July 7 1976 Naropa class (on Spontaneous and Improvised Poetics) continues and concludes
AG: (So), getting back now to the list again, to the litany, or the list, (and) how do you handle that. We were examining yesterday Anne Waldman’s lists. A(nother) great list poet is Gregory Corso, whose work we haven’t take up (so much), so..
At one period, he (Corso) decided to write poems with single-word titles (a whole series of them) and explore every possible idea-combination within the field, exhaust (that was his word), exhaust, all the possibilities of “Marriage” as a theme, (say), (like Waldman’s “Fast Speaking Woman”, or.. “Pressure” (“No escape..”), so (as) to make the most impossible and interesting mind-(range) – on “Air”, on “Power”, (on) “Marriage”, “Death”, “Bomb” – So I’ll read one of the stupider ones (because it’s actually brilliant!) – “Hair” – I mean one of the stupider ideas – “Hair” – and then I’ll read “Bomb”
“Hair” – this is.. I guess, would be.. (in) the book was (that) published (as) The Happy Birthday of Death – 1960 (This was, of course, at a time when people were just beginning to grow long hair, culturally, as a custom, so this was his (inspired little) joke on the excitement of that). [Allen reads, in its entirety, Gregory Corso’s poem “Hair” – “My beautiful hair is dead/Now I am the rawhead/ O when I look in the mirror/the bald I see is balder still..”…”Veronica Lake Truman Capote Ish Kabibble Messiahs Paganinis/ Bohemians Hawaiians poodles”] – So that’s sort of exhausting the subject. If you think of every little stereotyped take that you could think of on hair.
Student: Had he actually had his head shaved and..
AG: No, no, no. He was just making fun of the whole… everybody screaming about hair going away, (frantically) pulling each others’, wanting the hair to be longer – hair should be short or…
Student: Will he be here (at Naropa) all this summer?
AG: Pardon me?
Student: Will he be…
AG: No, he’s in Paris (right now), with a new babe, called Orpheo – Max Corso – in a (condition) which he prophesied in a poem called “Marriage” – How many know that poem? – by Corso – “Marriage”? – How many do not know? [a show of hands] – Well then, we might as well read it, then. It’s sort of a standard piece, an old war-horse. But the changes he rings it are quite good, and it came to be an anthology piece, and taught quite a bit, simply because the humor is so recognizable. [Allen then reads, in its entirety, Gregory Corso’s poem, “Marriage” – “Should I get married? Should I be good?/Astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and Faustus hood?…”… “Like SHE in her lonely alien gaud waiting her Egyptian lover/so I wait – bereft of 2,000 years and the bath of life”] – The image at the end is from H.Rider Haggard’s “She”. So that’s a standard funny poem, actually quite beautiful in manipulation of language and manipulation of stereotyped attitudes. (There’s a) tremendous humor and sharpness in it.
Student: What year was that written?
AG: Yeah, Okay, I want to finish (with “Bomb”)…
Student: How long is that poem?
AG: It’ll take (maybe) five (to) eight minutes.
“Bomb” is.. (it’s) another matter – (it has) the same humor (except the subject is a little more serious, and, actually, here, his natural poetic intelligence totally cuts through to a tone and an attitude towards the atomic bomb that is superior in power to the bomb itself). (It is) the only poem of its kind in the history of the bomb where the imagination and the clarity of mind has exorcised all of the anxieties and fear connected with “the Bomb” – “Bomb” – by Gregory Corso. How many have read this through? from beginning to end? – and how many have not? [another show of hands] – So this is a good text then for (list poems). It’s done [shaped] in the form of a bomb, also. (It was) written in Paris, about 1958. (I was called on as an expert rhythmic-er for a certain section going BOOM BOOM BOOM – (a) Vachel Lindsay-esque section…
[Allen reads the poem in its entirety, although the tape runs out mid-way through this recitation].
(Audio for this (Ginsberg on Corso) is here approximately sixty-five-and-a-half minutes in and to the end)