A zinging, furious output of epistles…

Kirkus Reviews

Gregory Corso

Gregory Corso (1930–2001) was abandoned by his mother a month after his birth at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York. Growing up in foster care and on the streets of Little Italy, Corso was a juvenile delinquent who spent time in Clinton Correctional Facility, in the cell recently vacated by gangster “Lucky” Luciano. An aspiring poet, Corso was taken under the wing of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and became the youngest member of the Beat Generation’s inner circle, with whom he lived and work in the Beat Hotel, a lodging house in Paris, during the late fifties. There he created one of his signature works, “Bomb”, a poem composed of typewritten strips of paper arranged in the shape of a mushroom cloud. Late in life, Corso became reunited with his mother and maintained a close relationship with her until his death.

cover image of the book An Accidental Autobiography

An Accidental Autobiography

by Gregory Corso

With a contribution by Patti Smith

For all his charm and intelligence poet Gregory Corso lived a vagabond life. He never held down a regular job. Until his final years, he rarely stayed very long under the same roof. He spent long stretches––some as long as four or five years––abroad. Many of his letters came from Europe––France, England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Greece––as he kept in touch with his circle of friends––among them his best friends Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He left (or was left by) a number of girlfriends and he gathered five children along the way. He was apt to raise a bit of a ruckus at poetry readings and other public events. No one could be sure what he might do next except that he would write poetry and get it published and that it would be widely read. When the idea of a book of selected letters was first proposed, Gregory had some reservations about it. Would the book reveal too much about his private life? But then with typical hubris he said the equivalent of “let it all hang out” and “all” does hang out in An Accidental Autobiography. The book is indeed the next thing to an unplanned self-portrait and gives a lively sense of the life Gregory Corso led, marching to his own drummer and leaving in his wake such marvelous books of Beat poetry as The Happy Birthday of Death, Elegiac Feelings American, Long Live Man, and Herald of the Autochthonic Spirit.

More Information
cover image of the book Herald Of The Autochthonic Spirit

Herald Of The Autochthonic Spirit

Gregory Corso is still kicking “the ivory applecart of tyrannical values,” heralding the wild and keenly experienced life. Since the 1950s, when with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and others, Corso electrified the literary establishment with what he describes as “spontaneous subterranean poesy of the streets,” he has fathered “three fleshed angels,” traveled through Europe and Egypt, seen the demise of several fellow “Daddies of an Age,” and now finds himself over half a century old. The lush, fervent oratory of Shelley is evident in these poems of one who may be his most ardent American heir, and the author of The Happy Birthday of Death and Elegiac Feelings American never entirely forgets that a “leaky lifeboat” is the mortal’s only home. “You’d think there would be chaos/the futility of it all/Yet children are born/oft times spitting images of us/ … and the gift keeps on coming.” Corso knows death, despair, and silence only too well, and his first major collection in eleven years is permeated with a sense of crucial choices to be made. “Columbia U Poesy Reading––1975” begins with Beat history and ends with a solitary vision of God in the form of the muse: “Seated on a cold park bench/I heard her moan: ’O Gregorio Gregorio/you’ll fail me, I know/Walking away/a little old lady behind me was singing: True! True!’/’Not so!’/ rang the spirit, ’Not so!’” In a cocky, exuberant blend of high style and down-home New Yorkese, the Herald of the Autochthonic Spirit brings more auspicious tidings.

More Information
cover image of the book Elegiac Feelings American

Elegiac Feelings American

Gregory Corso’s collection of poems, the first in eight years, contains works of major proportions. The title poem is a tribute to Jack Kerouac, fusing a memorial to the poet’s dead friend with a bitter lament for the present state of America. The second major work, “The Geometric Poem,” published previously in a limited edition by Fernanda Pivano in Italy, is a complex visionary restatement of themes from ancient Egyptian religion. Reproduced in facsimile from Corso’s handwritten sheets, his marginal decorations, drawings and glyphs are included. The balance of the book is drawn from his shorter poems. Corso’s reputation as a leading poet and co-founder of the Beat movement is clearly upheld in these poems. His instinct for integrated lyrical statement, his special contribution to Beat poetry, is as strong as ever; his sense of humor and sexuality have not diminished. But he has added a wider-ranging moral urgency and a new depth of humane solicitude that hold even his strangest visions close to the heart of contemporary feeling.

More Information
cover image of the book Long Live Man

Long Live Man

Long live Man! sings the poet Gregory Corso – despite atom bombs and computers, cold wars that get hot and togetherness that isn’t, too many cars and too little love… and in these poems he celebrates the wonders (and the laughs and griefs) of being a man alive. Whether he is musing on antic glories amid the ruins of the Acropolis or watching a New York child invent games on the city’s sidewalks, Corso is there in it, putting us into it, with the magic of vision, with the senses––awakening images, that transmute reality into something more––insights that let us share his joy and echo his shout of Long live Man!

More Information
cover image of the book The Happy Birthday Of Death

The Happy Birthday Of Death

The young poet Gregory Corso has been much publicized as one of the leading literary spokesmen for the “Beat Generation,” together with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. It is true that he has been one of the inner circle of the “Beats” from the first, but many admirers of his poetry feel that it belongs quite as much to other and older traditions in world literature. One of these is the revival of pure poetry whenever an “original”––be it Rimbaud or Whitman––has broken with current verse conventions to give free rein to the magic of language. Another is that ancient pre-occupation of poets––the sense of the immediacy of death. Like Villon or Dylan Thomas, Corso lives close to the mystery of death. It is, perhaps, his central theme, on which variations ranging from the terrible to the comic are sounded. But Corso is seldom macabre. A bursting vitality always carries him back to the sensations of the living, though always it is the reality behind the obvious which has caught his eye. “How I love to probe life,” Corso has written, “That’s what poetry is to me, a wondrous prober… It’s not the metre or measure of a line, a breath; not ‘law’ music; but the assembly of great eye sounds placed into an inspired measured idea.”

More Information

A zinging, furious output of epistles…

Kirkus Reviews

Gregory Corso’s an aphoristic poet, and a poet of ideas. What modern poets write with such terse clarity that their verses stick in the mind without effort?

Allen Ginsberg

In terms of language Corso always seems to me the most interesting of the Beats . . . extracting all the power from standard syntax and rhetoric, maintaining the Beat anti-academicism .. . . Put this together with the experimentalism and relevance of the Beat outlook, and you have poetry that not only shares our experience but creates it.

Hayden Carruth
Scroll to Top of Page