Anne Waldman's Stellar Example

Gregory Corso invaded my shower one day in the little Townhouse apartment I return to in dreams as “Remember Some Apartments”. It was named “Emerson Apartments”. Ralph Waldo Emerson had always been an inspiration for my memory of this place although he would not have appreciated the commune spirit. Gregory was always barging in, rooting around looking for valium or anything palliative and high-making, gesticulating , checking out my books –did I have any art books? – and would I ever be as good as Jane Austen? So there was that, the sense of invasion.

I was soaping my hair with lavender shampoo. We decided we would probably never sleep together. That was a good idea because he was so complicated to think about sleeping with. I mean it wasn’t even an issue or much of a discussion. I was not going to get my transmissions from Beat poets, I proclaimed, by sleeping with them! I said would you be my pal? And will you behave? He hugged me as we were water rats together in the shower.

(This was 1975, Boulder, Colorado during a summer session of

The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University)

Anne Waldman

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Daniel Zimmerman's Remembrance of Corso at Buffalo

Al Cook, our visionary English Department Chair, invited Corso, the delinquent high school dropout
            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.

1 comment:

  1. Did you mean that Corso was a communist? I don't think he was? Upon My Refusal to Herald Cuba seems to indicate that he was not a communist. He wrote, "Best to tease all sides with awakening vibrations." What did he talk about with Shelley? Did he actually read the biography with you? At Naropa, in 1977, he has us read At Swim Two-Birds, by an Irish writer, and Gilgamesh, and two other books. But, he never referred to them. He showed up in class completely drunk, and just yelled at us, and said we were creeps.