George Leslie Norris (
May 21, 1921– April 6, 2006), was a prize-winning Welsh poetand short storywriter. Up to 1974 he earned his living as a college lecturer, teacherand headmaster. From 1974 he combined full-time writing with residencies at academic institutions in Britain and the United States.
Today he is considered one of the most important Welsh writers of the post-war period. His collections of stories, including "Collected Stories", and poems, including "Collected Poems", have won many prizes, among them the
Cholmondeley Poetry Prize, the David Higham Memorial Prize, the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Award, the A.M.L. Award for poetry(in 1996) and the Welsh Arts Council Senior Fiction Award.
George Leslie Norris was born in
Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. His father George was a tall athletic man lacking education, because he had to fight in the First World War. He was a miner and died in a tunnel in Merthyr Tydfil. Nevertheless his son Leslie had a cheerful childhood. When he was nineteen years old he joined the Royal Air Forceduring the Second World War.
When Leslie was a teenager he sent his first poems to
Vernon Watkinswho found his poems not very profound, but gave him some advice. This had a main influence on his writing style for years. In his free time he wrote poems and earned his money by being an unofficial worker for the local government. Then he worked as a teacher and rose to a headmaster, finally to a college lecturer. Later in 1974 he started his career as a professional writer of poems and stories.
In 1983 Norris was invited to teach for six months at
Brigham Young Universityin Utah, United States of America. He settled with his wife, Catherine Morgan, and remained there until his death. He was appointed the official Poet-in-Residenceat the university. He contributed to the cultural life of Provo by organizing Eisteddfods, the traditional Welsh cultural festivals. Among his last works were a series of autobiographical poems, some of which have been published separately, but which he hoped would constitute one poem sequence something like Wordsworth's "Prelude".
Norris started writing poems at the age of seven years, but his career as a published author began in the 1940s, when his first collection "Finding Gold" was published.
In addition to poems and short stories, Norris has published
His works deal with such themes as his Welsh home, his past, especially the
pre-war period, his experiences as a teacher, nature, and the life of the instinct. He is considered to be a fine technician. Interviews and lectures with Leslie show that he never sat down planning to write. He simply played off inspiration he received at various times of the day. When he would resume writing after stopping for the day, he would re-read everything he had so far, so as to maintain the style.
Tribute from Dean Rosenberg
"His obituaries ran from his native
Walesto his adopted Provo, through every other place of literary prominence in between. His poetic voice was pure, authentic, and deceptively simple. He was great in a land of great poets. He was also a primary school teacher. And a headmaster. Though he went on to publicly prestigious things, he remained a teacher. He taught the most gifted creative writing students at Byu and helped launch their careers; he also read his stories and poems to countless school children." John R. Rosenberg, Dean of the BYU College of Humanities, in "Humanities at Brigham Young University", Summer 2006.
*"Tongue of Beauty" (1942)
*"The Loud Winter" (1967)
*"Collected Poems" (1996)
Poetry for children
*"Merlin and the Snake's egg" (1978) Criticism
*"Glyn Jones" (1973) (Writers of Wales Series) Short stories
*"The Sonnets to Orpheus" (1989) translated with Alan Keele
*"The Duino Elegies" (1993) translated with Alan Keele Prize-winning books
*"The Girl from Cardigan" (1988), awarded by the
Welsh Arts Council
* Eugene England and
Peter Makuck(eds.): "An Open World: Essays on Leslie Norris", Camden House, Columbia, SC, 1994
* James A. Davies: "Leslie Norris", University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1991
* "Dictionary of Literary Biography"
* Chapter 5 on Leslie Norris, of "Wordsworth's Influence On 20th Century Welsh Poets", unpublished dissertation by James Prothero in the National Library of Wales and University of Wales, Lampeter library. This includes two letters and two long interviews with Norris which may have been some of the last interviews with him.
* [http://aurora.wells.edu/~wbac/bookarts/authorartist/author_norris.html Wells College Press profile: Leslie Norris] Captured December 2, 2005.
* [http://www.swan.ac.uk/english/crew/welshwriters/lnorris.htm CREW Welsh Writers Online: Leslie Norris] Captured December 2, 2005.
* [http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,595056711,00.html 'An astonishing life' — Poet Leslie Norris] Article on deseretnews.com. Captured December 2, 2005.
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