Louis Esterhuizen. Wanneer jy moeg is daarvoor om ‘n man te wees …


Harold Norse (foto) is een van die vergete digters van die sogenaamde Beat-generasie. Daarom dat dit so ‘n lekker verrassing was om via ‘n skakel by die Poetry Foundation op City Lights Booksellers – ja, daardie legendariese boekwinkel in San Fransisco – se webtuiste af te kom waar hulle ‘n gedig van Harold Norse geplaas het; hoeka een van my gunsteling gedigte uit die Beat-era: “I’m not a man”. 

City Lights Booksellers

Volgens hul lokteks, die volgende: “Often categorized as a Beat writer, poet and memoirist Harold Norse created a body of work that used everyday language and images to explore and celebrate both the commonplace and the exotic. His poetry is lyrical and confessional, expressing homoerotic attractions and encounters not as novelty but as lived experience.”

Norse is naamlik op 6 Julie 1916 in Brooklyn gebore as Harold Rosen. Sy moeder was ‘n ongetroude, uitgeweke Joodse immigrant uit Lithuanië. In 1950 het hy die letters van sy van geskommel en voortaan as Harold Norse bekend gestaan. Ter verdere toeligting die volgende stuk wat by Wikipedia gevind kan word: “He received his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1938, where he edited the literary magazine. Norse met Chester Kallman in 1938, and then became a part of W. H. Auden’s ‘inner circle’ when Auden moved to the U.S. in 1939. (Kallman and Auden later became lifelong partners.) However, Norse soon found himself allied with William Carlos Williams, who rated Norse the ‘best poet of [his] generation.’ Norse broke with traditional verse forms and embraced a more direct, conversational language. Soon Norse was publishing in Poetry, The Saturday Review and The Paris Review. He got his master’s degree in literature from New York University in 1951. His first book of poems, The Undersea Mountain, was published in 1953.”  

Harold Norse in Union Square, San Francisco. (Foto deur Frances Mccann.)

Hierna is hy na Italië en ook Parys, waar hy onder andere vir William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg en Gregory Corso in die periode 1959 tot 1963 bevriend het. In Tangiers het hy vir ‘n tydperk by Jane en Paul Bowles tuisgegaan. In 1968 het Norse na die VSA teruggekeer waar hy eers in Venice (Kalifornië) gewoon en Charles Bukowski bevriend het, en toe vir die laaste 35 jaar van sy lewe is hy na San Fransisco waar hy op 8 Junie 2009 as ‘n bykans vergete digter oorlede is.

Gaan kyk gerus na Harold Norse se gedenkblad; veral die huldeblyke het ek interessant gevind.

Vir jou leesplesier plaas ek twee gedigte hieronder, die reeds genoemde gedig, met as toegif die tweede gedeelte van die meer bekende “Classic Frieze in a Garage”.


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 feelings. 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 am under 5 foot 4.

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 back when real men beat me up and call me queer. I dislike


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.


© Harold Norse, San Francisco 1972


have passed my time dreaming thru ancient ruins
walking thru crowded alleys of laundry
    outside tenements with gourds in windows
& crumbling masonry of wars
when suddenly I saw among the greasy rags
  & wheels & axles of a garage
      the carved nude figures
      of a classic frieze
     above dismantled parts of cars!
garage swallows sarcophagus!
    mechanic calmly spraying
       paint on a fender
observed in turn by lapith & centaur!
the myth of the Mediterranean
            was in that garage
        where the brown wiry youths
               saw nothing unusual
                               at their work
among dead heroes & gods
but I saw Hermes in the rainbow
     of the dark oil on the floor
           reflected there
      & the wild hair of the sybil
          as her words bubbled
mad & drowned
              beneath the motor’s roar

(c) Harold Norse (Uit: “Classic Frieze in a Garage”)






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