksinger named Leonard Cohen. Then an epidemic of hepatitis swept through the island and Harold’s declining health forced him on to Switzerland where he met J. Krishnamurti and shacked up with a Dutch boyfriend.
I asked Yannis about translating Harold’s words into Greek…
“Harold Norse was a hectic and anarchist poet. A poet not only simple assessed as the major voice of a legendary era that is now forever lost; but also as the first American poet who defined the poetic idiom and lifestyle that was followed by the next generations. Norse was a sui generis who affected decisively the contemporary poetry and highlighted the importance of its experiential dynamics. He was one of the most coherent and brilliant poets of his time. Nowadays, although deceased since 2009, Norse remains undeniably one of the greatest voices of modern America; an international, legendary poet of our times. The publishing of a volume with the best of his poems in greek, was more than indispensable.”