Norma Cole

Norma Cole

Norma Cole (born May 12, 1945) is a contemporary American poet, visual artist, and frequent translator from the French. A member of the circle of poets around Robert Duncan in the '80s, and a fellow traveler of San Francisco's language poets, Cole is also allied with contemporary French poets.[1]


Life and work

A Canadian by birth, Norma Cole received both undergraduate (Modern Languages: French and Italian) and graduate (MA in French, 1967) degrees from the University of Toronto.

She moved to France in time to absorb the revolutionary atmosphere of the May '68 general strike, but returned to Toronto in the early '70s before she migrated to San Francisco in 1977, where she has lived ever since.[1] Upon her arrival to the Bay Area, Cole got a job in the public school system, but it was through her association with New College of California that she met her core community of poets, including Robert Duncan, Michael Palmer, David Levi Strauss, Susan Thackrey, Aaron Shurin, and Laura Moriarty. However she continued to spend time in France, and her association with French poets has been crucial to her work. Important French connections have included Claude Royet-Journoud, Emmanuel Hocquard, and Joseph Simas, who published her first book, Mace Hill Remap.[2]

Norma Cole is the recipient of the Gerbode Poetry Prize and a grant from the Fund for Poetry. In 2006 she was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award. "The Poetics of Vertigo" --- delivered as the 1998 "George Oppen Memorial Lecture"--- won the Robert D. Richardson Non-Fiction Award. With Boston photographer Ben E. Watkins she won the Purchase Award for the photo/text collaboration, "They Flatter Almost Recognize".

Recent projects

Norma Cole's work has received great acclaim for her: "openness to traditions and practices, artists and writings, radically divergent from her own".[3] Recently, she collaborated with The Poetry Center & American Poetry Archives at SFSU in honor of their fiftieth anniversary. There she helped to create a site-specific gallery installation titled Collective Memory which opened on December 11, 2004 and ran through April 16, 2005. The project was described as:

  • " a departure from her earlier work, extending what has been primarily a written, literary practice to the expanded dimensions of a public space...Aimed at exploring and embodying the creative process involved in making poetry, Cole...worked both on site and off, inviting, responding to, and incorporating into her text the comments, perceptions, and contributions of visitors...opening the possibilities for more active exchange with others.[3]


  • Aspects of the installation will change over time, providing an evolving and adaptable creative space, altered by the objects and people moving through it...the project will openly demonstrate that poetry making is not an insular and isolated activity, acceptable as long as it's on the perimeter of society, but an integrated art form based in communal exchange, from which we need to learn."[3]

Selected publications & translations

Poetry/Prose ~ books & chapbooks
  • Mace Hill Remap (Paris: Moving Letters,1988). [ e-text version available: see External links section (below) ]
  • Metamorphopsia (Poets & Poets, 1988).
  • My Bird Book (Littoral, 1991).
  • Mars (Listening Chamber, Berkeley, California 1994).
  • Moira (O Books, 1995).
  • Contrafact (Poets & Poets, 1996).
  • Quotable Gestures, (CREAPHIS/un bureau sur l’Atlantique, France, 1998)
  • Desire & its Double (Instress, 1998).
  • The Vulgar Tongue (a+bend, 2000).
  • Spinoza in Her Youth (Omnidawn Publishing, Richmond, CA, 2002) ISBN 1-890650-09-9.
  • A little a & a (Seeing Eye Books, Los Angeles, 2002).
  • Burns (Belladonna Books, 2002).
  • Do the Monkey (Zasterle, 2006) ISBN 84-87467-44-X.
  • Natural Light (Libellum, 2009) ISBN 978-0975299364
  • Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988-2008 (City Lights Books, San Francisco, 2009) ISBN 978-0872864740.
  • 14000 FACTS (A+Bend Press, 2009)
  • To Be At Music: Essays & Talks (Omnidawn Publishing, Richmond, CA, 2010) ISBN 978-1890650445
Text & Image
  • SCOUT, text/image work in CD ROM format, (Krupskaya, 2004).
  • At All: Tom Raworth & His Collages (Hooke Press, 2006).
  • Collective Memory, installation, performance, and publication for "Poetry and its Arts: Bay Area Interactions 1954-2004," (California Historical Society, San Francisco, CA, 2004–06)
  • It Then by Danielle Collobert (O Books, 1989).
  • The Surrealists Look at Art, essays by Aragon, Breton, Eluard, Soupault, Tzara, edited and translated with Michael Palmer, (Lapis Press, Venice, California, 1990).
  • This Story is Mine: Little Autobiographical Dictionary of Elegy by Emmanuel Hocquard, (Instress, 1999).
  • A Discursive Space: Interviews with Jean Daive, (Duration Press, Sausalito, California, 1999.
  • (editor and translator) Crosscut Universe, an anthology of poetry / poetics by contemporary French writers, (Burning Deck, 2000).
  • Nude by Anne Portugal [Le Plus simple appareil], (Kelsey Street Press, Berkeley, California, 2001)
  • Distant Noise by Jean Frémon, (with Lydia Davis, Serge Gavronsky, Cole Swensen), (Avec Books, Penngrove, California, 2003).
  • Notebooks 1956-1978 by Danielle Collobert, (Litmus Press, 2003) ISBN 0-9723331-1-8
  • The Spirit God and the Properties of Nitrogen by Fouad Gabriel Naffah (Post-Apollo Press, Sausalito, California, 2004).


External links

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