Harold Norse (July 6, 1916, New York City – June 8, 2009, San Francisco) was an American writer, openly gay, who created a body of work using the American idiom of everyday language and images. One of the expatriate artists of the Beat generation, Norse was widely published and anthologized.
Born Harold Rosen to an unmarried Lithuanian Jewish immigrant in Brooklyn. In the early 1950s, he came up with the new last name, Norse, by rearranging the letters in Rosen
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.
From 1954-59 Norse lived and wrote in Italy. He penned the experimental cut-up novel Beat Hotel in 1960 while living in Paris with William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso from 1959 to 1963. He traveled to Tangier, where he stayed with Jane and Paul Bowles. Returning to America in 1968, Norse arrived in Venice, California, near Charles Bukowski. He moved to San Francisco in 1972 and lived in the Mission District of San Francisco for the last 35 years of his life.
Memoirs of a Bastard Angel traces Norse’s life and literary career with Auden, Christopher Isherwood, E. E. Cummings, Tennessee Williams, William Carlos Williams, James Baldwin, Dylan Thomas, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Paul Bowles, Charles Bukowski, Robert Graves and Anaïs Nin. With Carnivorous Saint: Gay Poems 1941-1976 Norse became a leading gay liberation poet. His collected poems, In the Hub of the Fiery Force, appeared in 2003.