Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso in conversation continues from here
GC: What do you think of this guy Robert Duncan who died. He was a man who was very aware of himself as poète romantique
GC: ..with his velvet suit and his delicacies and all that, Robert Duncan
AG: A sense of devotion, like it’s an old feminine devotion.
GC: Right right, he had that, sure, sure.. (So) what happened?
AG: I remember a funny thing that you.. when.. back in 1959, when Evergreen Review was beginning and Don Allen was putting the New American Poetry anthology together, I was talking with Frank O’Hara at his house and O”Hara said, “Now, I get this letter from Robert Duncan which is just like, sort of, an over-intimate letter from Robert, which is..
GC: Did Duncan & he.. did they know each other?
AG: No, they hadn’t met each other…
GC: Ha ha ha!
AG: …but Duncan had just read and admired O’Hara’s poetry. And so, according to O’Hara, this letter from Duncan said, “We’re dividing… We will divide the World of Poetry between the East and West Coast, and you be the King of the East Coast and I’ll be the King of the West Coast.
GC: O my god, the ambitious fucker! I knew it, I knew it! I knew that Duncan was ambitious, man.
AG: And Frank was absolutely outraged. He said .. (well, not outraged, but, you know, miffed). He said, “Who the hell does he think he is? – dividing poetry up to become the Queen of the West, and I become the Queen of the East!” . So I said “What did you write him?”, and he said, “I didn’t even answer his letter”, he said, “it was so ridiculous”
GC: Ha ha! that’s cute that. .
They have this power-head shot, right? Yeah – That’s what I feel about this guy Kenneth Koch, in a way. You know when they gave me the $5000 at that school.. what’s it called? – the arts academy ?
GC He was there, right. He was there for the dinner, and so I said hello to him. And he (says) “Can you imagine (that) Gregory Corso does dare come up and say hello to me ?”
AG: Did he say that?
AG: Are you sure?
AG: He wasn’t kidding you?
GC: No, he said that to people.
AG: But you’re an old friend of his.
GC: I guess I’m not.
AG: Well, you’ve known him for a long time.
GC: I’ve know’d him.
AG: He likes your poetry.
GC: I don’t care he liked my poetry. I’ve know’d him – but I had said something, I read it in a magazine, where he was.. (you wrote the letter, in fact).. of all the people who are nominated to join that club, the American Academy?
GC: And you told me who you had nominated, and he was up on the list, and he wasn’t, he was not one of the ones nominated. So I wrote back I said, “great, because that man is too ambitious, he wants very much to be nominated!”
AG: I think he’s been nominated.
GC: Well then good, good for him, but I think he took that to heart what I said, you know, ambition, so he doesn’t like me after that.
AG: But he’s been nominated , in the past few years, and..
GC: But he aint in, is he?
AG: Not yet.
GC: That’s what I’m talking about, He’s not in, right?
[Editorial note – Kenneth Koch was inducted, in 1996, seven years after this conversation, into the American Academy of Arts and Letters]
to be continued