MA 47




55 Linear Feet [55 Record Boxes]


Kathleen Norris is a best-selling poet and essayist. She became known for her writings about Christian spirituality, especially after she became a Benedictine oblate and spent two extended periods at Saint John's Abbey in Minnesota. The collection is composed of manuscripts, correspondence, galley proofs, research, books and publications related to her published works of fiction and nonfiction.

Historical Note

Kathleen Norris was born July 27, 1947 to John Heyword Norris and Lois Totten Norris. She graduated from Punahou Preparatory School, Hawaii in 1965, and from Bennington College in Vermont in 1969. After college Norris worked as arts administrator for Betty Kray, Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, who became her good friend and mentor.

“Falling Off,” Kathleen Norris’ first book of poetry, was published in 1971 and won the Big Table Younger Poets Award that same year. Soon after, she settled down in her maternal grandparents' home in Lemmon, South Dakota, where she lived with her husband, the poet David Dwyer, for over twenty-five years. Since the death of her husband in 2003, she has transferred her place of residence to Hawaii.

The move to Lemmon was the inspiration for the first of her nonfiction books, the award-winning bestseller "Dakota: A Spiritual Geography." It was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was selected as one of the best books of the year by Library Journal.

In 1986 Norris became an oblate, or associate, of a Benedictine monastery, Assumption Abbey in North Dakota and spent extended periods at Saint John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

For many years Kathleen Norris was the poetry editor of Spirituality & Health magazine. She continues to make numerous appearances, including lectures, symposia, workshops, and retreats. Norris was the Randall Distinguished Professor of Christian Culture at Providence, Rhode Island from 2014 to 2015, and is currently the nonfiction editor of the Saint Katherine Review. She also serves as an editorial advisor to Give Us This Day.

Content Notes

The collection is composed of manuscripts, correspondence, galley proofs, research, books and publications related to her published works of fiction and nonfiction.

The general material is composed of Norris' juvenilia from Bennington College, instructors' mid-term and final reports of her course work from college, and biographies and interviews of Norris conducted by various media organizations. Also included is a collection of notebooks from the early 1970's to 2009. These notebooks are spiral bound and appear to be daily journals with notes and drafts of poems and essays. They also contain postcards, clippings, business cards, prayer cards, photographs, recipes, etc. Of note is the manuscript for “Elizabeth Kray’s Letters, Memos, and Notes to Marie Bullock: Two Great Ladies of American Poetry”. A 1937 edition of “Conversation at Midnight” by Edna St. Vincent Millay and signed by John H. Norris is also included.

Poetry is composed of Norris' poetry in anthologies, books, catalogs, chapbooks, contributions, and periodicals. These publications all include Norris' poetry, and some also include works by her husband, David Dwyer, (this will be noted on the front of the folder).

Nonfiction books consist of draft and annotated manuscript pages, galley proofs, cover art and typeface layout, book jackets, book notes, correspondence, research, reviews, audio books, international editions, promotional material, book tour information, advance proofs, hard cover and paperback books. Material varies with each book title. This material is arranged alphabetically by publication title.

Other writings consist mainly of essays, reviews, and sermons published in journals, anthologies, books, textbooks, etc. Also included are scripture reflections for daily devotions, Afterword’s, Forewords, Introductions, Prefaces, and Symposia to which Norris has contributed.

Works mentioning Norris are also included. They are composed of publications with articles mention Kathleen Norris.

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South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M. Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.


Copyright restrictions apply in different ways to different materials. Many of the documents and other historical materials in the Archives are in the public domain and may be reproduced and used in any way. There are other materials in the Archive carrying a copyright interest and must be used according to the provisions of Title 17 of the U.S. Code. The Archive issues a warning concerning copyright restrictions to every researcher who requests copies of documents. Although the copyright law is under constant redefinition in the courts, it is ultimately the responsibility of the researcher to properly use copyrighted material.