Corso, Gregory

born March 26, 1930, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died Jan. 17, 2001, Robbinsdale, Minn.

American poet.

A troubled adolescent, Corso spent time in prison. In New York City he became acquainted with Allen Ginsberg, who became his mentor. Corso became a leading member of the Beat movement. His poetry is notable for its directness and its startling imagery. Among his poetry collections are The Vestal Lady on Brattle (1955), The Mutation of the Spirit (1964), Herald of the Autochthonic Spirit (1981), and Mindfield (1989).

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▪ American poet
in full  Gregory Nunzio Corso  
born March 26, 1930, New York, New York, U.S.
died January 17, 2001, Robbinsdale, Minnesota

      American poet, a leading member in the mid-1950s of the Beat movement.

      Corso lived in an orphanage and with foster parents until he was 11, when his remarried father took him to live with him. A repeated runaway, he was placed in juvenile institutions. At 17 he was sentenced to three years in Clinton Prison in Dannemora, New York, for theft. While there, he was introduced to literature. He met the poet Allen Ginsberg (Ginsberg, Allen) in Greenwich Village in 1950 and through him continued his education as a writer and a “noninstitutionalized” man. Corso worked in 1951–52 for the Los Angeles Examiner and then traveled to South America and Africa. In 1955 his first volume of verse, The Vestal Lady on Brattle, was published.

      In 1956 Corso went to San Francisco, where Ginsberg was residing, and the Beat movement was born at public readings in the bars and coffeehouses there. Of all Corso's poems, those in Gasoline (1958) are the most typical, using the rhythmic, incantatory style effective in spoken verse. In The Happy Birthday of Death (1960) he returned to an easier, conversational tone. Long Live Man (1962), Selected Poems (1962), The Mutation of the Spirit (1964), Elegiac Feelings American (1970), Herald of the Autochthonic Spirit (1981), and other books of poetry followed. In 1989 Corso published Mindfield, which included along with several of his best-known poems 23 not previously published. His poetry, often lyrical and aphoristic, is notable for its directness and for its startling imagery. Corso also wrote plays and a novel.

Additional Reading
Barry Miles, The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso in Paris, 1958–1963 (2000); Michael Skau, A Clown in a Grave: Complexities and Tensions in the Works of Gregory Corso (1999); Gregory Stephenson, Exiled Angel: A Study of the Work of Gregory Corso (1989).

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Universalium. 2010.

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