Fonds MSG 937 - Ken Norris Fonds

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Ken Norris Fonds

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3.93 m of textual records
46 photographs
1 object

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Biographical history

Kenneth Wayne Norris was born in 1951 in New York City, New York.

He is a poet, writer, and educator. He graduated from SUNY in Stonybrook (B.A., 1972) and Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University), Montreal, Quebec (M.A., 1975). For a couple of years, he lived in New York City and played in a rock band called Bogart. He then moved back to Montreal in 1975 to pursue his Ph.D. in English at McGill University, supervised by Louis Dudek. He became interested in Canadian literature and devoted his Ph.D. studies to the topic. His Ph.D. thesis was titled “The Role of the Little Magazine in the Development of Modernist and Post-Modernism in Canadian Poetry.” In the early 1970s, he began collaborating with visual artist Jill Smith, writing poems in response to her art. In 1974, Jill sent the collection they created to Véhicule Press without Norris’ knowledge, informing him only when it was accepted for publication as “Vegetables” (1975). Norris became a frequent visitor to the Véhicule Press and credited the alternative and experimental art in the Véhicule gallery with pushing him to be less conservative and traditionalist in his writing. He was on the editorial board of Véhicule Press in 1975, eventually becoming a member of the board of directors by 1977. Véhicule Press published one more of Norris’ books “The Perfect Accident” in 1978, as well as several anthologies, e.g., “Montreal: English Poetry in the 1970s” (1977). In 1979, he was featured in a collective anthology entitled “Véhicule Poets” published by Maker Press. In addition to his poetry work, Norris started CrossCountry magazine with a friend from New York, Jim Mele, as well as a small publishing company, CrossCountry Press. The magazine, which ran for sixteen issues (1975-1983), featured both Canadian and American poetry. The press produced twenty-three books, including Norris’ works “Report on the Second Half of the Twentieth Century” (1977), “Under The Skin” (1978), and “Autokinesis” (1980). After the closure of CrossCountry, Norris was the McGill-Writer-In-Residence from 1983 to 1984. An American citizen by birth, he became a Canadian citizen in 1985. However, he left Montreal in 1985 to take up a teaching job at the University of Maine in Canadian literature. He also taught at Concordia University and Dawson College, Montreal, and was a visiting professor of Canadian Literature at Western University in 1987. As of 2017, he is still teaching in Maine as a Professor of Canadian Literature. In addition to teaching, Norris has continued to publish, and now has more than two dozen titles to his name. He is an avid traveller, dividing his time between Canada, the United States, and Asia. This has inspired such works as “Islands” (1986), “The Better Part of Heaven” (1998) and “Dominican Moon" (2005).

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Scope and content

The fonds documents Ken Norris’s academic, professional and personal activities and career as an English literature teacher, Canadian writer and poet. There are also materials related to his university student life in Montreal. The records contains a wide variety of personal and professional correspondence between 1972-1990 with correspondents such as Endre Farkas, Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, David McFadden, Cynthia Lapp, George Bowering, and James Polk. Manuscripts and notebooks document his writing activities and include rough drafts, edited drafts, final drafts, completed manuscripts, as well as published books, articles and his academic dissertations.

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Records acquired directly from Ken Norris in two transfers, November 13, 1989, and May 27, 1996.


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  • English

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Finding aid prepared by Samantha Lapointe, Karly Leonard, Satya Miller, Léa Trudel, Sara Allen, Elyse Filion, Eleni Philippopoulos, Elise Polkinghorne, Marissa Stimpson, as part of McGill's GLIS 641, November 23, 2017, and edited by Gordon Burr, August 2018.

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