Here, Gregory Corso writes to poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti about the effect publishing has on his writing, and about his latest poem, which imagined divinity as a stickiness.
[ca. April 26] 1959
Thanks very much for the much needed check. That piece in Gemini was written in Paris at the end of 1957; I thought it quite humorous then, and even now in a way; but so much water has passed under Triborough Bridge that it has lost much of its gist. Happy to hear your finishing the Black Book Of Andalouse Raffine. What made you think I thought there was something of me in it? Ah, thou gentle Germanicus, do you still think me possessed by ego-fascism? That I even tend to usurp the seed, the crystallization, the bloom, the festival, of thy comet? If so, you are wronging my legend, wretchedly arbitrary me. Despair, infidelity, insomnia, and still I seek some trout to fry. Yes, I gave Laughlin my brimming entreats, how will he treat them? God knows. I gave him everything I’ve written since Gasoline; he likes me; likens me to Sam Greenberg, who I only recently discovered by his introduction. I like Greenberg very much; but see no connection. Weariness saves me, alas. But I have even more poems in Venice, I’ll get them and also give Grove, and Indiana a book, and let buoyancy take hold. The kick is gone. I mean, it was a great feeling to have Gasoline published, and Vestal, but now publishing reduces me to the ho-hum state muscular men should receive when visiting their Swedish gymnasium for the thumpreenth time. Lo, the task of resuscitating. “The birds lose their forms after their colors.” But I will never deny publishing for it is, after all, a stirring thing.
How is Allen doing there? Was Penelope with her dry sex there to greet him? Did he slay all her suitors? Did you read with him? What news from San Francisco?
A prose book? Right off the top of my head? Would you want it? Blind free? Do you think do you trust I’d do it right and true? What say you; you be blind looker, and I be midknife giver. Lo, I begin, I shall launch forth upon a black, a lament, a lachrymae, a pitiful disclosure of what grapevines are. Yes, I’ll be a disciple of black book—disciplined, that is to its psychological method. I’ll follow without conflict. I’ll obey. I’ll execute. I’ll be complete. Mine will be Papa Black Book; and I’ll be pale and diseased, deprived of all my illusions. But I don’t care, so long as I bring out BLACK BOOK! I had better act quickly. Must wipe way this theological smile off my face. Must be like that old apparatus I once saw rusting in a backyard in Villefranche. “The truth rests upon the mathematical rattans of the infinite.” Between the banks of life and death eternity dills. How’s that for a start? OK? Sight unseen? You want it? Have it for you in a week. Actually there are rivalries of insincere pedagogy initiating me. I haven’t a Breton’s chance. But now that all the poesy is done, though I still write, wrote a poem last night, it might well be enjoyable to venture upon Black Book, why not? Part of the poem last night goes: “I reached heaven and it was syrupy. / It was oppressively sweet. / Croaking substances stuck to my knees. / Of all substances St. Michael was stickiest. / I grabbed him and pasted him on my hand. / I found God a gigantic flypaper. / I stayed out of his way. / I walked where it smelled of burnt chocolate. / Meanwhile St. Michael was busy with his sword / hacking away at my hair. / I found Dante standing naked in a blob of honey. / Bears were licking his thighs. Etc. etc. etc.”
Ok, I end his absolu. Telemaque! Perpetual. Does Eternity drizzle?
From An accidental autobiography: the selected letters of Gregory Corso. Corso, Gregory, Bill Morgan. New York: New Directions, 2003.