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Gregory Corso

From Academic Kids

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Gregory Corso (illustration)

Gregory Corso (March 26, 1930January 17, 2001) was an American poet, the fourth member of the canon of Beat Generation writers (with Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs).

Incarcerated in Dannemora for burglary in 1947, Gregory Corso dove into literature, and began writing poetry. He returned to New York City after his release in 1950 and met Allen Ginsberg in a bar in Greenwich Village (the Pony Stable). Ginsberg then introduced Corso and his poetry to other members of the beat literary scene.

Gregory Corso's first volume of poetry was privately published in 1955 (with the assistance of associates at Harvard, where he had been auditing classes): The Vestal Lady on Brattle and other poems. This was the year before the publication of Allen Ginsberg's first collection of poetry, and two years before Kerouac's On the Road. In 1958, Corso had an expanded collection of poems published as number 8 in the City Lights Pocket Poets series: Gasoline/Vestal Lady on Brattle.

Later publications by Corso include:

  • The Happy Birthday of Death (1960),
  • The American Express (1961) (his only novel),
  • Long Live Man (1962),
  • Elegaic Feelings American (1970),
  • Herald of the Autochthonic Spirit (1981), and
  • Mindfield (1991).

His most notable poems are Bomb (formatted as typewriter-art in the shape of a mushroom cloud) and Marriage a humorous meditation on the institution. A passage from that poem:

But I should get married I should be good
How nice it'd be to come home to her
and sit by the fireplace and she in the kitchen
aproned young and lovely wanting my baby
and so happy about me she burns the roast beef
and comes crying to me and I get up from my big papa chair
saying Christmas teeth! Radiant brains! Apple deaf!
God what a husband I'd make! Yes, I should get married!
So much to do! like sneaking into Mr Jones' house late at night
and cover his golf clubs with 1920 Norwegian books
Like hanging a picture of Rimbaud on the lawnmower
like pasting Tannu Tuva postage stamps all over the picket fence
like when Mrs Kindhead comes to collect for the Community Chest
grab her and tell her There are unfavorable omens in the sky!
And when the mayor comes to get my vote tell him
When are you going to stop people killing whales!
And when the milkman comes leave him a note in the bottle
Penguin dust, bring me penguin dust, I want penguin dust--

Ted Morgan described Corso's place in the beat literary world (in Literary Outlaw, the Life and Times of William S. Burroughs, 1988, Henry Holt, ISBN 0-0380-70882-5):

If Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs were the Three Musketeers of the movement, Corso was their D'Artagnan, a sort of junior partner, accepted and appreciated, but with less than complete parity. He had not been in at the start, which was the alliance of the Columbia intellectuals with the Times Square hipsters. He was a recent adherent, although his credentials were impressive enough to gain him unrestricted admittance ...fr:Gregory Corso
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