THE VIRGIN OF BENNINGTON
Current Books fought to hold onto hers. Despite shyness, ill- ness, and at times suicidal depression, she committed herself to her public presence as a writer. International literary festivals and writers' retreats such as Breciclloaf and Yadclo were second homes. Wherever she went, she was greatly beloved-and greatly disliked. Gore \Tidal once said, "An hour with a den-tist without Novacaiiie was like a minute with Carson McCullers." Undiagnosed rheumatic fever lcd to a series of s...
"My story...begins with an untidy but cheerful job interview on a snowy day in early December 1968," writes Norris. A senior at Bennington College in Vermont, and an aspiring poet, Norris had gone down to New York to apply for an assistant’s job at the Academy of American Poets. The director of the Academy, Elizabeth Kray, then in her mid-fifties, was friendly with one of Norris’s professors at Bennington (a poet with whom Norris was about to lose her virginity). Norris was nervous about her lack of sophistication and East Coast credentials—her family was from South Dakota and Hawaii, where her father played in the Honolulu Symphony. Precisely for those deficiencies, the woman gave Norris the job.
Betty Kray, as Norris discovered, was that rare soul, a true appreciator of poetry without ambition to be a poet herself. Kray sent poets out to talk in ghetto high schools. She mixed readings by established poets such as Auden and Eliot with appearances by young talents—the then unknown Anne Sexton, John Berryman, Kenneth Koch, and Donald Hall. In the days before the academization of everything, she created the poetry circuit, on which poets could support themselves by going from college to college. In exchange for a reading, the poet got $100, a wine and cheese reception, and, often as not, an overnight stay in a student’s bed.
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