H e a r t   S o n s   &   H e a r t   D a u g h t e r s   of   A l l e n   G i n s b e r g

N a p a l m   H e a l t h   S p a :   R e p o r t   2 0 1 4 :   A r c h i v e s   E d i t i o n






“Heard The Old Poet Corso Died, Did…


you know him?”       Friend wrote card to my mountain retreat

and I’ve been trying, yes, I knew him, trying for two weeks now to

recollect everything I know of him, so will tell her since she’s a

Kind woman, Generous, and Gregory himself said:

“I’ve lived my whole life upon the kindness of Jews and Women”

and he did live and write because of the Muses’ kindness

and his own “kind king light of Mind.”

First Death news delivered before evening class of Lama

Tharchin Rinpoche by burgundy robed Nyima Marc Olmsted

Buddhist poet, buddy these many years.

“Did you hear:  Gregory Corso died yesterday”

OM MANI PADME HUNG leapt from my mouth…

Diane Di Prima, now one of last Beat survivors seated behind me

in crowded room, wondered of his literary estate’s destination:

“That’s something very valuable,” she said solemnly

as I would wonder over the next week, sitting with my mind

gazing at the sky, meditation on empty self, thoughts of Gregory…





"As long as I'm alive, superstars will die," Corso poet said of Elvis

Summer of Sam in NYC, summer of ’77 Boulder, Colorado

Naropa Buddhist writers’college reading—he commandeered the

stage and pronounced the King of Rock dead then introduced an

Hell’s Angel type who wanted to read a poem. "I'm soooooo

embarrassed," he yelled after the lousy poem read, teetering

between danger of a biker stomp and the crowd's adoring hostility.

Gregory had what it took: poetic chops to bust down the crypts

of Shelley and Keats, a silver winged tennis shoe smelling of old

socks, a broken caduceus he would pawn to create visionary

everyday myth…or get high on heroin.  Ah, Gregory...


Gregory Corso is dead and there are no more superstars

of words that flow like water in the desert of Academic Poetry—

true poet, lost like Rimbaud, crying for his Muse ("don't write on

junk," he told me, "the Muse...She don't like that")

His cigarettes endlessly smoked, thin watery junkblood

spritzed on walls of countless toilets across America but mostly in

SF and NYC where he could score easy.  And when the money

dried up he'd just copy a page of an old manuscript, spill some

coffee and ashes on it, hold it over the stove burner et voila, a

literary "find" Gregory would give to Vinny to take to the Rare

Book Dealers and they'd salute the Dark Prince of H. again.

Last summer Vinny visited him, said his death was gonna be good

being nursed by a long lost daughter with organic mushroom-

 barley soup who spooned him Dilaudid-flavored ice cream to ease

cancer pain—massaging his feet—cooing him to sleep…                          

Then last fall said he didn't think Gregory would last much

longer.  And Corso told long time friend George Scrivani:

“I did abuse my body so…”

That summer of ’77 first intro to the bad boy of Poetry. I was

young poet apprentice to Allen Ginsberg at Naropa for the Kerouac

School Of Disembodied Poetics. Got to know Gregory, tho mostly

just in class where he chastised us for not having read enough:

“You mean no one’s read Celine’s trilogy? Oh babies, you gotta

read this guy!”  Or to snap at someone:  “Beware of people who

laugh too much—they’re hiding something.”

He also taught François Villon and so identified

with him I thought Gregory possible reincarnation & confided to

new buddy Mark Fisher (now Madison Avenue success) that we

should call Corso “François Fucketier” due to his gargoyle rep in

the quiet Buddhist community that suffered through wild summers

when the writers descended and Gregory threw firecrackers in a

shrine room full of meditators—or once a huge black dildo tossed

into the Women’s Writers workshop

 (I actually found, by chance, week before he died

old Naropa Newsletter recounting this gossip of Corso’s antics)

memories flood back: Yelling Drunk Parties, “borrowing”

money from Ginsberg to buy booze at the all night liquor store

wicked scalding hangovers I’d bleach out with mid-morning sun

and strong coffee by apartment pool with Vinny.

Gregory, reluctant student of “Choggie Baby” (Chögyam Trungpa

Rinpoche) sometimes sat through Rinpoche’s teachings, but when

asked, declined to take Refuge as Buddhist, instead declaring:

“Buddhism is a religion—and I don’t dig religion per se

it’s the best religion, but it’s still Religion.”  

And once, spotting a Tibetan Monk jogging by in full

burgundy and gold robes, yelled:

 “Stop that man, he just stole an Ego.”

But like so many Mafioso (or Kerouac), he went out Catholic

like a regular Italian American” George said, “insisting on open

casket so we could kiss him goodbye, which tradition goes back

to Ancient Rome: the final kiss to take in Essence of departed…”

And there was an all day wake, mass in Our Lady of

Pompeii, Manhattan West Village where he was baptized seventy-

one years ago...but no priestly confession before he died—his

muse enough: “toodle-oo…”*

And it isn't until just this afternoon when I finally

say phowa for him; place his picture in front of Buddhist text for

transference of consciousness at death; chant the words in Tibetan

and visualize Gregory smiling as his mortal words and positive

actions take him to Pureland rebirth—not till just now these

memories begin to form—ghosts of the three times buzzing like

that insistent fly into woodsy view-window near ragged cobweb

dangling in the now chill winter afternoon.

We spoke of what will remain of Gregory:  the deathless

poesy, the Heraldic Nunzio now gone after surviving addiction

for so many years: “the last limping leg of the Beat Generation,”

George said and we grew silent too...

for I was a drunk and shared the love of heroin and the

rush of Poem with Corso and, sober now thirteen years, wondered

about the two woven together, the drugs and poetry, and how they

entwined my generation following in those decadent footsteps

hoping to hit a vein and live to tell it all, tell it fast, “’cause the

road is fast” and because everyone else just talked about sports.

“I’m rich!

I’ve used my blood

like an extravagance.”

from “Sunset”

Vinny returned to the big Apple to live East Village

railroad walkup after Naropa—he and Mark became drug buddies

with Gregory—I, in San Francisco, published Birthstone poetry

magazine with Naropa Writers.

Didn't see Gregory again until summer of ’80 International

Poetry Festival Rome, Italy the American Hotel lobby waiting to

go out with George and Ginsberg. I was wearing skin tight black

Levis, a lizard print shirt, yellow canvas shoes. Gregory, inclining

his head towards me said to Burroughs: “What do ya think about

this piece of rough trade?” nudging me towards the Thin Gray

Duke, who chuckled his sardonic WC Fields “heh heh heh...”

Corso introduced me to young Italian Poets who scored morphine

ampoules which I in turn sold to Burroughs—it was Corso who set

it all up so he could geeze for free...


Alone half-hearted attempt to shoot up on train back to Paris, but

too squeamish to hit vein, then tried skin pop in ass cheek, spilt

most of it when train bumped out of some station in the dark.

Back in SF, Vinny’s phone call:  “Gregory wants to see you, he’s

broke, needs a place to hang out, needs cheap drugs, told him

you’d fix him up...”

And so: The Visit.

I pick him up at Embarcadero YMCA, where 8 years earlier had

sad, farewell sex with college True Love, the one who made me

Poet as I watched desolate Greyhound buses pulling onto freeway

taking her away...

His room was rank with him.  Overflowing trash ciggie

butts and dirty clothes.  He just left it behind. So Poetman arrives

chez moi with nothing but his brain and Poetry.  We sit hours at big

kitchen table smoking my homegrown pot, cooking up Dilaudid.

Gregory, unlike Vinny, wouldn’t help shoot me up mainline:

“I don’t give nobody their first drugs; I don’t shoot people up.” 

He’s in the tiny bathroom hunting un-collapsed veins in his feet

spritzing pink bloodwater from the cleaned needle on my

punk-rock flyer plastered walls.

I’m in the kitchen jabbing a too-large gauge needle into my

asscheek trying to skin pop, once actually see inside the muscle—

the glutei sinewy black somehow like a hole opened up into the

Void— I shudder just now, remembering, shift butt in

uncomfortable chair.

Gregory would quote himself to me:  “I met a man/ who died” 

about Kerouac then riff on what he meant, how he edited.

Waves of language of sublime Mind slithering forth on clouds of

grass and cigarette smoke.  I was rapt, was stoned, could hardly

follow sometimes (he could take so many drugs and be energized!) 

I grew mute, stultified while he Sang.

I said something about my ambition once:  “Watch Out for

Ambition!”  he shouted, “and don’t think Ginsberg’s shit doesn't

stink!” followed.


“Ah you’re a beautiful man Peter Marti,” he said once, cupping my

face gently and gazing into my eyes, the connection of deep

Poetry/ Truth, about something anyway, that felt important there in

the dark little kitchen.  I was hanging out with my literary heroes!

He rewrote some of the poems he was publishing as Herald of the

Autochthonic Spirit, sometimes a few words, never much tho





The only thing left in the room was Death

hiding beneath the kitchen sink:

“I’m not real!”  It cried

 “I’m just a rumor spread by life...”

from “The Whole Mess...Almost”

So, Kind Lady, to you who wrote me asking about the Old Poet

I pick up the thread...

It’s Sunday in the Gone World of airplane drone and bird

chirps (and even THUD...one smacking into clear plate glass

window just now, startling me & leaving feathery tuft on the glass

flying off unharmed)…more of Gregorio Nunzio, il miglior fabbro,

the better maker, the Poet who never tired of his Muse, nor She he.

Gregory would often say: “what about the Poet? you gotta pay the

Poet.”  Desperate for money once, challenged by R. Rodgers to

write a poem on the spot, this bought by poet friend Richard

Modiano for $20:

You’ll never die

because when you’re dead

you won’t know it

He wasn’t in a hurry and he wasn’t greedy and he may have stolen

but, as George said:  “he wasn’t attached to what he stole” 

For that matter, he never stole from George…

Fall, 1980 my basement apartment was cozy for Gregory

I doled out the drugs and cooked the food, Gregory held forth.

We’d stroll to Cafe Floré to drink beer or coffee (where cute

counter-girl /friend of mine named B. worked) 

“Getting laid... It’s all about pheromones he whispered

confidentially, eyeing B. “Any woman’ll go for you if she gets a

whiff of your pheromones,” And with that, he reached into his

pants and, as he narrated: “rubbed under the foreskin cause that’s

where the pheromones are,” then proceeded to go pick up our

order, first passing his fingers beneath B.’s nose, then patting her

face to make sure she got the full-on Gregory Experience. 

He asked her out, but she declined him...maybe next time...

So this is some kinda elegy, not fawning since Corso

could turn mean on you, turned on Ginsberg more than once

turned on benefactors, turned on drug buddies and me too.

I sit streaming sweat in the California winter glare, first

week February, pictures of kind Buddhist teachers on these walls

picture of sweet dead cat, pet of 18 years as he reposed on fiancée

Nancy’s lap and the picture of Gregory, next to keyboard.

Having done my Buddhist prostrations for the day

imagining Corso, dead friend Ross, Cat, Parents, all the dead

beings killed by me, animals eaten, enemies fought with, ex-wife,

relatives, co-workers... I sit sweating at the keyboard, thinking of

that time, that karos, what the Greeks called the nexus of perfect

place, time, and circumstance that was that fall when Corso came

to visit. 

It was Election Time, Reagan heading for victory when

Phone rang: “Hi Mom...no, just sitting around...”

 “Oh, is that your Mother?  I gotta talk to her...Mrs. Marti

you got a beautiful son here.  Who ya voting for?  Anderson?  Nah,

you should vote for Reagan, see that way things’ll get really bad

again in the country, like when Eisenhower was president.  That’s

when really creative things happen to the Spirit.”





And so the magic ends, the players evaporate as phantoms, beauty

fades, his words, scribbled on a sheet of typing paper, left next to

my folded out poetry magazine with his annotated poem:  “I only

took that which you could afford to give.”  And other words, now

forgot stuck in a box somewhere in storage, with posters of his

blood, with pictures from Rome, with my own poems writ inspired

by his voice, my own hesitant efforts, barely filling even one slim

volume because I too had the Dark Habit to contend with. 

Gregory took about 30 dollars and the pills I’d “hidden”

in the house.  I had dozens more securely stashed for his hopeful

extended visit, now cut short by his urge to move on. 

I was indignant, calling everyone “did you hear what Corso did?

after all my blah blah bow wow woof woof...”

He once said: “those that most demand respect seldom deserve it;

best not to disrespect.”

and yet I felt the lack.  Months later, at big

downtown poetry Scene, made mistake of confronting him:

“Be careful Peter Marti, be careful of what you’re accusing,”

and glaring broken toothed like real menace personified, then

softening, told me how they tried to kick him out of theater for

jerking off: “I never took it out of my pants, but that girl was so hot

I had to cum.”

...and I told him of how I wanted a rock ’n roll band: “They  say

what a great poet’ Jim Morrison is.  Jim Morrison was no poet. 

You know why?  He repeated himself—the refrain—it’s the whole

Troubadour shot.  Nothing wrong with song, but it ain't Poetry.”

But of course I didn’t listen… Wrote song “Arms of

Morpheus” as elliptic goodbye to him, met my dreamed-after

blonde musician future wife and chased the Troubadour Dream

parking my own Muse behind the booze bottles of Fame Ambition

Sex and MORE!    until years later it all came crashing down and

bereft of all I wept at typewriter one night and heard Her faint

voice stir again…

And the years pass and the poets who lived became

Dharma practitioners who wrote, and some died but the Poet still

lived on—now scoring H. now on Methadone, now boozing, now

living with woman poet, now supported by famous Japanese Artist

now by bookstore owner and wife—who knows if he got sober/

straight what woulda happened his Muse? 

Ginsberg:  “I never understood how smart guys like you

and Marc and Gregory could get hooked…” 

For Corso it was part of the whole Shot, but not the whole Mess.

And I never saw him again after that Fall of My Youth...

At his memorial, Patti Smith sang “Nature Boy,” David

Arram played, some guy was chased out of the service by an

Italian woman in dreadlocks.  “She was possessed by the spiritus

of Gregory,” Mark Fisher said.  And they lined up to kiss him ’bye

to take a taste of the Essence, just as I kissed the cold flesh of my

Father goodbye a few years ago, understanding nothing….

And his ashes to be interred in Rome next to Angelic

Shelley and Keats.

So I sit in the broiling sun naked on this ragged lotus of chair

revealing the only treasure I got:  Some dusty memories and Faith

not that anyone will care.    

George, who loved him best, spoke SF memorial: 

“I said that if they ever get a chance

everyone should love a Poet...”

So, kind lady, Gregory Corso the Poet is dead and I did sort

of know him, and in remembering found something of myself

buried away, the part not tortured by dreams of Money and Fame

or next meal even, that never worries, but stares at the View

beyond window beyond eyeball beyond time, deathless Mind

Awake, awake awake...



*Last line of elegy writ by GC for Allen Ginsberg, April 1997.



[“Heard The Old Poet Corso Died, Did…” is reprinted from BEATITUDE Golden Anniversary 1959-2009 (Latif Harris and Neeli Cherkovski, Editors). Used by permission of the author. Originally published in NHS 2012, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs12/.]