Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, 1989, in conversation – continues from here
GC: I mean, when we read this biography of Ginsberg, they think you’re a saint, they’re building you up, they’re deifying you. You are apostrophized in that book, Allen.
AG ; I know, it’s (very complimentary).
GC: How do you feel about that? like people read about it like you’re a saint? you’re alive (1989)
AG: Well, there are various problems with it. If I had known what was going to happen, I realize that..
GC: But you aided with, and helped, it a little bit.
AG: ..I’d better be dead before I have a biography…
GC: That we agree. Everybody said be careful
AG…because it tramples on other people’s feelings, and on privacy, that belong to them
GC: Ay, well, what about the dead tho’? Does it trample on the dead’s feelings? of the (feelings of, say) Kerouac?
AG; If somebody is dead then, you know it doesn’t make any difference.
GC: That’s no excuse that you should pick on them, along them with..
AG: …make them embarrassed..
GC: Right on. Because, you see, I think they really went wrong with Kerouac. He (Miles) never gave one clue that Kerouac’s a great beautiful human being, and a great writer and all that shit.
AG: Yeah, well, in this case, I think that this biography, Miles’ biography.. lacks literary scope or depth for Kerouac and for yourself.
GC: Well, granted. It’s not a scholarly work is it?
AG: Well, he did a lot of research, a tremendous amount of research.
GC: But it’s not a scholarly work if he’s not..
AG: Scholarly, in the sense of looking up detail, yes he’s a fantastic researcher
GC: ..and not saying who the fuck he was and what he did in life.
AG: Yeah, or, better, writing about Gaugin and not throwing in about his pal, Van Gogh..
GC: …pal, Van Gogh. Right on.
AG: Because I always felt that Kerouac was a much greater writer than myself and I always felt like a student of Kerouac.
GC: That’s another thing – a bone of contention to pick with you. Usually if someone’s “better” than you (but you’ve been raised very high in your appeal, ok?)
AG: Yes, yes.
GC: And, you’re always saying, “Oh no, but that guy’s better than me” – It almost smacks, too much, I think. of, you know, of.. what is that called?
AG: False modesty. But you’ve got to realize when you consider my total poetic works are about eight-hundred pages, Kerouac..
GC: That’s a lot for poetry.
AG: That’s.. Well, but a lot of it is…
GC: I think you measure a thousand pages of prose to one page of poetry, Allen.
AG: In Kerouac’s case, Because he writes prose-poetry, there is a.. there is a gigantic scope to his work and a great singing quality to his prose early and late, that’s hardly been acknowledged by the academies.
GC: But there’s no bosses. You know what I hear some people tell me? They say now is the time that they’re picking who are the daddies of the Beat Generation. Now’s the time, they tell me, when they’re gonna knock down Kerouac and built up Bill (Burroughs), (and knock down a Gregory and build up an Allen), something like that, where they’re going to measure them out to (be) taught. I don’t think it’s gonna happen. I think what’s going to happen, these people, because there was a literary movement, will keep on being talked about, will keep on being evaluated – (Obviously) you can never knock out Coleridge, or Leigh Hunt or whatever, from the Romantic Age. Only.. If you’re going to put Byron up there and Keats and Shelley, you’re going to have to put the other fuckers of this world there. One can’t be like, ”Alright, Rimbaud and Verlaine, and Baudelaire”. They’re going to put those three (seasoned) poets together, right? That’s what I mean by a definitive book. I haven’t seen that yet.
AG: Right, yes, that’s true. But I would like to put aside this nonsense about false modesty and talk about (it), very straight literarily, Kerouac was a great innovator, a great inventor, the whole style of spontaneous prose in America in the late century…
GC: That’s true.
AG: …comes out of him. Many many writers have imitated, or adapted, or used in their own way, and it comes out of him in an autochthonous way because he didn’t get it from Gertrude Stein, he didn’t get so much from the Surrealists, he got it out of his own solitary delight.
GC: That’s what that guy sang in the book, and it’s true. Just the way you’re talking now. You give a credence and you build up what you love of people, right? – and..
AG: It’s not being corny about it.
GC: You’re not being corny about that.
AG: He is being corny about it there.
GC: The guy, Barry Miles. there.
AG: Because he did not appreciate Kerouac’s greatness..
GC: Yeah, see, but that’s not a fault of yours.
AG: …and he didn’t appreciate that when I say “I learned that from Kerouac”, that that’s very.. very.. it’s not generous, it’s just literary facts.
GC: But you are generous because Kerouac was never that generous about you..
AG: Yes he was.
GC: I mean, you’ve got to admit that?
AG: When Kerouac was not drinking, he was very often quite generous with that.
GC: I would hope so.
AG: All you have to do is read Mexico City Blues
GC: Right yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re right.
AG: Any number of times in his literature, he speaks of me, in his writing, and in his critical writing, he speaks of me as, you know, a great word-slinger, and so forth. But of all of.. all I’m trying to say, in a very simple..basic level is that I learned a lot from him (particularly, he straightened out my head about spontaneous writing, at a time when I was really tied up in Columbia University-Delmore Schwartz–metaphysical style. And also I think that Miles does not give you credit.
GC: Oh me? He doesn’t like me. You knew he didn’t like me.
AG: Yeah, and for some reason, he doesn’t like the shade of Kerouac is what I’m saying..
to be continued