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Norma Cole (San Francisco) collaborating with The Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives and fiscal sponsor San Francisco State University Foundation

Award: $35,000 Literary Arts Grant awarded in 2004

Completed: POETRY and its ARTS: Bay Area Interactions, 1954-2004, at the California Historical Society, December 11, 2004-April 16, 2005

In honor of the Poetry Center’s fiftieth anniversary, it collaborated with Norma Cole to create a site-specific gallery installation at the California Historical Society along with a fine press book of text and graphic images.  The Center and Cole sought to explore and embody the creative process involved in making poetry–to “…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.”

The cornerstone of the project was a retrospective exhibit, POETRY and its ARTS: Bay Area interactions 1954–2004, celebrating 50 years of art by poets, poet-artist collaborations, and artists in poets’ circles.  The exhibit included a 3-part installation designed by Cole that will took the form of vastly different “writer’s rooms”—a Living Room, circa the 1950s; an Archives Tableau, evoking the American Poetry Archives circa the 1980s; and House of Hope, a suspended sculpture (made with Cole’s assistant Suzanne Stein) collecting 426 quotes from writers, gathered from Norma Cole’s notebooks over 20 years. In these writers rooms, over the course of 17 weeks, Cole also created a new work of poetry, Collective Memory—inviting, responding to, and incorporating into her text the comments, perceptions, and contributions of visitors.

Based at San Francisco State University, the Poetry Center presents a widely diverse and publicly acclaimed literary program.  Its taped archives of literary events are, after the Library of Congress, the largest such public collection in the United States. Norma Cole’s work as poet, literary translator of many works into English, visual artist, teacher, and editor has been recognized and publicly acclaimed.