A Tribute to Gregory Corso: A Traveler Who Trusted The Bend In The Road - Part 2

“Standing on a street corner waiting for no one is power” - Gregory Corso

Gregory Corso: A Traveler Who Trusted The Bend In The Road

March 26, 1930 – January 17, 2001

Friends, poets, and collaborators who traveled with Gregory Corso talk - and write poems - about their experiences, personality and his work. This is the second part of tribute, for the first part click here: Tribute to Gregory Corso

Image of Gregory Corso 2013 © by Alex M. Bustillo constructed specifically for this tribute

Project, Interviews by Michael Limnios

ROBERT YARRA

What did you learn about yourself from the friendship with Gregory?

One thing I learned from Gregory is not to hold grudges.   One evening in Positano, Gregory and I had the mother of all fights, although I can’t remember what it was about.  He pushed me on the shoulder about five or six times, and screamed at me, “You’re niente!” while a crowd gathered. Although I am almost never violent, I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I cocked my fist and said, “Gregory, if you touch me one more time, I’m going to lay you out!”  I really meant it.  And Gregory knew that I really meant it.  So he backed away and said with a snarl, “Ah, Roberto, now I know you’re alive.”  I was furious and was absolutely determined never to see or speak to him again.  I took a walk near the sea in order to calm down. As I was returning to town, I passed below the restaurant, La Cambusa, the best restaurant in Positano, and looked up and saw Gregory with two pretty Swedish ladies. 

Then I saw him put his penis on the table as he said to them, “Look at my cazzo.  It’s not too big.  It’s not too small.  It’s just right.  Don’t you think?”  Seeing Gregory with his dick on the table while talking to the ladies made much of my anger dissipate, and I really had to smile thinking that this is the last memory I would ever have of Gregory. About five minutes later, I heard a pounding on my hotel room door.  I opened it up and there was Gregory, who pleaded, “Bobby, Bobby, I got these two chicks, man. I can’t hold ‘em myself!  Come downstairs and help me!”  And, of course, I went with him.  And, of course, I loved Gregory then.  I learned that he never held grudges and didn’t even remember that we had even fought.

Which memory from Gregory makes you smile?

Gregory always enjoyed pushing things and situations way beyond normal limits.  Once, during a crowded bus ride in Positano, I watched as Gregory slid his hand into the pants of an attractive lady standing in front of him, who also happened to be the wife of the mayor of the town.  She didn’t flinch, but waited until we got off of the bus, at which time she turned to him and said, “I don’t care, Gregory, if you put your finger in my culo.  But if my husband finds out about this, he will kill you.”

Another time we were in the backseat of a taxi in London with a lovely woman sitting between us.  Without so much as asking, “Do you mind?” Gregory put his hand under her skirt and pushed his finger into her pussy.  She was so astonished that she didn’t know what to do; but she wasn’t pleased.  Gregory could often astonish. 

Gregory reading at N. Sutton. 1984 © by Robert Yarra

Gregory always had a desire to be buried in Rome?  Was your initiative or had he asked you in person to be buried in Rome?

On my birthday on October 20, 1999, a bleak, sad and rainy day, I came to New York from California to help Roger Richards take Gregory to St. Vincent’s Hospital.  I walked in the door of Roger and Irvyne’s apartment and saw Gregory on the couch in obvious distress.  He said to me plaintively, “Bobby, Bobby, I love you, my Bobby.  The machine has broken down and I’m in the maelstrom!”  It was terrible to see him so ill.  He couldn’t walk, and so I basically carried his dead weight down four flights of stairs.  Roger Richards, bless him, that dearest of dear angels, tried to help, but Roger was probably about 130 pounds and not strong at all, so I had to move him alone down, and, later, back up the stairs.  It was a chore and it was frightening.  Once downstairs we got a taxi and drove to St. Vincent’s Hospital.  I took Gregory into a series of examination rooms where I repeatedly had to unzip his zipper and pull down his pants and then pick up and zip up his pants again in order for him to be examined. Gregory was helpless. The doctors did all kinds of tests and found out later that he had advanced prostate cancer. After that he went progressively downhill.  I later came to New York in July of 2000, at which time his daughter, Sherrie, a nurse, had come from Minnesota to take care of him. As I walked into the apartment, bringing caviar and other goodies that I knew that Gregory had always liked, I saw him lying on a mattress on the floor in the living room looking more dead than alive.  He had the pallor of death.  I thought to myself, “He’s not going to make it another week.”  But then, miraculously, through the ministrations of Sherrie made with such love and care, Gregory miraculously came back to life! He lived another six months. Gregory was so sweet during this time. It almost didn’t seem that this could be the same Gregory!  He had had a reprieve from death, and was so gentle and kind. He had a chance to say goodbye to his family, friends, and the people he loved.

After having spent time with Gregory in Rome and Positano, and after seeing how much he was loved and respected in Italy, I had the idea of Gregory having his ashes buried in Rome.  I got word to him to see if he was interested.  The answer was yes. Gregory wanted to be buried in Rome or Venice. I have an amazing friend in Rome, Hannelore Delellis, who gave me gracious hospitality at her palazzo on the outskirts of Rome during my many visits to that great city. Hannelore Delellis is a woman of stout resolve.  I called her in Rome and asked  if she could help get Gregory buried in Rome at the Protestant Cemetery. The Protestant Cemetery is a famous cemetery where Keats and Shelley and many other notables are buried.  There are also a multitude of fat happy cats running around the cemetery, which only adds to its beauty and charm. Hannelore told me that she would speak to the cemetery management and see if it could be done. We spoke later that week and she told me that she couldn’t arrange the burial. They wouldn’t let Gregory in. After listening to the bad news, I said with some urgency, “It really is so very important to have Gregory buried in the same cemetery as his beloved Shelley.  Can you try again?” Hannelore then responded emphatically: “It can be done!  It must be done!  It will be done!”  Through Hannelore’s great resolve, not only did Gregory’s ashes get buried in that cemetery, but also, somehow, she arranged for his ashes to be buried at the actual foot of Shelley’s grave!

After Gregory died, I enlisted the aid of George Scrivani to help me choose one of Gregory’s poems for the inscription on his gravestone.  Even though Gregory had often said that when he died he wanted the inscription, “Oops. I died,” we decided on the poem “Spirit.”  

“Spirit . . .

            it flows through the death of me, endlessly,

like a river unafraid of becoming the sea.” 

My girlfriend, Naomi, who also did all the transcription for my legal work, had neglected to put the second “i” in the word spirit, which error I hadn’t caught when I sent it to Hannelore.  So on Gregory’s tombstone there is the word “spirt” instead of “spirit.” I didn’t think that Gregory would have minded. I was able to have an apostrophe added after the “r,” so the word is now written as “spir’t” on his gravestone. And so it remains. 

I was in charge of raising the dough to have Gregory buried.  I had to track down and badger many people to try and raise the money.  Raising money is a horrible, despicable, thankless job, and I never want to do it again.  But it had to be done, and many people helped. Patti Smith did a benefit at St. Mark’s Church and raised $3,600.  After all of the contributions were in, we were still lacking about $1600, so I paid it.

Gregory's ashes were buried in a tomb in "cimitero acattolico" precisely in front of the grave of his great colleague P.B. Shelley, and not far from the one of John Keats. Photo © by Joanna Limnios

ruth weiss

Gregory Corso believed in angels, the way I do.

JOE AMBROSE

Remembering Gregory / LES / March 11, 2001

“Ah, if I were dictator I'd have poets throwing bombs!” - Gregory Corso

I was in New York 24 hours and I'd still not slept.

I'd met Regina Weinreich the year before at a London showing of her exquisite movie, Paul Bowles; The Complete Outsider. I was wearing a Herbert Huncke t-shirt so she walked up to me, chirping approvingly: “Ah, Herbert Huncke!” We chatted; Regina had verve and panache.

She gave me her details but later I lost them, so when I got to the Chelsea Hotel I wanted to track her down. This was the early days of search engines so I just found some disparate stuff on the web, and nothing so convenient as an email address or a phone number.

However there were various vague mentions of a tribute to Gregory Corso due to take place a few day's later which Regina was slated to attend. I had nothing better t o do on the night in question, and I approved of Corso, so I decided to go; it would be fun to see Regina again. I couldn't make out from the confused information I had on this Corso event whether it was going to be five old guys in the back room of a bar somewhere or whether it would be something else.

It was something else.

The venue was the Angel Orensanz Centre on Norfolk Street on the Lower East Side. I wondered if Ira Cohen was going to be there. I had Ira's home phone number and planned on catching up with him. I couldn't imagine an NYC poetry event happening without Ira unless he was away on his travels.

The Orensanz Foundation was housed in an old German synagogue, the oldest surviving synagogue in New York, a Gothic revival masterpiece built to hold 1500 worshippers. Almost derelict when the Spanish sculptor Angel Orensanz bought it and rejuvenated it, it's now one of the most uplifting places in the city.

The body of the synagogue, now the performance area, was filling up bit by bit. This was clearly not going to be five guys in the back of a pub. Gangs of exotic middle aged women in all manner of furs and leathers demonstrated the prosperity of Manhattan. And the beauty of the women who were attracted to Corso. Panthers.

The seating filled up with the older attendees. Bunches of juicy arts students and band members, mostly sitting crosslegged on the ground, spoke to the popular appeal of the Beat fantasy. A good selection of Japanese women – up for anything male and hairy and dressed in denim. Many older poetry scene kind of celebrities and a smattering of Beat or street characters. I could see Ira holding court over near the lectern. I decided to go seek him out after the performances. There was no sign of Regina Weinrich but it was hard to tell; there were lots of glamorous women whirling around excitedly.

One of the reasons I liked Gregory Corso was because he was a lady's man in a Beat world full of queers . The other reason I liked him was because of the rough and brutal beauty of his poems. Most so-called “Beat Poets” were very bad writers. Corso was in the same league as a Yeats or a Shelley. He took some time with his writing and put correct thought andd emotion into it.

Amongst the readers and performers worth noting were Laki Vazakas, the great poet Marty Matz, Penny Arcade, Hal Wilner, Debbie Harry, Ira, Taylor Mead, Patti Smith with Oliver Ray, Raymond Foye of Hanuman Books fame, and Andy Clausen. Many of the participants were grieving for their recently dead friend, and I heard intimate details of his last days dying from cancer. This brought him home to me.

Afterwards Ira introduced me to Patti Smith and Marty Matz. When Patti Smith departed Matz said, “Gregory used to comb his hair when he knew Patti Smith was coming to call. He certainly brushed his hair when Debbie Harry was expected.”

Gregory Corso with Vali Myers. Photo © by Ira Cohen

MARC OLMSTED

NEWS OF CORSO'S DEATH

 

Pema Dechen

lama's consort tells

me in

the Buddhist

class high in

Santa Cruz mountains

- I let Diane di Prima poet

know, also here:

years of Manhattan streets

they walked

- find Peter Marti poet

who let him stay

shoot up in Peter's bathroom

steal pills & cash

the "ragman" who

knew beauty

- myself - memories

of the New York Italy

voice'd genius derelict

resurrected

so often from

ashes of junk & wine

- o! his language

of honking

"forked clarinets" -

silent!

© by Marc Olmsted

CYCLOP LESTER

That picture was taken in the Beat Hotel (Room 41) from Harold Chapman.  One of the two topmost attic rooms - where I first met Gregory in late 1958 (or maybe early '59).  The under-the-eaves neighbour room was occupied by Sinclair Belies.  Harold Chapman next moved into Room 41 after Gregory set-off for Venice.

Gregory at his room in Madame Rachou's hotel at 9 Rue Gît-le-Cœur, Paris. It never had any proper name - "the Beat Hotel" was a nickname given by Gregory Corso, which stuck on. Photo © by Harold Chapman

Gregory shared the same birthday as Harold Chapmam. Chapman first took me along to the Beat Hotel. And the rest follows ...
All these impressions of Gregory makes me wonder if our time will be thought of as the Beat Apostolic Age. The Daddies (Kerouac/Ginsberg/Burroughs/Corso) - each believed in the written word - as the gnosis. For me - this accounts for their lasting influence.
Corso was contained like the marble pieces in a Roman table. I think him more like Coleridge than Shelley. Both seemed to have kept that sacred pact made while young - "to be wantoning in wild poesy - the whole life long." This quotation by Coleridge is somewhere in his voluminous writings.
Interesting to read Ginsberg once said he thought he enjoyed Gregory's poetry more than his own. Gregory achieved the near-impossible (as I finish-off these tributes) - to remain a lyric poet - a lifetime.

JOHN SINCLAIR

I have profound appreciation of his work in poetry.

MICHAEL MINZER

I know Gregory would be pleased that these recordings (Paris Records) were played in a country (Greece) that he loved.

I remember Gregory getting up off his deathbed to record for us one last time--and seeing his saintly daughter cry when we drove away.

A.D. WINANS

FOR GREGORY CORSO 

We all have a little

Of the gangster inside us

Al Capone or Lucky Luciano

Or Bugsy Malone

We all dream the dream

Of Diamond Jim

Only to wake up in the morning

A sweating numbers man

In a dead-end alley

In Chicago or New York or Sicily

Until the nights pile up like litter

Waiting on the Mafia man

To collect his dues

 

And there is always a torpedo

From Cleveland or the Bronx

Waiting by the window

With a machinegun or a “45”

And if the government and taxes

Don’t do you in

And you somehow manage to escape

The long line of endless dull jobs

That stretch out like endless coffins

Floating in the sea

You can count yourself lucky

Ignore the mad sirens

Wailing in the distant night

The black-gloved messenger of fear

That caresses the lining of your soul

The oxygen that begs deliverance

The cough that weakens the lungs

The chill that blankets the bones

The heartbeat moving from piano keys

To jackhammer

 

Like Bob Kaufman said

“There ain’t no piano for

Lucky Luciano

There ain’t no telephone for

Al Capone

There ain’t no jazz on

Alcatraz

Just the dark waters

Running along the shore

© by A.D. Winans

Gregory and Allen, photo from Robert Frank's film Pull My Daisy, narrated by Jack Kerouac 1959

PAUL FERICANO

STANDING WITH GREGORY CORSO

OUTSIDE THE POETRY FOUNDATION

There is a shuffle in the icy sky,

a brisk sharp wind coming off the lake.

Birds in chipped grey paint whip it up

with migratory wings and speed past

like frenzied brushes

on a black and white canvas

straight out of a John Ford film. 

Corso lights another Pall Mall

and blows smoke in his own face

because, as he explains to me,

hopping in place

to keep from freezing to death,

he always does his best thinking

inside a swirling blue tobacco haze.

It’s business as usual, he says.

Like some Medea in the nameless night

sleeping in the veins that bleeds our words

until all meaning is pale and still.

Get lost in it.

The technology demands

that you stare into your hand. 

I don’t know what he’s talking about.

I blow on my fingers to keep them

from breaking off and remind him

that he doesn't belong here now.

Perhaps he never did.

Besides, I point out,

what does any of this have to do with us? 

Corso laughs like Jake LaMotta

about to punch his fist through a wall.

Then he stops.

I watch his crazy eyes trace the path

of escaping birds above our heads,

noticing, waiting for something,

hoping for anything to just happen.

 

I may be dead, he finally says,

but that’s beside the point, isn’t it?

I can’t feel my toes and I’m talking to a ghost.

I don’t know, I tell him. Is it?

 © 2013 by Paul Fericano

 

KURT LIPSCHUTZ (aka: klipschutz)

Corso is an enduring favorite of mine.  I have a lot of memories of Corso, which crystallized into two poems. I'm glad you're doing a tribute.  Keeping Corso's name and work in circulation is doing the Lord's work!

TWO SONGS WITH INTERVAL 

Sighting

 

I was just walking down the street

and there stood Gregory Corso,

looking just like Gregory Corso—

to a T the spitting image

of himself.

(He was, in fact, spitting.)

I congratulated myself on such fine luck

my very first day in San Francisco,

and pushed on.

© 1981 by klipschutz

 

North Beach Crier 

Hear ye! Hear ye! Let it be made known—

Gregory Corso is paying child support! 

In his 67th year, as per all reports,

in Connecticut swinging on a swing,

Demon Conscience has possessed him

to Do That Thing

by the five sainted mothers of his five offspring. 

The poems have stopped, his teeth are gone,

and every time I floss a Beat Revival’s coming on. 

(Machine-cut royalty checks keep arriving.

He signs them over and kicks and swings higher.

Second childhood? He never had another.) 

Hear ye! Hear ye! Let it be made known—

Gregory Corso is paying child support! 

© 1997 by klipschutz

Gregory Corso in Rome 1986. Photo © by Robert Yarra

CATFISH Mc DARIS

Here's two poems of mine, I'll change some to mention Corso.

 Knocking Boots

 Knucklehead Jones said it meant fucking

squealing like a bullfrog getting its legs fried

grasshopper love in a pile of yellow snow

grandpa shitting his pants after he smoked cherry marijuana

looking like velvet bazookas & hand grenades

tattoos, Willy Peter, 9 yard machineguns, & alligator shoes

fool’s gold douche bag nirvana & Ezra Pound

16 penny nails , mackerel shark & PTSD, thwart scorn

bitchslapped blue balls, being sorry with no sorrow

 

People think money sets them free,

really greed makes them a prisoner,

ask Greg Corso’s spirit.

© by Catfish McDaris

Thoughts For The Prince

 

Known as the fourth musketeer of

the Beatnik Kings, D’Artagnan to

Ginsberg, Kerouac, & Burroughs

 

Did a deuce for stealing a dress, put

in Clinton, the poets prison of Dannemora

self taught word man, one of the best, saw

Ginsberg at the Pony Stable headed west

 

Met the West Coast Beats & saw Henry

Miller, read in the nude in Los Angeles

blowing away avant-garde minds

 

Just a Minnesota lad like Dylan & Prince

wrote “Gasoline” “The Happy Birthday

of Death” later taught poetry in Greece

 

Married Sally November & twice more,

finally substance abuse beat him down

Mr. Corso was free like the wind, love

hate happiness nothing else to live for.

© by Catfish McDaris

SETH BRIGHAM

In the few times that I met him in July of 1994, I observed Gregory Corso as having a larger than life persona.

I recall Gregory nodding off during a panel discussion at Boulder High School, being welcoming and kind to his admirers afterwards, giving autographs and enjoying the attention.

On the 4th of July, 1994 at Naropa I remember him telling stories to some Naropa trustees, in a blasphemous way.
And, again, at a party in Boulder, kind of titled up against a wall. It appeared he was in Heroin.
I liked that he didn't try to keep up his appearance. I think he liked the thrill of being irreverent and thought that the Beats in their time were on the cutting edge, social, maybe, political revolutionaries.
The quote below typifies my impression of Gregory Corso.
"Me. I'm still considered an unwashed beatnik sex commie dope fiend. True. I don't bathe every day ( deodorants kill the natural redolence of the human form divine ) and sex, yes, I've made three fleshed angels in life; and I'm as much a communist as I am a capitalist i.e, I'm incapable of being either of 'em as for dopey-poo, it be a poet's perogative."
Gregory Corso at Naropa, , July 4th, 1994. Photo © by Seth Brigham

MARK SARGENT

CORSO COURSE 

Gregory exhaled through his nose,

a cloud rose into the Colorado blue

above a Buddhist cocktail party.

Drink in hand, a matron approached.

“People will give you whatever

you want, you just have to know

how to ask.  Watch this.”

He spilled a large amount

of burgundy on his white pants

while dramatically exclaiming

in that ridiculous voice,

“Oh gees, look at that!  That’ll

never come out!”  He rubbed it in,

just to make sure.  The woman

gasped, fought back a gag and

teetered before us as if

he’d slapped her face.

Gregory grinned up at her,

“Say, could ya give me twenty bucks?”

She nodded, fished a picture

of Jackson from her purse

and handed it over.

 6 March 2004

© by Sargent

HARVEY KUBERNIK

I remember conducting an interview with Allen Ginsberg, a portion later used in my liner notes to "Kaddish" CD as well as the full Q & A in my first book. Here was AG solo in the Rhino Records conference room in Westwood, California. And the thought flashed on me that so often I would see photos of the Beat writers and poets with their friends and fellow writers. They often presented their work collectively.
Then, just as the tape started to roll, Gregory Corso walked in the room and sat for the entire interview. We had a quick hello, as he and Allen, Corso called him Ginzy, were then off to a local radio interview in the neighborhood to promote the Ginsberg box set. 
I thought Gregory lived in San Francisco or New York. The inclusion and touting of Corso also underscored the team player aspect of Allen as he often promoted and encouraged friends into the media as well as his stellar promotional and documentation acumen.

Gregory Corso at an One World Poetry festival, Amsterdam, early 1980s. Photo © by Eddie Woods

RUSSELL STREUR

Meeting Corso

I met Gregory Corso in Milwaukee one autumn night in 1980 give or take a square digit and that’s as close as I can get due to being under the influence of one thing or another for a number of years.  More like decades if anyone bothered to count.  I didn’t.

Back then you could still find jazz up or down the street or around the corner without looking too hard.  The Eighth Note, Sweetwater, The Estate: those were the days.

 And not to mention the bars:  Century Hall before it burned in a that spectacular midnight fire, Hooligan’s in its great heyday, and the infamous Lie to Me Lounge, God love it and rest in peace and shade.

And always Ron Cuzner and his Dark Side on WFMR,

Look it up.

 So it had to have been, in an equal might have been way, the Gallery up on Center where Corso was reading that night.  My great pal Danny Harmon could remember the better half of the facts or at least build a convincing story from the leftovers if he hadn’t crossed the river a couple years back.  There’s a reason why we called him Radio Free Danny but whatever the frequency he’s broadcasting from these days isn’t on the regular dials, God love him and rest in peace and shade.

 Danny was there for sure, he and I both great traders of lines, literary and Bolivian and otherwise, and big drinkers, bourbon for me and gin for him, and maybe  we each had a girl on the arm give or take but one guess is good as another.

Corso, though, in Milwaukee:  that was good enough for rapture and Danny and I went, hell or high water would not have stopped us.

 The reading was a joy to the heart and a blur.  Whatever poems Corso read or didn’t read I don’t know.  I can remember he sat on a barstool under blue light during his hour on stage, drinking responsibly before we had a clue such a thing existed—and never in Milwaukee!—and the big breweries bought the copyrights to the phrase anyway.

 Except for a couple things.  First, The Last Gangster from Gasoline Alley:

 Waiting by the window

my feet unwrapped with the dead bootleggers of Chicago

I am the last gangster, safe, at last,

waiting by a bullet-proof window.

 

I look down the street and know

the two torpedoes from St. Louis.

I’ve watched them grow old

…guns rusting in their arthritic hands. 

Look it up. 

And then, after the reading in the john, Marlboros in shirt pocket, unzipped and pissing when Corso himself for Christ sake saunters up and plants himself in the urinal next.

 “Love your stuff,” I turn and tell him.

 “Love your town,” he says.  “Bum a smoke?”

 And zipping up and after washing hands and shaking a stick out of the pack and sharing that flame with him, then some chit and chat about this and that, and back to the table and telling Danny:

 “I just met Corso in the john.  Great guy.  We pissed and smoked.  Dig that.”

 My story, and I’m sticking to it.

 Corso.  A great guy.  Rest in peace and shade.

Gregory's mail with photo to his friend Giorgio Reggio, owner of winebar in Campo de Fiori, Rome, Italy. Photo © by Dario Bellini

BART PLANTENGA

At the late-spring 1995 protests of the academically tinged Beatnik Conference at NYU & Town Hall where people paid $140 to hear scholars gush over the very Kerouac they would have sneered at had culture not so surpassed them that they, in an effort to recoup their credibilities, embraced this most anti-academic of writers. Daughter Jan Kerouac had not been invited to speak [because she is not an academic!] & she joined the Unbearables who were outside protesting the commodification of Kerouac & the Beats. We were later also joined on the picket line by one Gregory Corso. He had had enough & declared the conference shit – with a smirk – & joined the Unbearables in chanting slogans like “DON’T BUY THE BEATS,” chanting every bit as loud as any of us. This was fully covered by the New York Times in its snarky neutral tone of distantiation. The Beatnik conference protest came hot on the heels of earlier protests at that fortress of official vainglorious culture, the New Yorker, where we were demonstrating against its “swimming pool” poetry & advocating the inclusion of more relevant poets with chants like “FREE VERSE!”

NINA ZIVANCEVIC

Tell me a few things about your first meet with Gregory Corso, are there any memories which you’d like to share with us?

I met Corso for the first time in Colorado in 1981 and he was very impressed to learn that I was his translator; he almost immediately wanted to try my ring on which I naively handed to him, but then he said "now you see it, now you don't see it- it's a very nice ring, now it's mine!". It took Allen 3 weeks to get it back to me. However, he showed to be one of the nicest, most generous people I had met when the police arrested me for smoking a joint in the street (also in Colorado) and I had an audience 6 months later. As I moved to NY and could not fly to Colorado to show up in court, I had not any money, I ran into Corso at Allen's and when he had heard my story he pulled out 400 dollars out of his sock and said "Take it, kiddo, for the plane ticket, you need to show up before a judge, you don't need a bad record in the US."

There is a very dear one: I met Corso (perhaps for the last time in my life) in 1986 in New York with my father at Astor place where people were peddling goods and selling second-hand objects. Corso said "see, it's a shame you, the worthwhile guys from the East, are just trying to buy some technical gadgets, while we, the Americans, are trying to get rid of them"...He sounded so real, so profound, so true...

How important was the music in Corso's life and why Gregory Corso is connected to underground culture?

I think that the questions are superfluous, as Corso, like all "the Beat cats" had profound and close ties to jazz and all the music of his era, and why he was connected to underground culture, or any culture at all, is like trying to find out why any people like culture and some are not inclined to it altogether! why do some people become artists and some do not? who knows, this world is so beautiful because we are all so different!!

JOHN PENLEY

I remember hearing that Allen Ginsberg at a Beat Poetry Reunion in New York, took care of Corso even when Corso was stark raving mad and doing all kinds of crazy things.

Allen Ginsberg, William Burrough and Gregory Corso at Beat Poetry Reunion, New York

John Penley Photographs Collection. Courtesy of Tamiment Library, New York University. Photograph © by John Penley

KIRBY OLSON

I met Corso probably hundreds of times at Naropa Institute. He lived across from me in a townhouse complex in Boulder, Colorado.  I saw him every day for two whole summers.  Much of this ended up in my book on him in the early chapters.  Every once in a while Corso was sober. He read my poems and told me which ones were best. He was unerringly correct.  Corso had taste.  If you saw him early enough in the morning he would make sense and he was spot on genius.  By late afternoon he was a lunatic. By evening he was a full-on cyclone.  He had hundreds of girlfriends.  Most said he did things like ask them to jump on a bed with him then he would fall asleep and snore.  He was fifty years old at the time.

Do you know why the blues / jazz are connected to Corso and what characterizes the sound of Corso’s poems?

Corso loved jazz music.  He grew up in a milieu where a parallel search for individual freedom was going on in the jazz world.  I never knew that world and don’t like the poems where he references jazz. I grew up in a small town where important musicians had never lived (it’s in the Pocono Mountains about two hours’ drive from New York City).  Corso knew jazz musicians and loved them.  I never knew them, and although I listened to all the important rock and blues people, I hate jazz. It has its own lingo but it seems forced. There is however in Corso a search for authenticity. To me jazz is a kind of forced spontaneity.  I would rather find a fixed form.  This is certainly found in the blues, but is also found in classical music, all of which are referenced in Corso’s poems.  What can’t be found in Corso’s poems is love toward rock music.  Corso looked down on rock musicians. He explicitly denounced Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan for being false poets.  He didn’t accept that them and was furious that they had eclipsed poetry. He hated Donovan.  Ginsberg accepted Dylan, and Morrison, and rock singers as poets.  Corso rejected them.  Corso increasingly came to hate music.  At one point Corso smashed all of Allen Ginsberg’s jazz records from the fifties. He told Allen that jazz music was a prison for him, and he needed to liberate Allen. This was in 1977 at Naropa Institute. I don’t think Allen felt liberated, but corso really did feel he had helped Allen. 

A Tribute to Gregory Corso - Part 1

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