Notley, Alice 1945-

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Notley, Alice 1945-


Born November 8, 1945, in Bisbee, AZ; married Ted Berrigan (a writer), 1972 (died, 1983); married Douglas Oliver, 1988; children: (first marriage): Anselm, Edmund. Education: Barnard College, B.A., 1967; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1969.


Office—c/o Author Mail, University of California Press, 2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94704-1012.


Writer and editor. Has also created cover art for books.


National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1980; Poetry Center award, 1982; G.E. Foundation award, 1983; Fund for Poetry grant, 1987, 1989;

Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry, 1998, and Pulitzer Prize nomination, 1999, both for Mysteries of Small Houses; American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, 2001; Shelley Memorial Award, Poetry Society of America, 2001; Griffin Prize, for Disobedience.



165 Meeting House Lane, "C" Press (New York, NY), 1971.

Phoebe Light, Big Sky (Bolinas, CA), 1973.

Incidentals in the Day World, Angel Hair (New York, NY), 1973.

For Frank O'Hara's Birthday, Street Editions (Cambridge, MA), 1976.

Alice Ordered Me to Be Made: Poems 1975, Yellow Press (Chicago, IL), 1976.

A Diamond Necklace, Frontward (New York, NY), 1977.

Songs for the Unborn Second Baby, United Artists (Lenox, MA), 1979.

When I Was Alive, Vehicle (New York, NY), 1980.

Waltzing Matilda, Kulchur (New York, NY), 1981, reprinted, Faux Press (Cambridge, MA), 2003.

How Spring Comes, Toothpaste Press (West Branch, IA), 1981.

(With Andrei Codrescu) Three Zero, Turning Thirty, edited by Keith and Jeff Wright, Hard Press (New York, NY), 1982.

Sorrento, Sherwood Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1984.

Margaret and Dusty, Coffee House Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1985.

Parts of a Wedding, Unimproved Editions Press (New York, NY), 1986.

At Night the States, Yellow Press, 1988.

(Editor and author of preface) Ted Berrigan, A Certain Slant of Sunlight, O Books (Oakland, CA), 1988.

From a Work in Progress, DIA (New York, NY), 1989.

Selected Poems of Alice Notley, Talisman House (Hoboken, NJ), 1993.

To Say You, Pyramid Atlantic, 1994.

Close to Me & Closer … (The Language of Heaven) and Désamère, O Books (Oakland, CA), 1995.

The Descent of Alette, Penguin (New York, NY), 1996.

Mysteries of Small Houses, Penguin (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor and author of introduction) Ted Berrigan, The Sonnets, Penguin (New York, NY), 2000.

Disobedience, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor) Douglas Oliver, Arrondissements, Salt Publishing (Cambridge, England), 2003.

From the Beginning, Owl Press (Woodacre, CA), 2004.

(Editor, with Anselm Berrigan and Edmund Berrigan) The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2005.

Grave of Light: Selected Poems, 1970-2000, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 2006.

Alma; or The Dead Women, Granary Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to Poetical Histories and Etruscan Reader VII.


Anne's White Glove (produced in New York, NY, 1985), published in New American Writing, 1987.


Doctor Williams' Heiresses: A Lecture, Tuumba Press (Berkeley, CA), 1980.

Tell Me Again (autobiography), Am Here (Santa Barbara, CA), 1981.

Homer's "Art", Institute for Further Studies (Canton, NY), 1990.

(With Douglas Oliver) The Scarlet Cabinet: A Compendium of Books, Scarlet Editions (New York, NY), 1992.

Coming After: Essays on Poetry, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 2005.

Contributor to anthologies


Deeply influenced by the work of William Carlos Williams, Alice Notley is a poet whose early verse focuses primarily on her life in New York with her first husband, the poet Ted Berrigan, and their two sons. Ann Charters of Contemporary Poets commented: "Despite her loyalty to Williams, it would appear from the evidence of her poetry that her reflections— like Emily Dickinson's—are as sharp as her observations. Notley writes poetry to express her personal voice as a contemporary wife and mother, not to promote a social agenda." Charters observed, "Her poetry reflects her intelligence, humor, and commitment to her craft, and it is perhaps strongest when she is expressing her remarkable sensitivity to the nuances of human relationships. Rather than insist on her own emotional independence as an emancipated woman in the fashion of her New York contemporaries Anne Waldman and Diane Wakowski, Notley stresses the bonds between people, savoring with great refinement the closeness and communication that result from shared feelings."

Notley has received several awards and grants for her poetry, including the Los Angeles Times Book Award for poetry for Mysteries of Small Houses, which was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Comprised of autobiographical verses that contemplate the nature of poetry and how it has shaped her life, from her youth out West to her early days in New York City as part of the East Village scene to her later years as a resident of Paris, the collection provides perspective of her years with Berrigan and what it was like to be a member of the New York School of poets in the 1970s. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called Notley's style in Mysteries of Small Houses "casual, forthright and perceptive," and praised the poet's "unabashed … bravery." Notley's later collection, Disobedience, was even more confrontational in tone. The poems center on the author's unwillingness to cave in to societal expectations and express her open hostility toward the oppression she still senses around her, even in middle age. Praising the collection in Library Journal, Fred Muratori called it an "acutely aware record of consciousness" that is both "ornery" and "fascinating." Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, also appreciated the volume, noting both its dream-like, cinematic narratives and its "shrewd social critiques" of contemporary life.

In 2005, Notley and her two sons, Anselm Berrigan and Edmund Berrigan, jointly edited The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan. The volume took over twenty years to compile and was the first time all of Berrigan's work had been offered to readers in a single collection. As editors, Notley and her sons incorporated the late poet's notes, changes, and edits from all his published works, creating a holistic work that they felt best represented Berrigan's poetic legacy the way he intended it to be viewed. Included in the collection are Berrigan's well-known sonnets and poems from his lesser-known chapbooks, which often take the form of arguments with friends and strangers. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly appreciated how the trio "meticulously re-edited Berrigan's books," in effect "[closing] the gap once and for all" between the "charismatic" poet's work and his persona.

In Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Notley wrote: "Lives, though obviously pleasurable and all there is to do, are rather stupid, being utterly invention and yet so dependent on how others think they ought to be lived. One's own options are few. I despise how current ways of thinking try to affirm this fact as both the only metaphysical truth and something potentially positive. I don't think it's either. My life is for poetry and for wholehearted passive resistance to the way things are. I would like to give the future something more than a desert of data, of myriad new meanings, and unbreathable air. I hate meaning … that's a funny thing to say! But I'm not interested in meaning, I'm interested in being right here, no veils."

Notley once told CA: " The Descent of Alette, which is an epic poem, [is] a long, fictional, deliberate rendering of the traditional epic with a highly controversial use of quotation marks to designate metrical feet. The Descent of Alette has been very influential, is widely taught and has nothing to do with my earlier domestic life;h3 . It is a book which clarifies my subsequent books, which have been written from Paris, France, and are international and even universal in scope."



Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 27, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.

Contemporary Poets, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Notley, Alice, Tell Me Again, Am Here (Santa Barbara, CA), 1981.


American Poetry Review, May-June, 2004, Claudia Keelan and Alice Notley, "A Conversation: September 2002—December 2003," p. 15.

Antioch Review, spring, 1997, Molly Bendall, review of

The Descent of Alette, p. 247.

Booklist, October 15, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of

Disobedience, p. 375.

Library Journal, July, 1985, review of Margaret and Dusty, p. 77; October 15, 2001, Fred Muratori, review of Disobedience, p. 80.

New York Times, April 19, 1985, Stephen Holden, review of Anne's White Glove, p. C26.

Publishers Weekly, June 28, 1985, review of Margaret and Dusty, p. 72; May 25, 1998, review of Mysteries of Small Houses, p. 83; October 24, 2005, review of The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan, p. 41.


Jacket, (July 15, 2001), "Brian Kim Stefans Interviews Alice Notley."