Gregory Corso letters and poems


Creator: Corso, Gregory
Date(s): 1956-1975
Call Number: MSS 0099, F0748
Language: Materials entirely in English.
Abstract: Poems and letters from American poet Gregory Corso.
Physical Description: 19 items
Source: Purchase, August 2005.
Processing: Processed by Karalee Kopreski, October 2005. Encoded by Jaime Margalotti, November 2006. Further encoded by George Apodaca, October 2015. Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical and Historical Notes

Gregory Corso (1930-2001)

Born in New York City, American poet Gregory Corso (1930-2001) was a young associate of the Beat poets.

Corso spent his early years in and out of prison. During his five year sentence for robbery at Dannemora prison in upstate New York, he learned to read and developed a passion for Percy Bysshe Shelley and Homer. When he was released from prison in 1950, he moved to Greenwich Village and developed close friendships with Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac. In 1954, Corso moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and became a fixture of the literary underground. A group of Harvard students and intellectuals were so impressed with his poetry that they paid for the publication of his first collection, The Vestal Lady on Brattle. Corso's literary reputation was established in 1960 when he was included in the Grove Press Anthology The New American Poetry 1945-1960. By 1963, however, Corso's career was beginning to falter because of his addiction to heroin and alcohol. Although he published two more collections of poetry Elegiac Feelings American in 1970, and Herald of the Autochthonic Spirit in 1981), his career never regained the momentum of his great period in the 1950s.

Corso's personal life was never as successful as his literary career. He abandoned and eventually divorced four wives and several children. From 1992 until his death, Corso was supported financially by a wealthy Japanese artist, Hiro Yamagata. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999, Corso died in 2001 and his ashes were buried next to the grave of Percy Bysshe Shelley in Rome.


American National Biography. 24 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Scope and Content

The Gregory Corso Letters and Poems comprise nineteen items spanning the dates 1958-1964 (with one poetry manuscript possibly signed in the 1970s). The collection includes letters from Corso to Ted Wilentz, Anselm Hollo, and the bookseller U. Grant Roman. A typescript letter accompanies a contract for Corso from Donald Allen regarding Corso's inclusion in his Anthology of Modern American Poetry from 1948 to 1958-59. The collection also contains a typescript, signed copies of "Hedgeville," "For Ignorance," and an untitled poem about Lawrence Ferlinghetti with handwritten additions and corrections. Additionally, five short untitled poems and a small notebook with the beginnings of a poem entitled "A Gift" are included.

Using these materials

Shelving Summary

Box 40, F0748: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0099 manuscript boxes.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

MSS 0099, F0748, Gregory Corso letters and poems, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Container List

Names & Subjects