Gregory Corso was the youngest of the inner circle of writers (along with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs) who were responsible for launching and popularizing the Beat movement in American literature. Prior to the publication of his first collection of poetry, The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems (1955), he wrote three plays while living as a "stowaway" on the campus of Harvard University.
The first of these plays, written in 1954, was Sarpedon, which Corso described as "...an attempt to replicate Euripides, though the whole shot be an original. Like the great Greek masters, I took off where Homer left an opening (like Euripides did with the fate of Agamemnon). My opening was found in The Iliad. Sarpedon, son of Zeus and Europa, died on the fields of Troy, and Homer had him sent up to Olympus with no complaint from Hades, who got all the others what died there. Thus I have Hades complain, demanding from his brother Zeus, the dead, all the dead, from said fields.”
With the permission of the estate of Gregory Corso, I am pleased to be the first to publish this early important work. The play itself comprises 17 pages of this slim volume. It is supplemented with a two-page introduction by Corso himself, taken from a transcript of his prefatory remarks at his 1978 reading of the play at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Also included are an introduction by me, the editor, which provides information about the plays Corso wrote while at Harvard and describes the circumstances surrounding his brief residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The volume is footnoted as well.
Corso never professed to be a Greek scholar but this brilliant
yet little-known work clearly demonstrates the depth of his mastery of classical literature, no doubt picked up from auditing Harvard lectures as well as from the extensive reading he did in the Clinton State Prison library in Dannemora, New York, while serving a three-year sentence for theft. What makes it all the more significant is that, despite the ancient subject matter, his verse is infused with the street slang and Beat vernacular of the time in which it was written, and portends the irreverent humor that would become a hallmark of much of his later work.
The cover photo of Gregory Corso in New York City was taken in 1953 by Allen Ginsberg and is used with the gracious permission of the Allen Ginsberg LLC.
Your $10 pledge get you a copy of the printed book shown above, with your name in the acknowledgments section. Shipping is free in the United States. For a pledge of $25, you get the above, plus a copy of my 204-page book, The Whole Shot: Collected Interviews with Gregory Corso, successfully funded by the Kickstarter community last year.
My last Kickstarter campaign raised $3,300. This time, I am seeking a modest $450 since there are no reprint licensing fees to pay. I just hope to raise enough to buy a bar code and an ISBN number, pay the printer's setup fees, and cover the cost of printing and shipping the copies needed to fulfill the pledges if successful this time around.
Risks and challenges
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