Gregory Corso, 1930-2001
by Robert Creeley

Gregory Corso died last night (January 17), happily in his sleep in Minnesota. He had been ill for much of the past year but had recovered from time to time, saying that he'd got to the classic river but lacked the coin for Charon to carry him over. So he just dipped his toes in the water.

In this time his daughter Sherry, a nurse, had been a godsend to him, securing him, steadying the ambiance, just minding the store with great love and clarity. He thought she should get Nurse of the Year recognition at the very least.

There's no simple generalization to make of Gregory's life or poetry. There are all too many ways to displace the extraordinary presence and authority he was fact of. Last time we talked, he made the useful point that only a poet could say he or she was a poet -- only they knew. Whereas a philosopher, for instance, needed some other to say that that was what he or she was -- un(e) philosophe! -- poets themselves had to recognize and initiate their own condition.

There are several quick websites that help recall him now. One gives a brief biography and discussion of a few of his poems:

Another, more usefully affectionate, is taken from Ed Sanders' The Woodstock Journal. It was Lawrence Ferlinghetti who had suggested last summer that a spate of respects might help cheer Gregory in his illness -- and that they were certainly well merited:

A third, which includes some previously noted, is The Museum of American Poetics. There's a 'streamable' video available there of Gregory reading at Naropa , if you can get the sound clearly:

Lots of us propose to be poets but who finally stakes all, or just takes all, as being that way? In my life time only Robert Duncan could be his equal in this way. It was honor indeed to have had his company.

-- RC, Buffalo, January 18, 2001

See also: "Gregory Corso, a Candid-Voiced Beat Poet, Dies at 70" (New York Times)

The Whole Mess ... Almost

I ran up six flights of stairs
to my small furnished room
opened the window
and began throwing out
those things most important in life

First to go, Truth, squealing like a fink:
"Don't! I'll tell awful things about you!"
"Oh yeah? Well, I've nothing to hide ... OUT!"
Then went God, glowering & whimpering in amazement:
"It's not my fault! I'm not the cause of it all!" "OUT!"
Then Love, cooing bribes: "You'll never know impotency!
All the girls on Vogue covers, all yours!"
I pushed her fat ass out and screamed:
"You always end up a bummer!"
I picked up Faith Hope Charity
all three clinging together:
"Without us you'll surely die!"
"With you I'm going nuts! Goodbye!"

Then Beauty ... ah, Beauty --
As I led her to the window
I told her: "You I loved best in life
... but you're a killer; Beauty kills!"
Not really meaning to drop her
I immediately ran downstairs
getting there just in time to catch her
"You saved me!" she cried
I put her down and told her: "Move on."

Went back up those six flights
went to the money
there was no money to throw out.
The only thing left in the room was Death
hiding beneath the kitchen sink:
"I'm not real!" It cried
"I'm just a rumor spread by life ..."
Laughing I threw it out, kitchen sink and all
and suddenly realized Humor
was all that was left --
All I could do with Humor was to say:
"Out the window with the window!"

Just an additional note with respect to Gregory Corso's sad death:

"A wake here in NYC Tuesday aft & eve (January 23rd) on Bleeker Street, directly across from the house where he was born. Italian gov't gave permission for his ashes to be interred in the English cemetery in Rome with Shelley."

-- RC