Remembering Noni Howard

For Pride Month, we will be featuring members of the Bishop’s family from the LGBTQIA2+ community, individuals who have left their mark on a world that too often tries to silence them.

Noni Howard (’71) was a lesbian poet, teacher, writer, publisher, and therapist who graduated from Bishop’s with two B.A.s, one in English Literature, where she studied under poet Ralph Gustafson, and the other in Comparative Religion. She was the editor of The Mitre for several years, and the journal published many of her poems. In 1974, Howard founded the New World Press Collective in Vancouver, BC, and was the founder/editor of “Bloodiet” and “Prisma”. She published several collections of poetry during her lifetime, including “The Politics of Separation” (1974), “Almost Like Dancing” (1975), “Share My Fantasies” (1996), and “Tiger Balm” (1997). Upon moving to California, she created in 1977 the First Annual Women’s Poetry Festival. In May 2004 she was awarded an honorary degree by Frontier University in Nova Scotia and in June 2004, she received a B.A. in Études Québécoises from Frontier. In March of 2005, she became the first woman Principle in Frontier’s history. She passed away in her sleep in October 2012.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Morrissey

In the 1971 yearbook, Howard wrote: “Although Bishop’s may have been a scream in somebody’s nightmare, it wasn’t for me. I’ll never forget the friends, parties, and all the bombing around I did. A great place if you’ve got interests. Bish has given me a lot: I’ll find out how much when I think of those spring days when the ‘doing up for lunch brunch’ was in full swing and we left ‘wino hill’ for the winos.”

Howard in the 1971 yearbook.

Howard’s friend Stephen Morrissey writes of her: “When Noni visited us several times in the 1990s, she was always bigger than life. The first time she had a sprained ankle, causing her to have to crawl across the floor; however, this didn’t stop her from visiting clubs in the Gay Village every evening. She was bald due to an illness, that’s why she wore a beret. She smoked cigarettes in a long cigarette holder. She wore a black leather coat that reached the floor. She drank wine from a large plastic soda container, and she would talk about her life as a poet, her adoptive parents, her hometown of Sherbrooke, Quebec, her early life in Montreal, and her present life at Half Moon Bay in California.”

Howard with Canadian poet Irving Layton (left) and friend Carolyn Zonailo (center). Courtesy: Stephen Morrissey

Despite graduating in 1971, Howard continued to contribute to Bishop’s University, most particularly through her creative and financial contributions to The Mitre. Many of her poems are featured in several editions of the journal. For a few years in the late 90’s and 2000’s, there was even a Noni Howard Prize for creative writing featured in The Mitre.   

Many of her poetry books are available at the Library Learning Commons, and the Bishop’s University Archives holds some of her papers and books in their collection.

A poem from the 1970 edition of The Mitre.

A poem from the 1996-1997 edition of The Mitre.

Biography (first paragraph) courtesy of the Online Archives of California (OAC)

More on Noni Howard by Stephen Morrissey:

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