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Alice Notley

Alice Notley was born November 8, 1945 in Bisbee, Arizona, but spent most of her young life in Needles, California. Notley received her bachelors' degree from Barnard College and attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop, at first for fiction and shortly after, for poetry. The year Notley attended the Workshop, she was one of two women admitted. Notley also met her first husband, fellow poet Ted Berrigan, while attending the Iowa Writers' Workshop in Iowa City.

In an interview with Damian Rogers, she states that she "went to Iowa to figure out how to be a writer rather than to simply get a teaching degree." Notley developed beliefs about teaching writing, stating that students should "learn the tricks of the trade" and discover new writing techniques.         

Notley received her MFA from the University of Iowa in 1969. Berrigan taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop a visiting professor from 1968-1969. The two married in 1971 and had two sons, Anselm and Edmund. Both of their sons grew up to become poets.              

New York School

The family moved into St. Mark's Place in New York City. Berrigan became ill shortly after they moved into St. Marks, and passed away in 1983. Now a single mother as well as a developing poet, Notley raised her two sons in a small apartment in New York City's East Village. This apartment holds a special significance for Notley, which she writes of in her long poem The Mysteries of Small Houses.

Their family moved and travelled to several locations both in the United States and abroad, including but not limited to Chicago, New York, England, Paris, and Maine, among many others. These landscapes appear in Notley's poetry, juxtaposing both urban and rural worlds. Notley and Berrigan spent most of their time, however, in New York City, and both are associated with the second generation of the New York School of poetry. Other New York School poets include Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, Anne Waldman, and James Schuyler.

A Prolific Career

Notley currently lives in Paris and teaches at the Paris Writers' Workshop, but occasionally returns to the United States to give readings and teach writing classes. She is the author of 25 volumes of poetry, the most recent being Grave of Light: Collected Poems 1969-2005. Notley's oeuvre is rich and complex in both form and content, her influences ranging from quintessential New York poet Walt Whitman, modernist poets such as William Carlos Williams and Gertrude Stein, to her contemporaries of the New York School, to poets writing today. Themes in Notley's work leap from feminist epic in The Descent of Alette andReason and Other Women, interior landscapes in The Mysteries of Small Houses, the complexities of romantic relationships of In the Pines, as well as astrology and mysticism, a thread that runs through nearly all of her work.          

Alice Notley has been the recipient of the Griffin International Poetry Prize for Disobedience in 2002, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems 1970-2005 in 2007, the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry, an Academy award from the  Academy of American Arts and Letters, and the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.           

Notley married her second husband, British poet Douglas Oliver, in 1988. In 1992, Notley and Oliver moved to Paris, where they remained until Oliver's death in 2000.

United States