An Interview with Harold Norse, Part One Section Two: The Pain of Becoming Literate

I moved in with Norse in 1984 and spent my days writing and studying
film and literature.

Norse was drafting his memoirs.

We lived in a creative stew under the strain of the most devastating years
of the AIDS epidemic.

We both had good reason to think our lives would soon be over.

The pressure I placed on myself brought on the symptoms of florid DID.

My alternates were coming out and writing and Harold was responding
to them as ‘characters’.

A written critique of a collection of poems.
Norse gives me a rundown of what he liked or hated about a collection of poems I left for him one week in February 1985. He calls me ‘Bobby’ in the note and uses ‘Bobby’s’ accent in the opening. What I loved about Norse and his critique was that I always knew I was getting the truth.

In the 1992 interview, I describe the emotional pain of becoming
fully literate.

I asked Norse if that was difficult for him.

“Every day was difficult.” he said, “It was the most difficult period
of my life.”

“Why did you do it?”

“What a question! “ Norse laughed and paused, “I almost never
question that.”

“I think it’s a fascinating question.”

“It is,” Norse replied. “It is. It’s one of the few that’s ever
stopped me cold.”

Part two of the interview picks up where part one ends.

An Interview with Harold Norse, Part Two: The Pain of Becoming Literate

An Interview with Harold Norse, Part 1, Section 3– Saints and Self-Destruction

Photo of Rog Goldstein cropped from the original photo
by Nina Glaser taken May of 1985. I have no idea who
those other people are. I’m the guy in the middle.

Interview with Harold Norse (c) Rob Goldstein 2017 All Rights Reserved

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Heroes of the Revolution: Harold Norse

Art by Rob Goldstein
Portrait of Harold Norse by Jim Breeden

In 1977 I lived in New Haven, Connecticut.

There are hundreds of reasons I loved my time in New Haven.

One was Manhattan was an hour away by train.

I took Amtrak to New York at least twice a month to hang out in the Village.

One weekend in the Fall of 1977 I stopped for a drink at Uncle Charlie’s on Greenwich Avenue.

I met a hot guy who invited me home.

He had a studio apartment with a bed, a chair and a nightstand.

On the nightstand was a book of poems by Harold Norse,  Carnivorous Saint.

A devouring saint?

I sat on the bed and opened the book.

I’d never seen poetry like this before.

I said good-bye to the hot guy, raced to the bookstore, got Carnivorous Saint, and hopped the train back to New Haven.

I was smitten.

The poetry in Carnivorous Saint was political, sexy and full of humor.

Norse used his poetry to define gay liberation in language that included working class men.

Norse is a working class man who declares that he is not a Man:

Art by Rob Goldstein
Scanned from my copy of Carnivorous Saint, purchased in 1977.

I’m Not A Man

I’m not a man, I can’t earn a living, buy new things for my family.

I have acne and a small peter.

I’m not a man. I don’t like football, boxing and cars.
I like to express my feeling. I even like to put an arm
around my friend’s shoulder.

I’m not a man. I won’t play the role assigned to me- the role created
by Madison Avenue, Playboy, Hollywood and Oliver Cromwell,
Television does not dictate my behavior.

I’m not a man. Once when I shot a squirrel I swore that I would
never kill again. I gave up meat. The sight of blood makes me sick.
I like flowers.

I’m not a man. I went to prison resisting the draft. I do not fight
when real men beat me up and call me queer. I dislike violence.

I’m not a man. I have never raped a woman. I don’t hate blacks.
I do not get emotional when the flag is waved. I do not think I should
love America or leave it. I think I should laugh at it.

I’m not a man. I have never had the clap.

I’m not a man. Playboy is not my favorite magazine.

I’m not a man. I cry when I’m unhappy.

I’m not a man. I do not feel superior to women

I’m not a man. I don’t wear a jockstrap.

I’m not a man. I write poetry.

I’m not a man. I meditate on peace and love.

I’m not a man. I don’t want to destroy you

San Francisco, 1972

Carnivorous Saint
Scanned cover of my copy of Carnivorous Saint, purchased in 1977.

There is more to my story about Harold Norse but that is for another post.

To learn more about the poet, Harold Norse, click here:

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