Archival Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Gregory Corso papers, 1949-1996. 

Corso, Gregory.
Phys. Desc: 
5 linear ft. ( 10 boxes and 7 oversized folders)
Call Number: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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Biographical Note

Gregory Nunzio Corso, born to very young Italian immigrants in New York's Greenwich Village, had a troubled childhood. His mother left Corso's father and her son within a year of Gregory's birth, and he spent most of his youth moving between different foster homes and orphanages or living on the street. As a teenager, he landed briefly in jail and spent three months under psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue, but it was his three years incarcerated in New York's Clinton State Prison (as a repeat offender for theft) that proved to be transformative for Corso. In the prison library he discovered Rimbaud and Percy Shelley and it was during this stint in jail that he began to write poetry. In 1950, upon his release from prison, Corso again began to frequent the bars and cafés of Greenwich Village. It was here that he met Allen Ginsberg who introduced the young poet to Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and the rest of the original members of the Beat Generation. Corso's commitment to creating spontaneous poetry fit in well with the beats' "New Vision" for American poetry and Corso was quickly integrated into the group of friends, traveling with them to give poetry readings in San Francisco and collaborating with them on various creative projects. Corso's first book of poetry, The Vestal Lady on Brattle was published in 1955 and gained Corso some critical acclaim and enough money to fund his travels through abroad. He traveled through Europe and set up residence in the Paris boarding house later christened the Beat Hotel and, along with Ginsberg, Orlovsky, and Kerouac, traveled to Tangier to help William Burroughs edit the Naked Lunch manuscript. Corso returned to New York in 1958 in time to see his book of poetry, Gasoline, published as part of City Lights' Pocket Poet series. Though he did write some plays and some prose, most notably the novel The American Express, his prime focus was always on his poetry and he published a number of books of poetry throughout his career and lectured on creative writing and poetry. Gregory Corso died of complications from prostate cancer in 2001. He was 70 years old.

Scope and Contents

The Gregory Corso Papers contains correspondence, artwork, and published and unpublished writings, as well as photographs and sound recordings of Corso and fellow beat writers. Many of the items in the collection include explanatory notes or annotations that Corso added when preparing to sell these papers.