30th Birthday

By Alice Notley b. 1945 Alice Notley
May I never be afraid
                     especially of myself   
Muhammed Ali are you telling
the truth?      
                     Well you’re being true aren’t you and   
you talk so wonderfully in your body
                     that protects you with physique of voice   
      raps within dance
                              May I never be afraid

                     rocked and quaked         
                                                      the mantilla is lace   
                                                      whose black is oak   
But if I’m dark I’m strong
                                       as my own darkness
my strength the universe      
                                       whose blackness is air
                                       only starry
But if I’m alive I’m strong   
                                           as life
Strong as the violets
in Marlon Brando’s fist   
                                  his dissemblance flourished into truth   
took them
I’d take me too      
                           I do
                  and my Ali I see you      
                                                   a hard bright speck of me   
the savage formalist   
                               authentic deed of gossip
                   a kind body

Alice Notley, “30th Birthday” from Selected Poems (Talisman House, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by Alice Notley. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Alice Ordered Me To Be Made (1976)

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Poet Alice Notley b. 1945

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School (2nd Generation)

Subjects Birth & Birthdays, Time & Brevity, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Alice  Notley


Alice Notley has become one of America’s greatest living poets. She has long written in narrative and epic and genre-bending modes to discover new ways to explore the nature of the self and the social and cultural importance of disobedience. The artist Rudy Burckhardt once wrote that Notley may be “our present-day Homer.” 

Notley was born in Arizona and grew up in Needles, California. After earning her BA from Barnard College and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Birth & Birthdays, Time & Brevity, Living

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School (2nd Generation)

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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