Kathleen Norris Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Kathleen Norris is well known for both her poetry and her nonfiction works, which primarily concern her life and her thoughts and reflections on spirituality. Prose works include Dakota: A Spiritual Biography (1993), The Cloister Walk (1996), Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith (1998), The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and “Women’s Work” (1998), The Virgin of Bennington (2001), and Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life (2008). Norris is also a frequent contributor to the magazine Christian Century and has contributed to several books on spirituality and daily life. Her poems and essays have appeared in many collections, including The Best American Essays, 2001 (2001).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Kathleen Norris received the Big Table Younger Poets Award in 1971 for Falling Off. Cloister Walk, Dakota, Amazing Grace, and The Virgin of Bennington were all New York Times best sellers and were named New York Times notable books. Dakota was named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal. Norris is a much-sought-after speaker and teacher about all things spiritual. She has appeared on the Public Broadcasting Service’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and the Lutheran radio program Faith Matters, received grants from the Guggenheim and Bush Foundations, and lectured at numerous colleges, universities, and seminaries. Her work has appeared in anthologies, journals, and magazines, including The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. She received the Colman Barry Award for Distinguished Contributions to Religion and Society (2004) from Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and the Third Annual Denise Levertov Award (2006) from Seattle Pacific University.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Greasley, Philip A. Dictionary of Midwestern Literature: Volume One—The Authors. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. This study of midwestern writers was created at Michigan State University by the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature. A very informative article concerning Norris and her work looks at how geography and culture inform her vision of the world.

Norris, Kathleen. Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008. In this memoir, Norris examines soul weariness (acedia) and its importance to modern life. Sheds light on her poetic creations.

_______. “Looking Backward, Looking Inward: Scott Cairns and Kathleen Norris in Conversation.” Interview by Scott Cairns. Christianity and Literature 15, no. 4 (Summer, 2009). A transcript of a conversation between Norris and fellow poet Cairns recorded at the 2009 Conference on Christianity and Literature. Norris discusses her spiritual roots and spiritual journey as well as her time among the Benedictines and how it influenced her worldview as a poet and writer.

Rosenthal, Peggy. “Joking with Jesus in the Poetry of Kathleen Norris and Annie Dillard.” Cross Currents (Fall, 2000). Critiques and analyzes several of Norris’s Jesus-centered poems and proposes that Norris and Dillard both portray Christ in a very unusual and unique way—as a jokester, a sly savior, and a holy person holy not merely because of history but also because of humor. The article examines how Norris’s poetry was affected by her time as a Benedictine oblate, when she lived among the monks in a cloistered community. The article also looks at the connections between Norris’s life as a woman and as a daughter of the church.

Waldron, Robert G. Walking with Kathleen Norris: A Contemplative Journey. New York: Paulist Press, 2007. Waldron creates a journal by devoting three seasons to reading the prose and poetry of Norris. Provides insights into her poetry.