Remembering Gregory Corso
by :Al Sullivan Reporter senior staff writer
Jul 03, 2001 | 1174 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Not every issue of Long Shot memorializes the passing of a great Beat generation poet or writer, nor is the whole of the newest issue simply about Gregory Corso. But Long Shot seems to have taken on the unenviable duty of marking the demise of one of the greatest literary movements of modern times, like a headstone engraver chiseling out a final epithet.

And these tributes come with good reason, since Allen Ginsberg, one of the icons of the Beat Movement, helped finance the first issue of the magazine.

Poet Eliot Katz, who helped found the Hoboken-based literary magazine, said the publication would not exist if not for Ginsberg's support. Co-editor Danny Shot and Katz met Ginsberg in 1976, when the poet gave a reading at Rutgers.

"He split the money from the door," Shot said during an interview several years ago. Ginsberg continued his support by giving the magazine unpublished poems to print up to the time of his death in 1997. Over the years, Long Shot has received and published numerous poems by writers connected to that era of the Beat Generation, including Corso.

Corso, who was born in New York City, found his life transformed by meeting Ginsberg in a Greenwich Village bar in 1950. He published his first book of poems in 1955 and rapidly became one of the best known poets of the Beat Movement. Corso left New York late last year for health reasons, and died last January.

If any magazine can put together a fitting tribute, Long Shot can. And it has, bringing together people who knew Corso best, and whose own literary talents are capable of presenting the dead poet's moods and moments in the only way possible: through literature.

Danny Shot, as publisher and editor, along with editor-in-chief Nancy Mercado and editor Andy Clausen, has indeed brought together some of the most important names in contemporary poetry to make this tribute possible, even bringing Corso himself to these pages in a marathon of words.

Corso's poetry selected for this issue seems to look back at his own life and question those essential elements such as what it means to be human in his poem "Humanity," or what place he has in this existence in his poem "Identity." He even seems to look back on his own death in is poem "Last Indian Dream:" "Gone the day, gone the song and dance, like the sun of the drying grass - the sun I don't even trust, can blow up any time, all the goings gone, all the coming came."

In his letter poem to Bayonne poet Herschel Silverman, Corso talks about the fundamental choices artists make in their pursuit of art, whether to pay the rent or go to a movie, and the compromise he makes in giving half to rent, and half the rest to poet Allen Ginsberg.

"With my part I bought a big cake and lots of cherries, and two bottles of Vitel," Corso writes, describing Herschel as "our neo-wizard flowing with goodies, always with a smile, always protecting the good life." In this issue of Long Shot, Herschel answers Corso with a letter poem of his own calling Corso his "gargoyled friend," and claiming Corso had been "bequeathed imaginary breath by ancient bards," and pondering if Corso's spirit would "cruise to nirvana in your shiny meta-developed wisdom."

Of course, the editors of Long Shot could not leave well enough alone, giving Corso the last word in that bardic exchange, a bit of sardonic humor in which Corso writes: "sorry took so long to answer, been wondering under a gargoyle whether or not it's best to look into gargoyle direction."

Even if Long Shot had stopped there, it might have been enough, but the poems and stories about and for Corso go on, with Sheri Langerman describing Corso's last days and Mikhail Horowitz Corso's eventual reincarnation. Few can accept the reality of the poet's death.

"When you've know someone 45 years, it's hard if not impossible to ever feel that they have left you forever," writes David Amram in his essay "Remembering Gregory."

Kaye McDonough's essay "The Leavetaking" seems an attempt to make sense of Corso, even while admitting it is an impossible task, recalling moments in time that his death has made into monuments, such as when he got his false teeth or the many discussions of obtuse subjects.

Katz described Corso as "a poet of silk and the shredding of silk."

"No earthling nor deity remained immune from his probing questions," Katz wrote in his poem "Gregory's Last Lines." "He fooled death, coaxing it into the soup of life every time but for one."

Through the archives

This issue of Long Shot digs through the archives of photos and people, drawing from Ken Babbs from San Francisco's Merry Pranksters and Anne Waldman from the halls of academic poetry. Ira Cohen, Maggie Estep, and even Guttenberg's poet laureate, Laura Boss, lend their talent to show how much this man touched their lives - indeed, few knew Corso as well as Boss did. She had given him a place to stay in Hudson County, and time to create.

Some of the more important poets from the New York scene have their voices printed in this volume, including Bob Holman, Jack Hirschman, Andy Clausen, Diane DiPrima. And the list goes on and on, with each voice weaving a tapestry of regret and emotional turmoil, each poet caught up in the whirlpool of Corso's passing, struggling through mere words to make sense of the loss. It is an amazing tribute, although the tribute only represents a portion of the volume, and like most of Long Shot's general theme issues, the literature and the images takes the reader through poetic visions that include death, politics, sex, love, and lust, often giving each a slight twist.

Yet it is Corso that courses through this volume, and the mourning is an unmistakable statement as to his importance to the poetic community.

"The old Clich
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