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A poetry reading by Alice Notley


Mudam Auditorium
Within the framework of the exhibition

Jason Dodge. Tomorrow, I walked to a dark black star



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A poetry reading by Alice Notley on the occasion of the opening weekend of the exhibition A Model: Epilogue – Jason Dodge. Tomorrow, I walked to a dark black star.

Alice Notley has become one of America’s greatest living poets. She has long written in narrative and epic and genre-bending modes to discover new ways to explore the nature of the self and the social and cultural importance of disobedience. The artist Rudy Burckhardt once wrote that Notley may be “our present-day Homer.” Active in the New York poetry scene of the 1960s and ‘70s, Notley is often identified with the Second Generation New York School poets, though her work resists any period classification. In an interview with the Kenyon Review, Notley noted: “I think I try with my poems to create a beginning space. I always seem to be erasing and starting over, rather than picking up where I left off, even if I wind up taking up the same themes. This is probably one reason that I change form and style so much, out of a desire to find a new beginning, which is always the true beginning.”’ (poetryfoundation.org)

Notley is the author of over forty books of poetry, including 165 Meeting House Lane (1971), Phoebe Light (1973), Incidentals in the Day World (1973), For Frank O’Hara’s Birthday (1976), Alice Ordered Me to Be Made: Poems 1975 (1976), Dr. Williams’ Heiresses (1980), How Spring Comes (1981), which received the San Francisco Poetry Award, Waltzing Matilda (1981), Margaret & Dusty (1985), From a Work in Progress (1988), Homer’s Art (1990), To Say You (1993), Selected Poems of Alice Notley (1993), The Descent of Alette (1996), among many others. Mysteries of Small Houses (1998) won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and her collection Disobedience (2001) was awarded the Griffin International Poetry Prize. Notley’s recent work includes From the Beginning (2004), Alma, or the Dead Women (2006), Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970-2005, which received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, In the Pines (2007), Culture of One (2011), Songs and Stories of the Ghouls (2011), Benediction (2015), and Certain Magical Acts (2016).

Referring back to her writing in the 1970s in an interview with the Ampersand Review, Notley says she felt she was ‘the only poet I knew of who used the details of pregnancy and motherhood as a direct, pervading subject in poems, on a daily basis, as if it were true that half the people in the world gave birth to others and everyone had been born.’ In these poems, as in much of Notley’s work, details from daily life enter in fragments that can be both entertaining and jarringly serious.

Among Notley’s most famous works is ‘At Night the States’, an elegy for her husband Ted Berrigan, written two years after his death. The words ‘at night the states’ serve as a refrain that marks the beginning of each stanza. Notley has said that her decision to place the refrain at the beginning of the stanza rather than the end is what allowed her to continue writing the poem. A fairly long poem that Notley generally reads quickly, ‘At Night the States’ gives the reader a feeling of being pulled through grief and back into life, with irregular syntax signaling the disruption to day-to-day living caused by a great loss.

After having befriended the British poet and novelist Douglas Oliver during an earlier trip to England, Notley later reconnected with him, they married in 1988 and moving to Paris in 1992.

In addition to collections of poetry, Notley has published the autobiography Tell Me Again (1982), the play Anne’s White Glove (1985), and a book of essays on poets and poetry, Coming After (2005). She edited and wrote the introduction for the reissue of Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets (2000), as well as editing, with her sons, The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan (2005). Her honors and awards include an Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. In 2015, she was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Alice Notley lives in Paris. Her most recent books are Telling the Truth as It Comes Up, Selected Talks & Essays 1991-2018 (2023 Song Cave) and Being Reflected Upon (2024 Penguin Poets).

In November 2020 Notley published ‘At the Foot At the Belt of the Raincoat’ with Jason Dodge’s poetry imprint Fivehundred places available at the Mudam Store.

A black and white portrait of Alice Notley.
Alice Notley