Reading: I am 25 by Gregory Corso

Beat poet Gregory Corso 1930-2001) was a young member of the Beat generation, ‘urchin shelley’ who always believed in the power of poetry to bring about change. Here is a funny verse about generational conflict between poets:

I am 25
With a love a madness for Shelley
Chatterton Rimbaud
and the needy-yap of my youth
has gone from ear to ear:
Especially old poetmen who retract
who consult other old poetmen
who speak their youth in whispers,
saying:–I did those then
but that was then
that was then–
O I would quiet old men
say to them:–I am your friend
what you once were, thru me
you’ll be again–
Then at night in the confidence of their homes
rip out their apology-tongues
and steal their poems.

No need to add much here. Corso and his friends knew Percy Bysshe Shelley, Thomas Chatterton and Arthur Rimbaud well. The sentiment is recognizable for anyone who has been 25 (at that age, science tell us, our brain is matured). The frustration of being young and brimming with vitality, yet ignored by the older silverbacks who rather consult their colleagues than learn from him who came after them. ‘Thru me / you’ll be again” sounds semi-religious of course: The old poet has to surrender to his finitude, and if he refuses to do so he shalt be castrated, his tongue shalt be ripped off. But the brute and vital force of new life doesn’t need to begin from scratch. Shameless Gregory just steals their poems, so something accumulates, something bigger than the individual, but a ‘poetic spirit’ of humankind. Corso spoke about such vision in the years before his death in 2001.

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