Gregory Corso

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Although Gregory Corso published mainly poetry, he also wrote a short play, In This Hung-up Age, produced at Harvard University in 1955; a novel, The American Express (1961); and two film scripts: Happy Death, with Jay Socin, produced in New York in 1965, and That Little Black Door on the Left, included in a group of screenplays entitled Pardon Me, Sir, But Is My Eye Hurting Your Elbow? (1968). He also wrote, with Anselm Hollo and Tom Raworth, a series of parodies, The Minicab War, published in London by the Matrix Press in 1961.


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Perhaps Gregory Corso’s greatest contribution to the Beat movement specifically and American poetry generally lies in his role as a literary paradigm for the “New Bohemianism” that appeared in the United States after World War II and through the 1950’s. Although Corso never went beyond elementary school, he gained a reputation as one of the most talented of the Beat poets, a “poet’s poet,” a sort of enfant terrible of the Beats. He received teaching appointments on the basis of his reputation as a major figure in the Beat movement. He was awarded the Longview Foundation Award in 1959 for his poem “Marriage,” the Poetry Foundation Award, and the Jean Stein Award in Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1986.


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Cook, Bruce. “An Urchin Shelley.” In The Beat Generation. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971. Cook discusses the lives and works of key figures of the Beat generation. Corso, in a 1974 interview, charged Cook with lying about him in an interview that he conducted.

Corso, Gregory. An Accidental Autobiography: The Selected Letters of Gregory Corso. Edited by Bill Morgan. New York: New Directions, 2003. A collection that concentrates on Corso’s critical years of 1962 to 1967.

Gifford, Barry, and Lawrence Lee. Jack’s Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1978. An extensive biography of Jack Kerouac and his relationships with others of the Beat generation, including Corso. Under the influence of Kerouac, Corso put words together in an extremely abstract, apparently accidental manner. According to Corso, Kerouac was a “strong, beautiful man.”

Hamilton, Ian. Against Oblivion: Some Lives of the Twentieth-Century Poets. London: Viking, 2002. Contains a chapter on Corso, examining his life and works.

Knight, Arthur, and Kit Knight, eds. The Beat Vision: A Primary Sourcebook. New York: Paragon House, 1987. This fascinating collection includes an interview with Corso as well as a letter from Corso to Gary Snyder. The book includes vintage photographs, critical discussion of the Beat poets’ place in American literature, and the impact of their controversial ideas in shaping and defining American society.

Masheck, Joseph, ed. Beat Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977. Some of Corso’s drawings were included in an exhibition of work by writers associated with the Beats, and although the catalog is not illustrated, the comments on the drawings are interesting and instructive. Corso’s drawings, which are also featured in Mindfield, are significant but often overlooked artifacts of the Beat generation.

Miles, Barry. The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso in Paris, 1958-1963. New York: Grove Press, 2000. A narrative account of Beat poets in Paris, where some of their most important work was done. Based on firsthand accounts from diaries, letters, and interviews.

Olson, Kirby. Gregory Corso: Doubting Thomist. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002. Olson examines Corso’s poetry from a philosophical point, painting him as ranging from a static Catholic Thomist viewpoint to that of a progressive surrealist.

Selerie, Gavin. Gregory Corso . New York: Binnacle Press, 1982. Selerie includes an...

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interview with Corso that is particularly provocative because of Corso’s comments on his books—such asGasoline, The Happy Birthday of Death, and Elegiac Feelings American—as well as friends such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. Corso also provides information on his youthful crimes and time spent in prison.

Skau, Michael. A Clown in a Grave: Complexities and Tensions in the Works of Gregory Corso. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000. An examination that covers the complete works of Corso and his complex imagination, his humor, and his poetic techniques in dealing with the United States, the Beat generation, and death. Includes a bibliography of Corso’s work.

Stephenson, Gregory. Exiled Angel: A Study of the Work of Gregory Corso. London: Hearing Eye, 1989. A full-length study of Corso’s poetry, offering individual chapters on principal collections of poetry.


Critical Essays