Gregory Corso

Gregory Corso

Gregory Corso was a key member of the Beat movement, a group of convention-breaking writers, including William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, who were credited with sparking much of the social and political change that transformed the United States in the 1960s. Corso’s spontaneous, insightful, and inspirational verse once prompted Ginsberg to describe him as an “awakener of youth.” Although Corso enjoyed his greatest level of popularity during the 1960s and 1970s, he has continued to influence contemporary readers and critics.

Writing in the American Book Review, Dennis Barone remarked that Corso’s 1989 volume of new and selected poems, Mindfield, was a sign that “despite doubt, uncertainty, the American way, death all around, Gregory Corso will continue, and I am glad he will.”

My own poem was inspired by a short poem (“For Lisa 2”) written by Corso and dedicated to Lisa Brinker, his eventual wife and surrogate mother to his son, Max. I used this wonderfully evocative text many times while teaching creative writing in Brazil.

For Lisa 2

I saw an angel today
without wings
with human smile
and nothing to say

Gregory Corso

       a poetic gift of such intensity
          that his wolfish eyes were capable of
       penetrating the core of a palm tree so as
          to observe infinitesimally its actual

       That brooding, not-guilty gaze he acquired
          in the years when barely out of adolescence
       he served a jail sentence, there learnt to read,
          learnt there to write poems. Yet prison was no

       for the angels he would later catch sight of,
          in diners, on street corners, sometimes with
       an unlit cigarette in their mouth, sometimes
          not, but always a beauty to behold. He made

no secret
       of love, but truly believed in the coming
          together of two bodies as a celebration
       of being. Friendship was second nature
          to him: poetry was his first.

John Lyons

20 September 2004