I was introduced to Gregory Corso’s poem “Marriage” by a boyfriend long ago, and it stuck in my mind because it was one of the few poems I’ve ever read that is genuinely funny; more a comedy monologue than a poem, really.
The poem was written in 1958 but I didn’t encounter it till the late 60s. But I’d never heard Corso’s voice till now, when I watched this YouTube video of him reading the poem, and his voice surprised me by sounding something like Fiorello LaGuardia and something like the mid-20th-century New York cadences of most of the boys I went to high school with (although they weren’t writing poetry):
After I watched it, I realized I knew next to nothing about Corso except that he was one of the Beat poets, and so I looked him up. When I did, I found a life so wildly picaresque, so varied and so improbable, that it leaves fiction sprawled behind in the dust.
Read it. Corso was clearly one of the most lucky and unlucky people who ever lived, as well as a being possessed of a charm that helped account for his survival against gigantic odds, and an intelligence and love of learning that quite literally saved him.
Throughout his life, especially before he became famous but even afterward, Corso seems to have brought out the mentor/caretaker in others. He kept meeting people who wanted to help him; how many people can say that about themselves? And the people who were eager to do him favors tended to be the literary and the famous themselves.
Corso did get married, by the way: three times.