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Gregory Corso:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Corso, Gregory, 1930-
Title: Gregory Corso Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1890-1978,
Extent: 10 boxes (4.17 linear feet), 1 galley folder, 2 oversize folders, 4 cassette tapes
Abstract: The collection consists of Corso's holograph and typescript poems, untitled works, essays, and reviews, working notebooks containing drafts of poems, prose works and sketches, and correspondence. Poems of particular interest include sections of The Geometric Poem, a proof copy of Selected Poems, and two versions of Way-Out: A Poem in Discord. Correspondence includes letters from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and Peter Orlovsky.
RLIN Record #: TXRC00-A15
Access:

Advance appointment required to use audio materials and to view items in the Art Collection.




URL:

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/hrc/fa/corso.hp.html

Acquisition:

Purchases, 1964-1982 (R2079, R2209, R4193, R7954, R7998, R8225, R9722)

Processed by:

Chelsea S. Dinsmore, 2000

Repository:

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin


Gregory Corso, 1930-, one of the original Beat poets, was born to Italian parents in Greenwich Village. His mother returned to Italy shortly after his birth, and he spent his first thirteen years living in various orphanages, foster homes, and reform schools. At thirteen he began living on the streets, sleeping in subway stations, and resorting to petty thievery to eat. At sixteen he participated in an organized robbery which netted $21,000, was caught, and sentenced to three years in Clinton State Prison.

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. It was in the prison library that he discovered Shelley and developed a life-long enthusiasm for the poet. It was during these years in prison that he began to write.

Released from prison in 1950, Corso met Allen Ginsberg in the Pony Stable, a Greenwich Village bar. Ginsberg took an interest in Corso's poetry and introduced him to Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs. Over the next several years Corso eked out a living doing manual labor and other marginal jobs. During 1954-55 he sat in on classes at Harvard where his one-act farce In This Hung-Up Age was performed, and his first volume of poetry, The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems (1955), was privately published. In 1956 he moved to the West Coast following Ginsberg and Kerouac. He met Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg's publisher, who published a volume of Corso's poems, Gasoline, in 1958. Corso also joined Ginsberg in literary events where Ginsberg preformed his long poem Howl. In 1957 he joined fellow Beats Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Peter Orlovsky on a trip to Tangier to visit William Burroughs.

Over the next five years Corso traveled throughout Europe, returning occasionally to the United States for poetry readings. He supported himself with royalty and advance checks and loans from friends. His anxious moments at the American Express offices, waiting for checks, provided material for his only novel, American Express (1961).

Since 1961 he has alternated residences between New York City and the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. During his stays in New York he has taught occasionally at the State University of New York, Buffalo.


Dictionary of Literary Biography -- Volume 16: The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America. Ann Charters, Ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983).

Watson, Steven. The Birth of the Beat Generation: Visionaries, Rebels, and Hipsters, 1944-1960. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1995).


Holograph and typescript poems and working notebooks make up the bulk of the Gregory Corso Collection, 1890-1978 (bulk 1950-1976), supplemented by prose works and correspondence. The collection is organized into three series, arranged alphabetically by author or title and chronologically where possible: Series I. Works, 1950-1975 (8 boxes); Series II. Correspondence, 1954-1976 (1.5 boxes); and Series III. Third-party Works and Correspondence, 1890-1968 (.5 box). This collection was previously accessible through a card catalog, but has been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.

The Works Series is divided into four subseries: A. Poetry, 1950-1975 (4 boxes); B. Other Works, 1952-1978, (1 box); C. Notebooks, 1957-1973 (3 boxes); and D. Personal Papers, 1964-1965 (1 folder). The poetry section contains hundreds of Corso's poems, many untitled and most undated. Of particular interest are sections of The Geometric Poem, a proof copy of Selected Poems, and two versions of Way-Out: A Poem in Discord. The other works section includes a quantity of fragments and untitled pieces of works, essays, and reviews in addition to partial versions and fragments of The Computer and the Centaur and J.F.K.: A Little Verse Play. The notebooks section contains 32 notebooks in which Corso wrote down thoughts and ideas. They contain numerous drafts of poems and prose works as well as ink and pencil sketches. The personal papers section has a few items including an address book and a tax statement. Titles and first lines of untitled poems, including those in the notebooks, are listed in the Index of Works at the end of this guide.

The Correspondence Series includes a few letters by Corso but is composed primarily of letters he received. Of particular note are letters from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, New Directions (publishers), and Peter Orlovsky. Individual correspondents are listed in the Index of Correspondents at the end of this guide.

The Third-party Works and Correspondence Series is made up of a few works by other authors including a partial stage adaptation of Corso's American Express and two poems by Allen Ginsberg, and letters between friends and associates of Corso, many concerning Corso. There is also an 1890 letter from the Russian American National League to a Mrs. G.A. Frost. Individual correspondents are included in the Index of Correspondents.

Located elsewhere in the Ransom Center are 123 ink, crayon, and watercolor images created by Corso. A number of the pictures are in two sketchbooks and the subjects of the works include self portraits, landscapes, human figures, nature, animals, and street scenes. Most of the images in the drawings are abstract; some are illustrations for Earth Egg, a poem by Corso. Also located in the Art Collection are several caricatures of Corso and other Beat poets by several artists. There is also a proof sheet of Corso in twelve poses located in the Literary Files of the Photography Collection.

Other materials associated with Gregory Corso may be found in the following collections at the Ransom Center:

  • Cassady, Neal
  • Ford, Charles Henri
  • Genesis West
  • Ginsberg, Allen
  • Lehmann, John
  • New Departures
  • Paterson Society


People

Burroughs, William S., 1914-

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence

Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-

Orlovsky, Peter, 1933-

Organizations

New Directions

Subjects

American poetry -- 20th century

Beat generation

Document Types

Galley proofs

Sound recordings