Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso in conversation continuing from here –
(a brief (selective) survey of (19th and) 20th century American poetry)
AG: So who are the poets you thought from our time were any good?
GC: What you mean..ball? (that was) how I saw the game..
GC Looking at it now.. Looking back, looking here now,
AG: Not just among the Beat poets but all the whole field
GC: I’m going to give you the field. I have..
AG: Academic, non-academic..
GC: I’m gonna show you what happened, Allen. This is how I see what happened, alright? We are now.. around fifty now.. around 1989, and poetry today, we’re on there, we’re on top, the top, Allen, but years ago, we weren’t.. You know who was on top years ago? They all died. Now first, in 1950, right – 1950, there was Eliot
GC: there was Pound..
AG: Yeah, Williams
GC: Cummings, right – Ok – they died , through the years, right? Then the second-stringers came up, but they went even quicker (that’s how we were elevated quick to the first spot because the second stringers were Robert Lowell
GC: Alright, Give me some names, give me some names.
AG: Delmore Schwartz was part of that
AG ; Well that’s a little older
GC: Little older, alright
AG: Who else?
GC: But those guys died
AG; Elizabeth Bishop
GC: They’re out
AG: Yeah, and many of them, through alcohol. That generation was decimated by alcohol. Worse than our generation that was supposed to be decimated by drugs but never was..
GC: Right ok, alcohol..
AG: ..because we’re a bunch of old men now
GC: Kerouac...now, listen, then, now, we were there, we were the third-stringers, and amongst us, the second-stringers were guys like Leroi Jones…ah, come on, give me some names?… Robert Kelly, this guy.. the guy I liked a lot, Paul Blackburn
AG: Yes, you mean among the people that died or just thar generation? ..
GC: Okay, okay, they’re all there, right?, they’re not dead
AG: And most of them of them are alive and most of them are getting better and better.
GC: Okay, and now you’re asking me who’s there beneath them?, what others will come up when we go?
AG: Well, no, what others do you think are of our peer group?..did you..
GC: Well, we’ve mentioned all the names didn’t we?
AG: Well, let’s see.
GC: Think of more but I want to pass the..
AG: What about Robert Bly?
GC: Well put Robert Bly in there, put them all, but what I’m trying to say is :”What happens after they’ve all gone? Who’s there? That’s the question you’re asking me.. So who is there?
AG: Yes, and the next generation
GC: So who is there. There ain’t nobody
GC: Really? Ed Sanders? you think he’s got a call?
AG: Well, he’s younger, and he’s a musician-poet, yeah he’s pretty good..
GC: You think he’s got a call?
AG: He had some very nice things about Abbie Hoffman
GC: I’d like to see it
AG: His elegy. It was “As he laid his hands upon the waters” – And ‘’ What good is politics if it doesn’t have something green”
AG: It’s nice lines
GC: Okay, okay. I would not deny anything but to think of Ed Sanders as being the ones after us is a lot of bullshit. I mean, I just can’t see it
AG: Who else? – oh ..and Anselm Hollo is real interesting..
GC: But he’s been around a while. You’re talking about..
AG: The older guys..
GC: Yeah, yes, Allen, I’m saying there’s a thirteen, fourteen year-old
GC: There’s a young thirteen or fourteen year old who we don’t know of . Now, boxing, I can understand there’s always going to be that thirteen year old that can beat up the guy who’s reigning now…but poetry, you never know in it’s time, if it’s a generational thing or a century thing.
AG: Ok. so..
GC: Go for the past and see what happened..
AG: In olden days..
GC: Who was before Williams and Pound?
AG: Well, you have…
GC: Robert Lowell? Not Robert Lowell, what’s his name?, the guy, his father, who..
AG: James Russell Lowell?
GC: James Lowell James Russell?
AG: No no, before Ezra Pound.., remember we had the,,,
GC What about American ones?
AG: In America, it’s just Whitman, Poe..
AG: and Dickinson and Melville
GC: And what about Amy Lowell, or those… that’s after them.. same time as Pound, right.. I got you..
AG: And she isn’t that important. Now the generation before, when were they, Whitman, Dickinson
GC: Late 1880’s, 1890’s
AG: No, earlier, earlier.
GC: Yeah but they died around 1890..
AG: Between ‘Sixty, ‘Seventy, ‘Eighty
GC: But they died around 1890, 19thcentury they were. Right? They were nineteenth-century people.
AG: Leaves of Grass was 1862… [Editorial note – Allen perhaps means 1855 or 1856 There have been, it is argued, either six or nine editions of Leaves of Grass, the count depending on how they are distinguished. Scholars who hold that an edition is an entirely new set of type will count the 1855, 1856, 1860, 1867, 1871–72, and 1881 printings. Others add in the 1876, 1888–89, and 1891–92 (the “deathbed edition). Ok, Poe, Melville.. Melville’s a little later. Poe, Whitman, Melville, Dickinson. So.. what was the jump? It’s almost fifty years – forty years
GC: I’m telling you that 1899 would be the end of it, right, make it 1900, the you’re gonna get your Pounds…
AG: Ok, but I look at it another way. I’d say their.. their breakthrough years were say 1870, 60s to 70s , their death in the late nineteenth-century, 1890’s
GC: Yes. 1890s
AG: But he breakthrough was in the 1860, say,
AG: and then the next big breakthrough was right around World War I
GC: There you go.
AG: Fifty…forty to fifty years.
GC: Yeats, Pound, right
AG Forty to fifty years before the big breakthrough. Pound, Williams
GC: Swinburne is much earlier.
AG: 1914 to 1915 for Eliot, Pound – 1914 ‘The Waste land’
GC: Right, Okay
AG: So from 1860 to 1940
GC: Right, Allen
AG: From 1914-15. 1920 to 1955
GC: Right . that’s Lowell, Berryman..
AG: Well, ok, no, its when we came on, when we came on, for the major Beats
GC: We came on in the ‘50s
AG: Yeah, so from 1920..1915 to 1950, thirty-five years, from 1870 to 1950 is forty-five years. So it goes in almost half-century cycles, or it’s between thirty-five and a half-century. And (19)55 to now it’s (19)85, it’s half a century, almost. It’s what, like thirty years? thirty-five years?. So it should be due now.