Category Archives: Gregory Corso

>Not Forgetting Gregory Corso

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[Gregory Corso, Tangier, June 1961. photo c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]


Yesterday’s posting of a reading by the young John Wieners from the San Francisco Poetry Center Archives (The Poetry Center Digital Archive) inspires us to post another from the same source – Gregory Corso – a relatively subdued Gregory Corso, it has to be said, but then he’s only 26, it’s 1956, the world is still about to open, he’s yet to publish his ground-breaking City Lights book, Gasoline. He has published his first book, The Vestal Lady on Brattle (1955), where several of the poems he reads on this occasion have just recently appeared. The highlight of this reading (the”message poem”, “it’s actually a message poem, but it gets straightened out”, Gregory declares), is the 12-minute meditation/invocation/litany/observation “Power”. Among the other poems he reads are such classics as “Greenwich Village Suicide”, “Coney Island”, “Sea Chanty”, “Mad Yak”, “Vision Epizootic”, “In the Early Morning”, and his elegy, “Requiem for (Charlie) “Bird” Parker” (“I hate to write any kind of requiems or any kind of elegy because it’s phony, but this one’s not phony and it’s true and I’m sure that he would have liked it”).
Two decades on (June 5, 1975) and Gregory’s at the recently-established NAROPA, conducting a class, substituting for Allen. “Ask me anything”, he invites his students, “I know all there is to know because there ain’t that much to know”. He begins with “three shots” – Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Missing Link, and…Assholes! This recording consists of an amalgam of two classes. As the Internet Archive note alongside the recording explains: “Corso holds the class(es) in a “Socratic” format, allowing the students to ask him questions about anything they wish. He describes his process of shaping and editing a poem..(he) also talks about his family and relations with members of the Beat generation”.
The Internet Archive also contains other Corso NAROPA audio, from ’77, from ’81 (we’ll be getting back to all that in the months to come).
There’s also great Gregory participation in the following: a (1997) KCRW memorial recording for Allen, lovingly produced and presented by Liza Richardson. From the program notes: “This show features a conversation between Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Together they philosophize about the nature of life, death, beauty and poetry..”). Gregory remains a one-of-a-kind, unforgotten.

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Liza Richardson

>Beat Treasures 3

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(update May 4: We’ve contacted the SSC Archives admin and are told things should be back up shortly. They’ve gone through a website revamp and obviously have some kinks to sort out. )

(Note: We’ve been unable to load any of the links from the SSC Archives site, even with the latest real audio player installed, but thought we’d post this per chance someone out there is able to, and could clue everyone else into how to. Not having any luck reaching SSC Archives either)

Following the extraordinary material announced here and here, here’s another archive of “Beat treasures”. An “online exhibit”, featuring material from the April 1973 (Jack) Kerouac Symposium at Salem State College. In short video clips, Allen “describes his feelings upon seeing Kerouac in his coffin”’; “discusses his interview in Gay Sunshine magazine in which he revealed his homosexual encounters with Kerouac”; “discusses a section from On The Road”; “discusses Kerouac’s last meeting with Neal Cassady in June of 1964 in New York City”; and, (with Andrew Latham and Gregory Corso), “discuss(es) “the legend of Kerouac’s “teletype” writing technique”. There is also audio of Allen reading “Memory Gardens”, “Dream Record, June 9, 1955” and Kerouac’s “Scripture of The Golden Eternity (number 64)”. Gregory Corso is also included, reading his poem, “The Mad Yak”.

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Andrew Latham, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac

>Ginsberg and Shakespeare

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Today is William Shakespeare’s birthday.


Allen particularly liked that line, and the whole “Song” (from Love’s Labors Lost (1598)),
he taught it on several occasions. A recording of his January 1980 class in “Basic Poetics”, at NAROPA has him reading the poem and remarking on it (the reading and commentary take place about four minutes in).
In July 1984, he came back to it in his class, situating it, as he had before, in the context of his Mind Writing Slogans, accuracy, precision (the reading of the poem, on this occasion, occurs about fourteen minutes in).
(There’s also an earlier attempt in a 1975 class (on Shakespeare and Ben Jonson), which unfortunately gets hi-jacked by the antics of a rambunctious Gregory Corso),
tho’ Ginsberg makes unequivocal comparisons between Corso and Shakespeare here, (focusing on the qualities of the clown – and, “Certain aspects of Corso have a Shakespearean accuracy and propriety..”)

Allen also admired the companion-piece, in Love’s Labor Lost, “Spring“.

Two other Ginsberg-Shakespeare fusions. His March 1980 “Basic Poetics” class addresses in detail Shakespeare’s Sonnets, giving them a singularly queer reading (Sonnet 20, Allen points out to be the lynch-pin of the whole book – “A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand-painted/Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion”)

And his reverence for Shakespeare’s great last play, The Tempest. In August, 1980, he conducted a class on that, paging through the text, not intending to be comprehensive but focusing rather, on, as he put it “little high-spots, little delicacies of language”.

He also admired the soliloquies and dramatic verse. In March 1980 he had his student’s think more about Prospero’s last lines, immortal last lines (about the transience of mortality):

“These our actors,/As I foretold you, were all spirits and/Are melted into air, into thin air:/And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,/The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,/The solemn temples, the great globe itself,/Ye,all which it inherit, shall dissolve/And like this insubstantial pageant faded,/ Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff/As dreams are made on and our little life/ Is rounded with a sleep”.

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, William Shakespeare

>Fridays Weekly Round-Up 22

>Patrick Fischler.jpg

[Patrick Fischler – the next Irwin Garden/Allen Ginsberg?]

Those Beat movies just keep on coming. Last week, we mentioned the film adaptation of The Beat Hotel. This week the hot news is that Kerouac’s Big Sur is being adapted as a movie. Not that it hasn’t already been. Curt Worden’s 2008 documentary, One Fast Move or I’m Gone covers pretty much the same territory. Joseph Jon Lanthier’s review of that movie, for Slant magazine, can be found here.

But this is adaptation, not documentation, so we’re talking On The Road 2 here! Jean-Marc Barr has been cast as Kerouac (Jack Duluoz); Josh Lucas, Cody Pomeray/Neil Cassady – the obvious question, who’s gonna play Irwin Garden (a.k.a. Allen)? Right now, the actor Anthony Edwards (who’s certainly in the cast) is whispered to be taking that part – but, no, he’ll be playing Lorenzo Monsanto (Lawrence Ferlinghetti), it turns out – and Balthazar Getty plays Michael McClure. Actor, Patrick Fischler is the latest to now be rumored to have the part (but) no confirmation at the time of writing,

Allen encounters? We’ll continue to be featuring them. This one by Sam Hamod, a lively account for Contemporary World Poetry, of an Iowa pig roast (yes, you heard that right!) makes for occasionally excruciating reading. As does, in a different way, Ed Ward’s account of William Burroughs Jr (specifically about him and only tangentially about Allen, but well-written, and worthy, we think, to be included here).

Two other interesting (well-researched) accounts of so-called “marginal Beat figures” – Al Filreis in the new Jacket2 writes about Elise Cowan – and Keith Seward tracks down/uncoversthe curious story of Jacques Stern (Stewart Mayer’s memoir, in the same forum, is also well worth consulting, alongside poems by Stern, an introduction by William Burroughs and thecomplete text of Stern’s novel, The Fluke).

Over at David S Wills’ Beatdom two old friends, Dmitri Mugianis, and James Rasin (who’s just- recently-completed Candy Darling doc is beginning to get wider circulation) remember Gregory Corso.

More Kerouac news – Jack Kerouac and Lowell. We remember, several years back, the fight that several local residents had in convincing the city fathers to honor its native son. That was then, this is now. Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!, the 24th (sic!) annual Kerouac Festival is scheduled for October 2011. Meantime, there’s this, the “Kerouac audio project“:”The idea is to use Kerouac – and his worldwide fame – as an entry point into the cultural and social history of Lowell at mid-century. The voices in the interviews (in this broad proposed oral history) will tell the stories, making concrete abstract topics like class, labor, race, gender, sexuality, immigration, cultural hybridity, and “the American dream”. The Kerouac audio project is part of a larger plan to further develop Lowell’s creative economy, in part around Kerouac. We want to continue to develop the city’s rich Kerouac materials and connections, using Jack as a portal into all sorts of other parts of the twentieth-century history of Lowell – one of the most interesting cities in all the United States of America”.

Last week, we asked what you might be up to for June 3rd, (Allen’s 85th birthday); well, plenty of New Yorkers know exactly what they‘ll be up to. The East Village’s annual Howl! Festival is scheduled to coincide this year with that date. Preparations are already being made. Poet,C.A.Conrad, has launched a special Allen Ginsberg edition of his video-blog, Jupiter 88 – “Poets are invited to share the importance of Ginsberg’s poetics and activism that continues to CHANGE THE WORLD!’. Many more voices to come, but, first up, Maryland-based poet, and director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House, Mark Novak : “..Allen really taught me that poetry is a great device for political protest..and I think in this age and this era of what we see happening in Wisconsin, what we see happening to working people in Ohio, with labor educators in Michigan, and public sector workers all around the country, that the message of Ginsberg and the message of poets to be political and speak out, is probably more important than ever”.

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Filed under Al Filreis, Big Sur, Dmitri Mugianis, Elise Cowan, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, Jacques Stern, James Rasin, One Fast Move or I'm Gone, Patrick Fischler, Sam Hamod, William Burroughs Jr. Mark Novak

>Beat Treasure – UND Writers Conference 1974

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North Dakota
[The City Lights in North Dakota Conference, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, sponsored by the UND English Department, was the first of many beat related conferences recognizing the cultural importance of the beats. Clockwise from top left: Gregory Corso, Miriam Patchen, Kenneth Rexroth, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Peter Orlovsky (cut in half!), Gary Snyder, Janie McClure, Shig Murao, Curator (name unknown), Joanne McClure. March 18, 1974. Allen Ginsberg Collection. Photographer unknown]

A veritable trove of archival material has just been put on line by the University of North Dakota’s Chester Fritz Library – six (now digitalized) tapes pertaining to the March 1974 5th Annual UND Writer’s Conference, featuring Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Kenneth Rexroth (and Miriam Patchen reading the poetry of her late husband, Kenneth Patchen). The technology back then was, it has to be said, pretty crude (now giving it, maybe, a kind of kitschy charm?). Minimal production values notwithstanding, the rebelliousness of the occasion (the Beats in North Dakota!) and the sheer verve and intelligence of the participants, comes barralling through.


The first tape is of Ginsberg-Orlovsky’s reading/performance and a remarkable one it is,
consisting, to a large degree of him chanting “the Tibetan mantra for purification of speech and for appreciation of limitless spacelessness” – AH! – a moving meditation in three chords – He does read poems, “Returning to the Country for a Brief Visit”, “Mind Breaths”, “Flying Elegy” (a significantly longer version here on this tape), “Truth Wheel Bone Rap” (an improvised piece, one of several improvisations). Following an initial mantra chant, Allen sings Blake’s
Spring (“merrily, merrily, we welcome in the year”) and improvises. “We welcome the apocalypse/We welcome the end of the earth/We welcome (a) new birth..”

The other tapes are no less revelationary – four consecutive evenings of “Open Microphone” sessions. On the Tuesday, the entire company, sans Rexroth and Patchen, “discuss various topics”, “including censorship, the military-industrial complex, Limits to Growth by Donella H Meadows, environmental issues, farming, the history of City Lights Bookstore, Robert Bly, Robert Graves, among many other (thing)s” (to quote from the description in the archives).
Wednesday, Miriam Patchen reads her husband’s work. “In addition Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Rexroth and Michael McClure discuss energy conservation”. Thursday’s is a particularly good one, kick-started by an ever-irascible Gregory Corso,”Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, Kenneth Rexroth and Lawrence Ferlinghetti discuss various topics including drug use for mind expansion, women poets, jazz and writing habits..”. Friday, they discuss “various topics”, “including subsistence farming, agri-business, environmental issues, the drug trade and its political impact, as well as strip-mining, particularly in reference to western North Dakota.
In addition, Lawrence Ferlinghetti reads Pablo (Neruda?) in Spanish”.

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Peter Orlovsky, UND

>New York, 1967, What Was Happening?

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[What’s Happening? (1967) from Django’s Ghost on Vimeo].

“The prophecies of Marinetti are coming true some of them, the wilder, more poetic ones”, so, gleefully, declares Allen in this quintessentially 1967 documentary film by Antonello Branca, What’s Happening? What, indeed, is happening? Poets and painters and a brash New York City just for that moment in time and space come together. Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg candidly speak (Andy speaks!). Allen appears first (around six and a half minutes in) being interviewed as he walks along the street and then (circa 3o minutes in) is seen holding forth at a street cafe. Gregory Corso makes a cameo appearance right at the very end (with a baby!). He gets the punch line. “War makes people crazy”.

“We have all come here together. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, poet Gerard Malanga, over here, if you move your camera, poet Ed Sanders of a rock n roll group called The Fugs [unfortunately mis-translated on the screen by the Italian translator as The Fags!]..over (t)here, Tuli Kuperfberg, a poet and singer in The Fugs, over there, writing at the table. Peter Orlovsky with the long hair, who is a poet and also a singer, behind him, his brother, who was in a madhouse for 14 years. He’s a superstar of the Underground. Oh, and Jonas Mekas, Jonas Mekas, head of the Filmmakers Cooperative. He’s the one who puts together films like Flaming Creatures and The Brig and sends them around Europe and in America, the impresario. He also makes films, which he’s doing now.”

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Antonello Branca, Ed Sanders, Gerard Malanga, Gregory Corso, Jonas Mekas, Peter Orlovsky, The Fugs, The Velvet Underground, Tuli Kupferberg

>Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 20

>Morningside Heights 1944
[Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, Morningside Heights, New York City. Photograph possibly snapped by Joan Burroughs, winter 1944-45 c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]


Love Always, Carolyn, Swedish film makers, Maria Ramstrom and Malin Korkeasalo’s full-length documentary feature on Carolyn Cassady, premieres in New York at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 23.

The Whole Shot: Collected Interviews with Gregory Corso continues to add to its trove of treasures. “This will be”, the publishers point out, “the first time that several interviews with the late Beat poet will be available in one printed volume. Similar works have been published for the other three members of the (Beat) “inner circle”: Empty Phantoms:Interviews and Encounters with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg: Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958-1996, and Burroughs Live: The Collected Interviews of William S Burroughs 1960-1997” – but, so far, no Gregory.. Come on, let’s get that remedied!

Who knew Hollywood actor and director Tim Robbins had a childhood walk in the Village with Allen?

The Allen Ginsberg Project salutes our good friend, David Cope. Congratulations on being made Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids!

Tomorrow (April 9) in Columbia City Seattle, the “Annual Allen Ginsberg Memorial Open Mic Poetry Marathon” takes place again “featuring music from Band of Poets and Quixote Radio, readings from the work of Allen Ginsberg, open mic and much more”. Might this be a “Ginsberg turn on”?

Did we mention Oliver Harris’ recent lecture at Columbia on “The Beats, The French , and The American Century“? No we didn’t and we should have done. On this occasion, he floated the idea that quite possibly it was Joan Vollmer who took the photograph above, hitherto listed as ‘unknown’ from ‘Ginsberg Collection.’


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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Carolyn Cassady, David Cope, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, Malin Korkeasolo, Maria Ramstrom, Oliver Harris William S Burroughs