Bruce Cook: On "Marriage"

Gregory Corso came back from Europe in 1957 for the publication of Gasoline and was on the scene at just the moment that the Beat Generation thing was beginning to explode. He completed the trio [with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg] that posed for the photos and talked to reporters. In the beginning, at least, he gloried in the role of the bad boy. He made sure everyone knew he had served time at Dannermora, muttered non sequiturs and put-ons whenever he was interviewed, and told Life magazine's Paul O'Neil that he had never combed his hair, "although I guess I'd get the bugs out of it if I did." Yet quite unexpectedly, he began to attract some real critical interest at the poetry readings he gave with Allen Ginsberg with a poem called "Marriage." It is a long, 111-line work with no narrative thread to sustain it--only the dialectic of a rambling and delightful debate on the pros and the cons of the matrimonial state. Quite fittingly--because it answers so few of them--"Marriage" begins by asking questions....

Yet as funny and entertaining as all this certainly is, it is not merely that, for in its zany way "Marriage" offers serious criticism of what is phony about a sacred American institution. That it was done with good humor and a sense of comedy throughout does not dull its sharp cutting edge in the slightest, for genuine wit and Corso's finest, most casually precise, use of language save the day....

Yet in it, characteristically, Corso manages to hedge. A poem pondering a choice...concludes with no choice made. Ultimately, he seems to lack the courage of his convictions. Without really rejecting marriage, he manages to accept it only as an abstract notion, a possibility.... Not to quibble, however, for in the writing of "Marriage," Corso did make a choice, his most important, for the matter and form of it are distinctly his own. (138-40)


Title Bruce Cook: On "Marriage" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Bruce Cook Criticism Target Gregory Corso
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 08 Jul 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Beat Generation
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