and incandescent bard, to teach a senior seminar on Shelley—probably in ’65 or ’66. We met in
Foster Hall, one of the original buildings, I believe, from the original poor house before it became UB’s
Main Street campus. At least it seemed of that vintage. We used Newman Ivey White’s biography and
the Complete Poems. Gregory still looked like he did on The Happy Birthday of Death (he inscribed
my copy, “Hello, Gregory Corso,” as if conferring his name on the reader) though a bit more grizzled,
as became him.
Foster Hall did not, so sometimes we’d adjourn to Bitterman’s, a bar directly across Main Street
that once served as a blacksmith’s shop and still had its original wide, black wainscoting on the walls.
In those days, two types frequented Bitterman’s: jocks and poets (later, the jocks won, and it became
a garish sports bar). In its glory days, though, we’d order a few pitchers of draft and marvel at Gregory’s
erudition. Yeats’ rough beast had, in a gentler incarnation, slouched toward Buffalo.
Alas, as so often blights apocalypses, this too aborted, mid-slouch, via a double whammy. I don’t recall
which came first, but at one point Gregory, out of sorts, confronted Professor Ralph Maud (with whom
I had studied Dylan Thomas, among others, and who later became an important Charles Olson scholar),
calling him a “long-red-haired moon-faced faggot.” Ralph, moved to umbrage by the unexpected slur,
walloped Corso in the kisser, breaking his nose (the story goes).
Alas, again, it goes further: in those days, employment at UB required one to sign “the Feinberg Oath,”
which stipulated that the signee supported the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution
of the State of New York. Gregory, well acquainted with the former, said he could assent to support it, but
had never read the latter, and requested a copy. Oddly, it took some time before the University could provide
him with one and, when it did, it proved much longer and more convoluted than the US Constitution.
Objecting that he had to teach a course and didn’t have time to peruse such a lengthy document, he declined
to sign the oath—whereupon the University dismissed him as a potential subversive. Everyone regarded the
gentleman who replaced him, a brilliant and thoroughly competent man, as a socialist (who, of course, signed
the oath). No matter: the commie poet had to go, another victim of stupidity. I used to memorize his poems
and recite them to whoever would listen.