A Tribute to Gregory Corso: A Traveler Who Trusted The Bend In The Road - Part 1

“A free spirit is a divine fuck-up! Be a star-screwer!” - Gregory Corso

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

March 26, 1930 – January 17, 2001

Gregory Nunzio Corso was born to Italian parents in Greenwich Village, NYC on 26 March 1930. His troubled adolescence included a stint of several months in the Tombs, the New York City jail, for a case involving a stolen radio, and three months of observation in Bellevue. At seventeen, he was convicted of theft and sentenced to Clinton State Prison for three years. Corso used his time in prison to good advantage, reading the better part of the prison library and studying a 1905 English dictionary inherited from a fellow prisoner.

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

It was in the prison library that he discovered P.B. Shelley and developed a life-long enthusiasm for the poet. It was during these years in prison that he began to write. After his release in 1950, he met Allen Ginsberg, through whom he also became acquainted with William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, as well as other New York writers and artists. In 1954 he unofficially attended Harvard University, where students contributed to the publication of his first collection of poems, The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems. Two years later he joined Ginsberg in San Francisco, where Lawrence Ferlinghetti published his volume of poems Gasoline. In 1957 Corso joined Kerouac and Ginsberg for a series of unconventional readings and interviews. Since that time he has traveled extensively, especially in Mexico, Morocco and Europe. He taught briefly at the State University of New York at Buffalo and occasionally during summer sessions at the Naropa University. Though he never gained the truly widespread fame that his fellow Beats enjoyed, his work continues to have an impact on contemporary poetics. His poetry has earned praise from many. Gregory Corso died on January 17, 2001 at the age of 70.

Friends, poets, and collaborators who traveled with Gregory Corso talk - and write poems - about their experiences, personality and his work.

Project, Interviews © by Michael Limnios

KEN BABBS

One time Corso was at Kesey's house and challenged Kesey to a game of chess. It was first thing in the morning and Kesey didn't want to get into anything so heavy so he led off with a move that if Corso doesn't do the right response then Corso loses immediately and of course, Corso, so confident and all makes the wrong move and is flabbergasted and Kesey can enjoy his first cup of coffee.

HETTIE JONES

Gregory o Gregory !!! Gregory, was always doing silly things and I do remember him always running around on a stage, during a poetry reading and then running off the stage and then running back on the stage. He was just a funny guy but underneath this behavior he was a very wonderful poet, very wonderful poet, don’t remember him very much for that because he always act like a really bad boy, but really he was serious some of his short lyric poetry is very beautiful

HAROLD CHAPMAN

In 1957, Gregory Corso was living in a tiny garret in the Beat Hotel in Paris.  He was a great womaniser... especially nuns!  He had an idea to do a book called 'Church' which featured himself walking behind nuns and monks.  He had shown me a superb picture of himself walking along a boulevard behind two monks with long beards... a hard act to follow.  But I liked the idea of walking around Paris with him, looking for nuns.  It was a lovely spring day.  We forgot about the nuns and Gregory wanted to show me the amazing stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle, a favorite of his, as, looking out of the window from his garret, he could see the spire. 

Gregory Corso in Place de Furstenberg, St. Germain-des-Pres, he stepped nimbly behind this Sister of the Sacred Heart. 1957 Photo © Harold Chapman

He then wanted to show me Place Furstenberg, a beautiful tiny square on the Left Bank, where the artist Delacroix once lived.  Suddenly... serendipity... an old nun of the Order of the Sacred Heart appeared walking across the square.  Gregory hastily rushed behind her and I got a picture for his book... that never got finished or published, 'Church'! ... A few days later, I met by chance a girl who told me Gregory had asked her to lunch, and she was excited to be honored with a lunch invitation with Gregory Corso, the poet, in his garret room on Paris' Left Bank.  She told me she had eagerly rushed round and climbed the stairs.  After a bit of chit-chat, Gregory says, 'OK, now take off your clothes.'  'But,' she said, 'I thought you invited me to lunch.'  'What's the matter,' he said. 'You a lesbian, or something?'  Picking up a green pepper from off the table, he tore it in half and threw it to her... 'Here you are, here's your lunch.'  She left.

Gregory Corso was the only one of the Beats that I ever discussed jazz with.  He was very fond of going to the Blue Note where Bud Powell was playing with his group.  He told me an apocryphal story of Bud Powell going back home in a taxi in the small hours of the morning from a gig there and he turned round to his bass player sitting next to him and said, “What group do you play with, man?” … Bud Powell used to live in Hotel Louisiane, a few minutes’ walk from the Beat Hotel, which was a jazz musicians’ hotel and on every floor was a piano or two and when a pianist moved in, if a piano was vacant he could have it moved into his room…

DARIO BELLINI

What are some of the most memorable tales with Gregory Corso?

What to say, maybe that evening when he came back to the vineria (winery) of Campo de Fiori dressed with a very elegant suit and coat… and all new teeth smiling. All received as payment from the set in Cinecittà where Gregory was acting in the “Il Padrino 3” (The Godfather) of Francis Coppola (also playing monetine, coin game at the vineria), or driving in Palermo (invited to perform poetry by Fiumara d’Arte), with the Carabinieri (police) escorting him to pick up the daily methadone dose in the hospital…

What advice Corso has given to you? 

Learn to appreciate beauty, quality and valuable people among art and poetry of human being

Are there any memories from Gregory Corso, which you’d like to share with us?

Yes one in Athens as the recorded voice Gregory is telling on our footage of about his lost passport and the lamp of Venus recovered:

During our recordings we arrived at the amphitheater “Quercia del Tasso” and Gregory remembers when many years before he lost his passport in Athens, “Tasso! Me piace (I like) Tasso.. Tarquino ahh.. Torquato Tasso va bene (is fine), he was from Sorrento, his casa in Sorrento.

This teatro reminds me of another teatro on the Acropoli. Lì notte, I go in the teatro, solo persone, drink my retsina (Greek resinated wine) and I get in the center where I said poesia to the io. I sit down like that, in Atene.. you have been to Athina, conosci the teatro Tainassio? It is more antico, this not Greco, this not even romano. Oh I don’t forget the natural high I had in Athina. In the teatro I went to the gate: chiuso, and I climbed over, to get to the teatro but, when I climbed over my passporto fall out.. oh oh, and the luce came out by mattina, the police said they know who went, so I run back and get the passporto.. because I take some… Under the Acropoli there is a temple of Venus, Venere and I take a little lamp.. I take it to the casa.  They know I take because they see the passporto. So I returned the lamp and I get the passporto, I give it back.. sure. Ahh.. this venti trenta anni ago. Nineteen fifty seven, un mille novecento cinquantasette. Trenta.. trentauno anni ago! You know it would be nice if all gente would do that.” (*transcription from footage of video recordings)

Photo: Gregory  in front of the Parthenon on the Acropolis, Athens 1959 © James Burke / LIFE

ANDY CLAUSEN

Gregory Corso and his son, Max, staying with my family in Oakland, CA. Allen Ginsberg’s been to an LSD seminar in Santa Cruz, at UCSC and dropped some Owsley; he’s with Neely Cherkovski. Gregory’s hitting him up for money I think and they argue. Gregory gets louder. Allen stands up and says, “I’m not afraid of you.” Gregory squares off but backs up and then says, “I can’t hit a man who’s tripping on acid.”

From the unpublished THE LATTER DAYS OF THE BEAT GENERATION

                (A First Hand Account) copyrights © Courtesy by Andy Clausen

         Word came Gregory Corso was very ill with prostate cancer and no one knew how long he'd last. He'd been to the hospital, he was staying in his apartment, financed by a successful Japanese artist who loved his work and was making a movie about Gregory etcetera. The apt. was next door to his friends of many years Roger and Irvyne Richards. There were a lot of people there, poets, film makers, musicians, other people, playwrights, scofflaw outlaws, family,  his daughter Miranda, his sons Max and Nile came through, grandsons, Sherri, his oldest daughter, from Minnesota, a nurse, started taking care of him . Friends in the Richard's apt. drinking, reminiscing quietly. Orders not to resuscitate on every wall.

                Gregory is cadaverous, his eyes sunken black holes with the endless absolutes of everyday human being staring back at me with I don't know if it's hate born of betrayal or eyes of unbelievable suffering and defiance of it. As we come to his death bed I sit there and stare in his eyes and I can't give though I want to. I say, "What's going to happen?"

                He just stares at me and doesn't give anything but the most frightening face faced with an all emcompassing Religious Decision.          

He whispers, "hot."

                I go and tell someone in attendance, "He's hot."

                I can't remember who I told, Ted, Sheri, Lisa, I wanted out. I went next door and shook hands and had a beer, well maybe three or four, with Gregory's friends. O well I thought if anyone wants to see him, go, but I won't guarantee it will be a fun time, and you better go quick.

                Then I got word he'd turned for the better. He just wasn't getting enough food. They changed his blood into cancer fighting space age medicine and also took care of all the pains they could and he was up eating big burgers and steaks and coca colas and fries and even good food. Talking with Ira Cohen, Roger and Irvyne, his daughter, Sheri, there like the absolute best person to hang with and serve him and watch over him as the  friends come and go and the interviewers with their tapes and Ethan Hawke, the actor, and the  spooky Gregory movie people, and Marty Matz, poet known him since 57, or watching the history channel on TV, or the football games, and having poker games that were filmed. He had turned into an angel, he had realized more fully than ever how he was loved, he was the true poet of the outcast and renegade, eloquent, innovative, he of the outlawlandish revolt, the most classicly aware, an elan of penetrating anthropology, Myth, and ebullient imagery. He who one time or another insulted us all, because we let ourselves be insulted, we loved him and he loved us.

                I'm at the bedside, he has my attention, tells me confidentially, "At first I didn't know how I should take you because you're a pryer, a prober into people, ( he makes little but emphatic twisting shiv or screwdriver moves), "you really knew how to push those buttons."            

But now he likes me,  I think because I'm with Janine. He says, just to me, a reminder like heavy knowledge he's letting me in on: the opportunity I have, with a real poet as lover, "Very few get the chance."

                I ask him if he's been writing .

                "It hurts, I can't hold the pen, I don't have the strength. They got me a tape recorder, but you can't do poetry like that ."

                I said, "You  could."

                He looked at me with a both penetrating and base camp  egoless fixing of eyes.

                I'm thinking, "He trusts me."

                He says,"Yeah?"

                "You? Sure," I answer, realizing, I am in the strange position of encouraging one of the world's great genius talents. My encouragement is perhaps tinged with selfishness. I don't care he's on death road and weakened of body, I want to see some more of that poetry that made me laugh and wow as a kid and sent me on the poet's path, the path that has not made my life easy, but it surely saved me from a fate much worse, where I was headed as a not fitting in young hooligan, who was both brazen and scared, a lethal combo.

                Once I told Gregory, "You saved my life. Your poetry saved my will to go on."

                He said, "Oh no, don't hang that on me mister. You save someone's life, you're responsible for them. I don't want that laid on me. You take care of your own ashes."

                I did get to tell him what a great poetry he'd given the world, "Man, great poetry, the best."

                He looked at me and said; with a hip exhale of what more can I do shrugging air, "Poetry?"  (Really half a question mark contesting for space with a resigned exclamation point that chooses silence.)

                I thought, "Gregory said I really knew how to push people's buttons, meaning I was a cage rattler, I could really dig in to people's sensitivities. If that was ever a case of the pot calling the kettle, man, what a weird compliment or has he seen the light? He saw something and came back with pure compassion to his friends plus a benevolent spiritual amnesia? Whether it was the Light or the Dark, It was Something, God or Death or Eternity or some other word one capitalizes in hope of imparting the evacuating sweep and breath and breadth of it, but he'd seen it and now, he was a saint, a pure one with all the heart.

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

EDDIE WOODS

The first time Gregory saw my bare arms, on a hot summer’s day in Amsterdam’s Vondel Park, he nearly cried. The veins in my arms are very prominent. “Oh my God,” he said, “and you don’t even use them. What a waste!”

NANOS VALAORITIS

Americans who lived in the so called Beat Hotel in Paris at 50s was a "closed" family. Gregory was the friendliest of. Gregory Corso was the most "gangster" from everyone. One day he came to my house in Paris and he says, "there's a tea drink something the old ladies, if the bubble will pull opium." Got a pot and boiled for two days, until it became completely black. He tested it and says, "Unfortunately, does not do anything."

When they come in Greece was far more comfortable than in France. Gregory had a special friendship with Andreas Embirikos. They had met and Embirikos had accepted early for his work.

PAUL FERICANO

My one and only encounter with poet, Gregory Corso, was a memorable one. It occurred in 1979 at a poetry reading in the most unlikely town of Millbrae, California, a suburban community on the peninsula, fifteen miles south of San Francisco.

I was scheduled to read that day with the late Okie-surrealist poet, Ben Hiatt of Sacramento, a  friend of considerable stature in both reputation and size (6’ 4”). Our reading was an extension of The Burlingame Poetry Conspiracy, a popular reading series initiated in the late sixties by librarian Warren Wickliffe. When the regular room at the Burlingame Library became unavailable, arrangements were made with the Millbrae Library to host the reading in its community room.

I was no stranger to Millbrae. I landed there in 1971 by circumstance and ended up staying for more than ten years (YU News Service still maintains a mailing address there). Over the years I became active in the community, teaching poetry in the schools, organizing readings, writing a weekly humor column for the local paper, serving on the city arts commission and facilitating a Wednesday evening writer’s workshop for five years (CROW: the Creative Response Outlet for Writers).

The day before our reading, Ben visited City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and ran into Gregory Corso next door at Vesuvio’s. The two had met briefly some years before when Corso was visiting Sacramento. One thing led to another and Ben produced a flier for the Millbrae reading and invited Corso to attend, never expecting he would. Ben later described the encounter as “bizarre as all goddamn.”

On the day of the reading more than fifty people turned out, which was gratifying for any reading, but especially so for a poetry reading in the suburbs. Minutes before we started, Ben hurried over to where I was standing to inform me that Gregory Corso was actually sitting in a folding chair in the last row by the door. Evidently, he just showed up and sat down. It seemed absurdly unreal. “Come on,” Ben said, “I’ll introduce you.”

What struck me most about meeting Corso that day was his great shock of thick hair. I was mesmerized by its untamed appearance, more wild than his eyes. We shook hands and he seemed strangely subdued. Ben mentioned that I was the instigator of Stoogism, which Ginsberg had called “the only movement with a punch line.” Corso looked at me as if there was a connection. “Oh, yeah,” he said, with a slight smile. “You’re that guy.” Whatever he meant by that, the acknowledgement was more than enough for me.

Before the reading got underway we announced Corso’s presence to the audience. He received a warm and appreciative round of applause. Then Ben asked if he would like to read a poem or two. Corso shook his head. During my set I couldn’t help but make eye contact with him several times. Seeing him there felt wonderful and slightly weird.

When it was all over, Gregory Corso slipped out the library door and disappeared from Millbrae as quickly and quietly as he had when he first arrived.

FRANCIS KUIPER

Tell me a few things about the story of “Poesia e Musica - Gregory Corso and Francis Kuipers”, how that came about?

I discovered the poem ‘Oh Roma’, the first track on the LP, scrawled in chalk, in Gregory’s unmistakable and florid hand-writing, across a fashion poster near a wine-bar we liked to frequent. It looked as though it had been written recently and in a rush. Knowing Gregory, and presuming it was unlikely that he had a record of the poem, I copied it in my notebook and later suggested to him that we make a song out of it.  To introduce ‘The Moose’, which I sing in Italian on the LP, Gregory had me say: “Lord Byron said:  Never Explain The Explanation. This song ‘The Moose’, however, needs explanation!”(He was referring to the great English Romantic poet Byron who died in Greece.)

Gregory insisted that we only did quality shows. “First find out what it is, then where it is, then at the end you talk about the money!” He instructed me before I set up a gig for us. Unless it was Allen Ginsberg or some other Beat Generation big shot, Gregory avoided artistic collaboration. People were always trying to involve him in their self-aggrandizing schemes. We were even offered money by rich part-time poets to be on the same bill as us! Gregory had an answer prepared for that: “OK, but on one condition that we go on first!” That usually ended the affair, as no one dared follow him as the audience would be following him out of the hall.

“Lady Poetry came to me!” Gregory would say. “Allen and the others grew up with books around them; their parents had books in their libraries. They searched out poetry, but Lady Poetry came to me, in prison, to save me!”  Abandoned by his mother and thrown out on the street at the age of 16, Gregory had spent part of his younger years in jail. “People do terrible things!” He would say, glancing nervously over his shoulder. It has been pointed out to me that Gregory must have trusted me a great deal to make our historical recording. Legendary Argentinean percussionist Louis Agudo, whom I have also played with, put me in touch with Sergio Veschi of Red Records in Milan who produced the LP.

Gregory Corso in Rome, Italy with Francis Kuiper and  friends. Photo © by Piero Cefaloni

What are some of the most memorable tales with Gregory Corso?

Unlike musicians, used to touring and waiting around before gigs, saving their energy for the show, Gregory did not like hem. Once he was in front of an appreciative audience, he had a great time but, on the whole, he only accepted gigs when he was desperate for money. The main motive for Gregory’s reluctance to perform was that it took a lot out of him and he was now in his late 60’s. His official public appearances were not just mega events but also poetry marathons.  They often went on for hours and hours.  His performance started the instant his train arrived at the station or when he descended from a car, and finally ended when he left town. Appearing on the scene, Gregory was immediately besieged, usually by groups of women “Ciao bella donna!” He would exclaim as they dragged him off to a series of bars where he would entertain everyone present with his startling energy and superb wit, between reading poems and even writing them on the spot. When he finally made it to the theatre and the gig he might be quite exhausted, although he soon recovered. At our jam-packed performance in Pisa, with every city notable and their wives dressed-up in the front row, he joined me on stage half an hour late, staggering in with a bevy of prostitutes from the nearby seaport of Livorno. Having extra seats placed on the stage for the ladies, Gregory included them in the show, having them translate poems he had just written. Once they got used to it, most of the audience enjoyed the show but, judging by the way a number of Pisa residents got up and left with their nose in the air, the broad and vulgar Livorno accents of the ladies evidently upset them.

Habitually not having a fixed abode, Gregory spent a lot of time reading and writing anywhere he could, in parks, in bars, clubs and café’s. One day - he told me - a young man passed by, shyly handing him a handwritten piece of paper containing a poem called The Times They Are A Changing. “It was Bob Dylan before he got famous!” Gregory explained.

Which memory makes you smile?

Many memories of Gregory make me smile. Just thinking of his smile makes me smile. “I don’t tell lies because I don’t remember them.” He said once. A few months ago, years after his death, I found a message for me that he must have placed amongst my papers to warm my heart. One of our unrealized projects was an opera on Giordano Bruno, the philosopher who was burned for heresy. We planned to have chorus lines of dancing cardinals etc.

What advice Corso has given to you? How would you  characterize Gregory?

Gregory had the power to light up a room; he could be full of luminous grace, like a winged messenger bringing news of extravagant fun-loving Gods. On occasion, he could also be terrible like a William Blake angel. You can’t mess around with poetry or playing the Blues, you need to get to the truth or they don’t work.

Are there any memories from Gregory which you’d like to share with us?

You got a good deal paying a ticket to one of our shows. Gregory could emanate charisma like Marlon Brando and he was masterful at handling an audience. He could put you through a gamut of emotions for your money. They could range from wonder, marvel and glee, to horror and even disgust and rage. Gregory touched on big subjects: death, love, every essential human argument, and he delighted in surprise. His appearance was no muscle-relaxing, mainstream event for sure! We never rehearsed. Every show was spontaneous and different; for me it was sometimes like walking on a razor. Gregory stripped peoples’ minds naked and touched their souls. When this became unbearable for them and the atmosphere became explosive he had the ability to suddenly make the entire theatre collapse into relieved laughter. Sometimes, matters could go horribly wrong as well. I can recall times when the audience was hostile and we had a few narrow escapes. Once, we left in a hurry through the lavatory window of a venue in a provincial town. For hours I had to drive my ancient VW through a thrashing rainstorm with police following us with menacing flashing lights. It was pitch dark. I had my face glued to the windscreen, struggling to see the road through the rain and the wipers. Gregory was in the back seat singing Italian opera and waving a bottle of whisky.

HELEN WEAVER

Saw him at the Beat Generation conference at New York University in 1994. Thirty or forty years had rolled by, and he looked exactly the same, plus a white wig that made him look like a founding father.

ELSA DORFMAN

Drinking I suppose. By the time I knew jack he didn’t oppose the Vietnam War like everyone else and he was more or less spent.  Gregory worked to be amusing and he was.  I used to send him books when he lived in Venice and I worked at grove press.  It was always surprising to me how much Gregory knew and had read and was familiar w/.  He was very scholarly and endearing. When I worked at Grove I would mail him care packages of books. He was living in Venice then.

Allen and Gregory in N.Y for a Jack Kerouac Festival at Dorfman's home at 19 Flagg Street, Cambridge. April 1973 Photo © Elsa Dorfmman

MARC OLMSTED

I first met Gregory Corso probably around 1974 in North Beach, I was with Allen Ginsberg, I was 20 years old and we were sitting at the Savoy Tivoli café in North Beach, California.  Dusk was falling and Gregory showed up – I had followed his work in my teens and was thrilled to see him – but also shocked.  Gregory was unshaven and most of his teeth were gone.  Those that remained stuck out of the ragged jaws of a troll.  His hair was a mop of near grey.  He was telling Allen some gossipy story and appeared to be quite drunk.  (From then on I basically saw Gregory in two conditions – drunk or on junk.  He was much more docile on junk, natch – but tonight he was fiery with an obvious alcohol binge.)  If I hadn’t known who he was, I would have assumed this was a mad derelict that Allen was being kind to.  In fact, this was a mad derelict named Gregory Corso.  He scared me but I was fascinated.  He was also hilarious, like a genius member of the Bowery Boys.  His nasal accent was one of a kind.  He cursed and it was the purity of cursing itself – “That mutha-FUCKA!!”  and so on.  At one point, I burst into loud laughter where I had previously been invisible.  Gregory stopped his story, face in a scowl with jutting lower gargoyle teeth, eyes sliding to the side and eyeballing me like “who is THIS fucka?!”  I was frozen like a squirrel in a kid’s aimed slingshot.  But mercifully, he continued.  I spent the night with Allen in Shig Murao’s apartment and got up for breakfast down the street.  Gregory showed up and told the entire story over again, clearly with no memory of the previous evening.  Allen listened respectfully as if he’d never heard it before.

When visiting Allen at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, Summer 1978, I arrived to see Gregory Corso vomiting over the balcony of his second floor apartment.  I dropped in on his class a few days later and watched with fascination as he lecturing drinking a tall can of ale and passing a joint around (later I was naïve enough to think that was cool to try at my own university where I was a student teacher in Film and got into tremendous trouble for it).  Costanzo Allione, Italian documentary filmmaker and then-husband of meditation teacher Tsultrim Allione, was shooting what became a great film on ’78 Naropa, FRIED SHOES, COOKED DIAMONDS.  He was in Allen’s apartment with his crew catching the meeting of Burroughs, Timothy Leary and of course Ginsberg himself.  I was also running around with a Super 8 camera making what would become my short collage AMERICAN MUTANT.  Gregory came in with his 16mm camera and announced, “I’m gonna shoot everybody’s feet.”  And proceeded to do so.  I later tried to persuade Gregory to take a part in my film as a sci fi gangster.  (Burroughs had already shown the proper way to handle a .357 Magnum, Leary was a CIA government official, and Allen some sort of Tibetan Mutant King).  I had a .45 replica bee bee gun for Gregory but when I talked to him he was very hungover, saying with disinterest “Guns are bad karma, man.”  I shrugged and his toddler son Max escorted me to the door, slamming it behind me while shouting “Get out!”

At a Naropa lecture of Tibetan lama Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado 1978, Gregory Corso came with an entourage of Puerto Rican poets (including Miguel Alegrin, founder of the Nuyorican Poets Café), the retinue of visiting playwright Miguel Pinero.  They were all clearly not into it.  Trungpa was speaking on the Paramitas, the perfections cultivated by the Bodhisattva, and when mentioning something about “continuous panoramic awareness,” Gregory called out “That’s me all over, Chogy!”  Trungpa, without missing a beat, replied, “Seeing…is believing.”  Trungpa then asked if there were any questions and Gregory answered "Yeah, I have a question, Chogy."  But Trungpa answered other people first and Corso started heckling him much to the amusement of his pals.  Corso finally said "I'm spilitting" and left with the PRs in tow. Then Trungpa said, "This brings me to the next Paramita, Patience," which got a big laugh as Gregory and the others exited.  (Special thanks to Richard Modiano’s journal in getting the details of this memory correct)

In San Francisco, 1983, Ginsberg was going to read at On Broadway in North Beach, (directly above the legendary punk club, Mabuhay Gardens) and invited my New Wave band The Job to back him up.  Gregory Corso was also on the bill.  We all met backstage and Corso was cantankerous, “You young rock & rollers are just in it for the gold.”  I thought to myself, “If we are, I’ve yet to see it.”  I was splitting $90.00 between 5 band members, albeit more money than we usually saw.  He thought my friend Paul Stiver was a "Rolling Stone [magazine] shmuck," as we stood back stage with the girl interviewer who shrank into the corner during this tirade.  I worried that Gregory might do anything, wander onstage, disrupt the band etc. (we were performing a new musical version of “Birdbrain” – different from the 45 the Glu-ons released – and “Capitol Air” – both with specific verses and chorus, not just jamming behind him).  Allen agreed this could very happen with Gregory, but it would be alright.  I only half-got this “crazy wisdom” teaching, but I accepted it.  And Gregory behaved himself.  (Special thanks to Richard Modiano’s journal in getting the details of this memory correct)

The last time I saw Gregory Corso was in a dapper suit at an after-reading party for Allen Ginsberg in 1984, Marin.  I was astounded to see how put together Gregory was, in fact I reflected how many times I’d seem him rise phoenix-like out of the depths of the most harrowing binges over the years, chasms that many, even most, did not return from.  “I think Gregory is too aware of his own genius,” I overheard Allen say.  On another occasion, Allen said, “Gregory Corso has a lot of prajna but very little skillful means.”  Prajna is a Buddhist Sanskrit term that translates as “Transcendent Knowing.”  “Skillful means”: the ability to apply it.  Gregory pinged off life like a blind pinball.  It had cost him fame and position.  Sometimes he seemed to care. 

Gregory Corso typing a poem at The Rare Book Room in New York 1989. Photo © Dario Bellini

HANK HARRISON

I knew Gregory from the Cafe Trieste in San Francisco, he didn't read much poetry because he was too busy drinking wine, but just having him there made my day something to be proud of.

ELLIOT RUDIE

I just arrived in London and I had caught a job in a bank as a doorman and I heard that was a cafe in Soho which called the Monaco bar. The Beats were hanging around there also British, Americans - Brion Gysin, Gregory, Ginsberg - and French poets and painters. At 6 o’clock when my work finished I used to go there for a drink. Corso was reading poetry and that’s how he gathered some money for his first novella called “American Express”.

He wanted badly to go to New York but hid didn’t have the money he had spent it all. Allen helped him and gave him money to go to New York. Corso didn’t have money to pay anything even for his coffee. When I went in USA, I saw him giving a lecture and present his BOMB. Gregory recognized me and called me “the American Express officer”. I found his poetry very improved and his readings more deeply. Corso believed that his “BOMB” could bring peace to all over the world.

Gregory in New York loved Spanish and Italian people, because of their accents and like spend time with them, he liked very much their accent of hip street vibe. Corso, was influenced by the Jazz musicians, Spanish and black people. I am sure, if was alive nowadays he wouldn’t like the technology internet etc. and he would prefer to speak directly to the people and not through internet. 

LEVI ASHER

I met Gregory Corso a couple of times before he died, most often at poetry readings at places like St. Mark’s Church, where he would show up if invited to read.  He was a very lovable character, but suffered greatly in real life to keep up his endless “cool”.  Drug addiction seemed to have really gotten the better of him.  I never really “hung out” with him but I guess I would only want to spend the day performing poetry with him, because I think it was only when he stood on stage that he would try to be his best self.

FRANK BEACHAM

Gregory Corso brings back one funny memory and I have pictures I took to support it. 

It was 1994, a conference on the Beat Generation at New York University, and Gregory Corso was to join Allen Ginsberg on a panel. Corso had done fine the night before, hosting an opening of his art on display at the university. But today he came into the hall drunk and Ginsberg didn’t like it one bit.

Ginsberg’s relationship with Corso suddenly turned into one of a Jewish mother, with Ginsberg lecturing Corso about drinking so much. Corso, of course, didn’t care and went on with his outrageous drunken business in front of everyone. Ginsberg couldn’t control him and was not at all pleased.  It was a quick glimpse of beat reality.

That's "which story amused Anne Waldman in photography."

Allen, Gregory and Anne Waldman at New York University at the Jack Kerouac conference in the summer of 1995. Photo © by Frank Beacham

NEELI CHERKOVSKI

Story of our messing round on the "streets"

FROM: MEMOIR IN PROGRESS Copyrights © Courtesy by Neeli Cherkovski

    Gregory Corso was ecstatic, having just begun an ambitious poem he called “Epistle To the San Franciscans,” a work he never completed.  He carried the notebook in which the poem was scrawled from one North Beach cafe to another, waving it in the air.   I caught him in front of the Church of Saint Francis, where I had been sitting on the steps soaking up the late afternoon sun and watching an old Italian in a suit that looked like it came from the time of Benito Mussolini, crossing the street.  He put one foot forward, aided by a cane, followed by another foot, and then wobbled a bit, as if challenging the traffic coming up Columbus Avenue.  Gregory made some comment on the elderly gentleman’s passage, then jumped  into the opening line of his poem, which he read in a cackling voice, “San Francisco here are your poets, but where is your poesy?” 

     The “Epistle” described some of the poetry readings in and around San Francisco, a kaleidoscopic view dotted with nostalgia for the raucous days of Beat poetry, when coffee house walls shook with the excitement of “the new.”  Gregory shouted, “I thus proclaim thee, City of Dark and City of Light. . .”  When he paused to catch his breath and shout a greeting to a passing street musician he knew,  I imagined Gregory’s new poem being published and causing a sensation.  I said, “Gregory, you got real gold there.  It reminds me of Ferlinghetti’s “Populist Manifesto.”

    “Oh, man Don’t lay that on me.  Ferl is not Mister Corso.  That’s an easy shot. My poem has depth.  I’ll bring it all down.  You want the poem, you got the poet, but you want the poem.  You dig it?  I’m tumbling the bullshit.”

   Taking this as a personal hit, I said, “But I thought you liked my poems.”

    ‘Yeah, Yeah, you don’t get it,” he retorted.  “All of you, you’re all trying too hard.  And that’s the point of it.”

   He put his notebook, from which he had been reading, into a coat pocket, and said “Hey, let’s get the fuck out of here.  We’ll take a cab, right?”

   I told him he was wrong, as I only had a pocketful of change, and maybe two dollars in my wallet.  Annoyed, but still game, he gestured toward Russian Hill.  We were soon trudging up Pacific Avenue, making our way to Polk Street where I had gone only a few nights earlier to a nearby gay bath house where I usually scored.  As we walked, I wondered where we would come up with money to do anything and thought of going back home to look for a bit of cash or asking for an advance on my pay check.  Both thoughts were a fantasy and so I trusted to fate.

    Gregory, unconcerned, was more animated than ever.   The expression on his face told me we were in for a good time.  Only the night before we had read Poe’s “To Helen” back and forth at my apartment.  One phrase in particular, “The agate lamp within thy hand” sent us into near ecstasy.  “Imagine!  they didn’t even have electricity then,” Gregory exclaimed.  We couldn’t get over it.  Not only did we identify with Poe’s darker side, which made of him a truly disorderly poet, one I pronounced as being on the same scale as Rimbaud, but  also the manner in which he tinkered with words.  “You got to have the ear for Poe,” Gregory said, “Not only his rhymes, but his language, the individual words.”   But now we were on the prowl for action, intent on finding someone who would stake us to an evening of liquor and fine dining, not a penniless poet.  He suggested that we needed to find a benefactor. . . an angel with lots of dough

Photo from Robert Frank's Pull My Daisy, Peter Orlofsky, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso

    No sooner were those words out than we ran into a nondescript looking guy in red polyester trousers.  He seemed to appear out of the walls of a nearby pharmacy.  It didn’t take long for Gregory to discover that the man had a wad of twenty-dollar bills – they were of much more interest than his apparel.  After a few words about things in general, we ended up going from one bar to another, drinking Black Russians, whiskey sours, sidecars, expensive bourbon, cheap vodka, beer and whatever else surfaced.  Our friend was happy to pay.  He worked in insurance and told us he was lonely.  His life had hit a rut.  “I don’t have anyone,” he complained, “Except for my mother.  She lives in Dallas.”

   Gregory suggested, “Hey.  Let’s call her.”

    Homer might have described our money man as one of those Achaeans who had to be coaxed into battle against the Trojans.  There was something sad in his facial movements, something lacking in his eyes, even as they brightened.  I struggled with a sense of shame as we proceeded to the telephone booth at the back of the bar, half-illuminated by a red neon sign.

    The man got into the booth with Gregory.  I stood at the open door.

 “Hello, mother.  This is Monroe,”

 “Monroe,” I whispered to Gregory.  “Can you imagine?”  Yet, even as I said that, a part of me wanted to get away, to tell my fellow poet that enough was enough.  We had cadged a few drinks and could return home where we were sure to find another round waiting.  I imagined that Monroe had been an easy mark all of his life, and was probably picked on as a kid. 

    While I ruminated, Monroe told his mother how much he loved her.

    Gregory exploded, “Hey, Monroe, give me the fucking phone.”

    I was taken aback, but Monroe complied immediately.

    ‘Hi, mother.  This is Gregory Corso.  I’m a poet.  You know, the Beat Generation.”

There was silence on the other end of the line.

    “Oh man, Gregory shouted into the phone. “I’m the guy who wrote about the bomb and about marriage and about how I never knew my mother.  My friend Allen Ginsberg wrote “Howl,” the famous poem.  Then there’s Kerouac, Jack Kerouac.  On the Road.  Get it, mom?”

    Whatever Monroe’s mother said must have pleased Gregory as he told her, “Yeah, you got it, lady.  The Beats.  Time and Life.  Yeah.  We smoked dopey poo.”  I tried to picture this “mother” on the other end, taking it all in.  Was she smoking a Pall Mall?  Drinking a beer?  Eating potato chips?  I’d never know.

  We headed back to the bar with one of Monroe’s twenties and ordered more drinks.  A few minutes later he came and said that his mother wanted to speak with Gregory again.   I was left to entertain Monroe.

    Out of guilt, I told him he could come over to my place anytime he wanted and meet the gang, making it sound as if we had an ongoing soiree where we talked poetry and politics non-stop.   He blushed when I said everyone would love him, that he had charisma, and that half the women of North Beach would fight over him.  The words hung in my head heavily, but there was no way to stop mouthing-off.  “You’ll love Specs,” I said.  “It’s a bat cave where the heavy drinkers hold forth... and morning coffee at the Trieste is the best on the planet.  Even the Europeans say so.”

    My rhapsody ended when Gregory suddenly stepped into view to tell Monroe that his mother wanted him to loosen up, that he’d always been tied to her apron strings and it was time to let go.

    Monroe wondered what more he could do to loosen up.

    ‘For one thing we can all go to dinner,” Gregory suggested.  He told Monroe to call for a cab, which he did, and in no time at all we were whisked off to Harris Steak House, a swank establishment on Van Ness Avenue where the prohibitive price tag had kept me distant, despite my being a carnivore.   I surveyed the menu and ordered the most expensive item, prime rib with all the trimmings.  During dinner, perhaps inspired by his high alcohol content, Gregory lectured. Monroe on how to get laid.

      Monroe said, “I’m afraid of women, and I’m lonely.  You and Neeli, you guys know...”

    Gregory fired back, “Neeli is frightened of women too, so he makes it with guys.  But at least he makes it with someone.”

   “I’m not a homo.”

  “That makes no matter mind.  You got to be something.  Shit, you don’t add up.”

   Monroe’s eyes pleaded for help, but I was busy swabbing sour crème on my oversized baked potato from the dish that had been provided and mixing it with melted butter.

     Gregory told Monroe, “Dig it, man.  Neeli doesn’t even like the word vagina.  Hey, Neeli.  Vagina!  Vagina!”

    I feigned outrage.  Gregory laughed.  Monroe, seeming more depressed than ever, said he wanted to call home again.

    “Leave the damsel alone,” Monroe.  She wants you to have fun to dance it up.”

    After dinner we walked out on to the street.  The fog had crept in.  Gregory suggested we return to North Beach.  Rather than hail a taxi, we walked.  We were on our way to Enrico’s for drinks when Mike the Fence met us, along with a dope dealer named Dennis Dean who had literary ambitions.  Gregory took Dennis aside and then walked over to Monroe.

    “Hey, Monroe.  How much you got left?”

    Monroe glanced into his wallet.  “I’ve got fifty.”

    “Okay, give me the fifty and we’ll get some good Thai weed.  Dennis has the best in town.”

    “But we won’t have anything left for drinks.”

  “Sure we do, man.  You’ve got a credit card.  You can charge the fucking drinks.”  Gregory looked at me, then at Mike the Fence and Dennis Dean and said, ‘This guy can really be a dumb shit.”

   Monroe forked over the two twenties and a ten.  Gregory put his arm around him.  “Monroe, I like you, man.  You’ve got class and style.  We’ll find a woman for you.”

    Soon we had our weed, which we smoked right there on Broadway.  Monroe nearly choked to death.  He had never smoked before and when he was done he almost walked into the Broadway traffic.

    Monroe was befuddled, but definitely under Gregory’s spell as he tripped where the poet fumbled, and grimaced while the poet grinned.  As for me, I could go on all night long and still embrace the dawn.

  Gregory in Paris 1957 Photo © by Harold Chapman  

   We spent the next couple of hours at Enrico’s, finally closing it down. Monroe was put into a cab, but not before Gregory got his phone number. Two days later we met him at Enrico’s.  He had bought one of Gregory’s books and asked him to sign it.  “It’ll cost twenty,” Gregory said.  Monroe paid and Gregory wrote, “For Monroe, who’s afraid of women.  Love, Gregory.”

      That night we went to the Carnelian Room, a restaurant high atop the Bank of America building where we treated ourselves to a vast array of food.  As I wolfed my dinner courses, Gregory kept up a running commentary on my sloppy eating habits.  “Shit, you got no class when you eat.  You don’t even enjoy it.  What do you think Monroe?”

       “Uh, I guess I need to live a little, to live it up.”

       “Yeah, that’s it,” said Gregory, jamming a lamb chop into his mouth, whittling the meat off the bone with his toothless jaws.  He began a food mantra:  “Tomorrow we go for manicotti or penne al pesto followed by veal.” 

        It took another day before Gregory turned Monroe upside down and got him to write a check.  I wasn’t there, but when Gregory saw me later he was in bliss.

    A week went by.  Life in North Beach was its usual: early in the morning you go to the Trieste and late at night you drink at Vesuvio’s, usually sitting around the triangular black table facing Columbus Avenue, a spot where the likes of Dylan Thomas and Jack Kerouac had held forth in earlier times.   One evening when I was sitting at the counter of Little Joe’s, an establishment where you could order a slab of roast beef like none you’d seen before or a tongue sandwich piled halfway to the ceiling, and where the waitresses were sure to be named Maria, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

   “It’s me, Monroe.”

    I turned to see him in the same polyester, nylon combination, only this time he also wore a garish jacket, a plaid one in various shades of umber.

     “Come on, sit down” I said, beckoning him to the empty seat beside me, “and try the tongue sandwich.”

    “I’m lonelier then ever before.”

    “What about your job?”

     “Lost it.  I was only the trial period from the agency.”

     For the first time I realized he had one of those sloping chins, the kind they call a weak chin and pale brown eyes and oily hair and delicate hands on an oversized body.

    “I saw Gregory, but he acted like he didn’t know me,” Monroe bemoaned.  “I thought we were friends.”

    “Gregory likes you.  He’s just erratic.”

    “Can we go out again?”

     “How much money do you have left?”

    “I’ve got a twenty, and maybe eighty more in the bank.”

    “Go home, Monroe.  You’ve got four twenties left and you know how Gregory can be.  He’d inhale your money.”

     We finished our sandwiches quietly and then walked onto the sidewalk.     

     “Where you going?” Monroe asked.

     “Just for a walk,” I responded, even though I was heading for the Caffe Trieste where Gregory and the others were sure to be hanging out.  I told Monroe to go the other way – that it was all for the better – he didn’t say anything, but I saw that he knew I was right, and then we shook hands.

    Half a year later he showed up on Broadway in the same polyester as when I’d first met him, only this time the pants were filthy.  The bright red cloth had been muted by soot and his nylon shirt was torn and his jacket had no buttons and his oily hair was askew and ever more oily.  Gregory was back in Manhattan then, giving a reading and cavorting with famous friends and adoring women.  “Poor Monroe,” I told myself.  “Maybe I should give him a twenty.”  I wanted to, but I knew it would be wasted.  He paraded past me with hollow eyes and turned up Romolo Alley.

GORDON BALL

                                              Photo by Gordon Ball.  Copyrights © Courtesy by Gordon Ball.

I was up from Carolina in the fall of 1973, working on Allen Verbatim with Allen one afternoon when Gregory dropped by.  We went for a walk, here on Avenue C, near Allen Ginsbergs’s East Tenth Street apartment.

CATFISH McDARIS

I never met Greg. I spoke with Ray Bremser & Janine Pommy Vega about Corso & they both told me he was super smart. Maybe the smartest of all the Beatniks. I think maybe he might've been like Jack Micheline, a bit.

TISA WALDEN

Corso was very funny. A BIG spirit, charismatic:

went with he and my best friend poet/publisher
Kaye McDonough when she was pregnant with
his fourth and her first child (Nile Corso) to a
place in the North Bay somewhere called the
Isis Oasis (I swear!!) for Christmas Eve with
Marty Matz (dope shooting with Gregory) and
couple of other folks . . .I remember Gregory
bursting into my room in the middle of the
night with a flashlight; riffling through my
in the darknes saying with animation and
fear that he'd had a dream "of a man's
headrolling down the hall"
Here's a joke Gregory Corso told me way back 'bout 1980 or so:
 "To Do is to Be"
                          -- Descartes
         "To Be is to Do"
                                -- Sartre
          "Do Be Do Be Do"
                                -- Sinatra
 

DAVID AMRAM

This March 26th, we can all have a sip of Chianti red wine and give a toast to this incredible poet and his family.

                                Some thoughts for Gregory Corso on his 83rd Birthday

Courtesy of Paradigm Publishers for forthcoming book "David Amram: The Next 80 Years" Copyrights © 2013 by David Amram

 

When I first met Gregory Corso in 1956, Jack Kerouac and I were already performing  together at bring-your-own-bottle parties in lower Manhattan.

Allen Ginsberg, whom I met in 1955, when I was playing with Charles Mingus, had often talked to me about Gregory. "He is the poet you have to read,David" Allen said to me. "I like his work even more than my own"

I hadn't read much of Allen's poetry, but I admired his devotion to Gregory's work, just  as many of us today appreciate Allen's tireless  efforts to get Jack Kerouac's poetic prose novels published. This wasn't easy over sixty years ago but Allen was always there on behalf of anyone whose work he admired.

When I met Gregory, he Jack, Allen and I had a great time hanging out and talking for hours to one another about all the things we hoped to do, especially the ones that we were told were impossible. And Gregory always made it clear that anything was possible that he decided was worthwhile doing.

It was always a treat to be with Gregory, because like Jack, he was always comfortable in the milieu of the early 1950's informal community of poets, painters, authors, bartenders, waiters and waitresses, moving men, checker and chess virtuosos,theater people, dancers and even budding classical composers and working jazz musicians like myself. Just as Jack was at home at any late night/early morning jam session, Gregory was always respectful of (and therefor respected by) the musicians who created spontaneous and sophisticated improvisations that soared beyond the restrictions of a conformist society which we felt considered all of us to be schizophrenic nut-cases and terminal losers.

We all felt a common bond with Gregory's boundless energy, outrageous individualism, and his ability to laugh when confronted by overly cerebral intellectuals who felt that all creative people in America should act like morticians. When I first heard Gregory read his poetry and began reading it on the manuscripts he occasionally gave me, like his 1957 "Thanksgiving", (which he signed to me, and which I will always treasure) I knew I had a kindred spirit. Like Kerouac, Gregory saw the beauty and poetic facets of everyday life, which most of America ignored.

Corso's Thanksgiving poem Song of the Feast, which he gave to Amram in 1958 © David Amram

Tiny fragments of conversations, whispered secrets, broken promises, and soaring flights of his own imagination inspired Gregory to create a body of work which today shines brighter than ever, as clear and pure and as full of surprises as the classic jazz solos that enriched the lives of all of us who were lucky enough to be there at the moment of their inception, or which were captured on recordings.

Fortunately today, you didn't have to have been there to see or hear Gregory in action. While he was a spell-binding speaker and charismatic reader, he wrote his poems down on paper.  So like the improvised solos that were recorded by the jazz masters, Gregory's poems are preserved and when you read them, they stand the test of time, remaining as fresh today to the reader as they were the day that they were created.

When Gregory was reading them for an audience, he was often so outrageous that the audience forgot to pay attention to his poetry. This was basically because he never wanted to be a performer.  He often told me "You can wear people out reading your poetry. It's a ten minute shot. Get on and get off. Once the poem is written, I'm done with it."

Like Kerouac, Gregory never sought the limelight. He wanted people to read his work. When he was alone in a room with you, he was a spellbinding reader of his poetry. But he was never comfortable in the role of being a performer. His real life-crazed antics exceeded any insult comic's most cherished routines. But he was just being himself at the moment, not following a planned routine.

In 1959, we appeared together in the Film "Pull my Daisy." I played Mezz McGillicuddy, the deranged french hornist and Gregory played himself, giving a bravura performance as the deranged sidekick of the even more deranged Allen Ginsberg. Gregory's unscripted antics and spontaneous raps kept the entire cast (as well as the constant stream of visitors who wandered in and out while we were filming) screaming with laughter for the three weeks we were together, trashing Alfred Leslie's studio.

Alfred Leslie, the film's director, was like a great hostage negotiator, trying patiently to get Gregory to follow his directions. Fortunately, it was a silent film, with Kerouac's narration and my music added later, so no one ever got to hear Gregory's screaming at all of us as well as at the people passing by on the street below, when he invited startled pedestrians  to come up to the second floor and see him, the matinee idol known as Fabian Fongool, the greatest lady killer since Rudolph Valentino.

Somehow, Robert Frank managed to film all of the scenes in which Gregory appeared without shaking his camera on its fragile wooden tripod, even when Robert was laughing so hard that tears rolled down his cheeks.

Unfortunately, there was no recording ever made of Gregory's endless stream of insults, jokes and  seethingly accurate criticisms of our non-performances.

Fifty four years later, Gregory's own admitted non-performance in "Pull my Daisy" still has a resonance as the antics of a crazed poet and visionary. Gregory knew that he didn't have to act.

He was just being his irrepressible self. I still have the picture from a scene which was fortunately cut from the film, where I was dressed up in a cowboy outfit, and Gregory and Alfred Leslie are both looking like dapper young actors in search of a script.

As the years went by, no matter how tough the times were, Gregory continued to create gems, drawn from his life experience and his endless imagination. In November of 1965, I bumped into Gregory,Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky in San Francisco. where I was attending rehearsals of "Let Us Remember", a cantata Ihad written with poet Langston Hughes, which was receiving its world premiere at the San Francisco Opera House.

"I loved the piece" said Gregory, after the performance was over. "You could understand every word of Langston's poetry, the way you set it for the solo singers, the chorus and the orchestra. But this social scene in the opera house is a drag. I borrowed this dumb jacket and tie but I feel like I'm suffocating. Why do we have to wear a costume to go hear classical music? It's a beautiful work you wrote, man, but get rid of that white tie and tails you're wearing. You look like an out-of-work doorman or Count Dracula about to jump out of his coffin.You look like a penguin!"

After Jack died in 1969, we all felt a loss in our lives that we knew would always be there. But we knew that we all had to continue to do what we felt we were put here to do. And all of us kept in touch. We didn't consider ourselves to be charter members of the Beat Generation. We were friends for life and stayed that way.

In the 70s and 80s, Gregory always scraped up an old doll or a flower as a celebratory gift for each of my kids when they were born, and I always tried to do the same for his growing family . And even though he was sometimes barely hanging on, with kids of his own to take care of, he kept writing, and  his work was becoming better known worldwide.

In the 90s, the renewed interest in Kerouac's work by a generation of young people numbed out by the corporate style of unentertaining entertainment began to discover Gregory's work, finding his poems to be a shining light in a creative era that was being rediscovered.

Just as his fellow poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bob Creeley, Gary Snyder, Bob Kauffman, Philip Lamantia, Howard Hart, Ted Joans, Phil Whelan, Michael McClure, Amiri Baraka, novelist Joyce Johnson and a host of other artists of all genres of our era, Gregory followed his own path and never gave up, sold out, tried to be fashionable, or forgot who he was and what he wanted to express.

We managed to stay in touch until his last days with his daughter Sheri, when he left New York to be with her in Minnesota. When I visited him for the last time in Greenwich Village when he was bed-ridden and brought my kids, he was still as much fun as always. And when Patti Smith and I were invited by his family to perform at his memorial service at the church where he went a s child, I expected during the service to hear his braying voice shout out some choice insults, telling us all to knock it off and lighten up.

Today, when young musicians, poets, painters, actors, dancers and people from all walks of life who love his work come up to me and say how much they feel his spirit by reading his poetry, it is always a special treat to share their appreciation.

In a world of high-tec shlock, reality tv  and instant trash, it more than ever a joy to bask in the shining sunlight of Gregory's work. He had a voice of his own,and it still rings clear and true today.

As his fellow poet Keats said long ago "A thing of beauty is a joy forever"

Happy birthday Gregory.

David Amram

Putnam Valley NY

March 2013

Photo © by John Cohen, David Amram (cowboy), Gregory Corso, and Alfred Leslie, from Robert Frank's Pull My Daisy, narrated by Jack Kerouac.

YANNIS LIVADAS

Corso, a divine

When I was twenty years old I had a chance to meet him in Italy; but travel plans lead me elsewhere. The opportunity to contact him was lost forever.

However, I read him extensively and translated his work; because above all Corso was the greatest poet of the, so called, Beat generation, second to Jack Kerouac. He was the ultimate journalist of life’s weirdness and peculiarity. He was a classic; in terms of power and spirit.

Corso was a modern Milton, a transcendental clown of the twentieth century. Also, a master puppet of words, of style. He remains unexploited.

Gregory Corso has so many admirers, yet has not so many readers. One might say that he gave more than he received, but this is not true. He accepted everything and transformed everything. For a demon like him, a load of words is milk and water; it is better to stay silent: he is still among us, he continues.

GEORGE NICHOLAS  KOUMANTZELIS

I have a whole cassette tape of his performance when he came to Lowell one year - but God knows what box I put it in.... I met Gregory Corso at the Smith Baker Center in Lowell. I have fond memories of him. He appeared to have been drinking - but he was quite lucid, and passionate, especially during our small group conversation with him in the hall after his reading from the stage ended. ... Of all of the Beats, he and Burroughs most impressed my Uncle Billy Koumantzelis.

GERALD NICOSIA

I remember how, in North Beach one evening, Gregory Corso had no money (as usual) and asked me to take him to dinner.  We went to Little Joe’s on Broadway, and Corso was riotously funny, as he always was.  He brought his own golden tequila into the restaurant, and the waitress tried to take it away from me.  “You can’t bring your own alcohol into the restaurant!” she admonished him.  “This isn’t alcohol, its ichor!” Gregory replied, and kept drinking.  After dinner, he told me, “I’ll stay with you all night, and keep teaching you things, as long as you keep paying the bills.”  So we spent several hours together, one of the greatest times I ever had, as Corso gave me his impression and wisdom about everyone and every place we went, and told me a nonstop stream of colorful stories from his life.  Then, when I had paid for the last drink, and my pocket was empty, maybe about two in the morning, Gregory said, “Okay, I gotta go now!”  and he left!  This was in about 1980.  I was only 30 years old, but in one night I had learned more about people and life than I had learned in many years before. 

... continued ... chick here for part 2 of Tribute to Gregory Corso

© Elliot Rudie's drawing of the Beat Hotel - Allen and Gregory as Poetus Magnus

© Michael Limnios 2013 , ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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