Beat News

Sarpedon: A Play by Gregory Corso

Prior to the publication of his first collection of poetry, The Vestal Lady on Brattle and Other Poems (1955), Beat poet Gregory Corso 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 “a great funny Prometheus Unbound … all in metre and rhyme” and “…an attempt to replicate Euripides, though the whole shot be an original.”

The play comprises 17 pages of this volume which also includes a two-page introduction by Corso himself, taken from a transcript of his prefatory remarks at his 1978 reading of Sarpedon at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Also included are an editor’s introduction which provides information about the plays Corso wrote while at Harvard and describes the circumstances surrounding his brief residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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.

Find it on Amazon:

  • Text from the Amazon description
David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the founder and editor of Beatdom literary journal and the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs the Weird Cult and World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. His next book, High White Notes: The Rise and Fall of Gonzo Journalism comes out in November, 2021.

Recent Posts

Review: Fear and Loathing in Aspen

The life and work of Hunter S. Thompson has long appealed to filmmakers, yet no…

2 weeks ago

Podcast About the Beat Generation

In a recent episode of Wondros, a podcast hosted by Jesse Dylan and Pricilla Cohen,…

3 weeks ago

Review: The Beats, by Steven Belletto

In 2020, Cambridge University Press published The Beats: A Literary History, by Steven Belletto, author…

2 months ago

The Change: Allen Ginsberg, Reborn

This essay was originally published in Beatdom #21. On July 18th, 1963, Allen Ginsberg sat…

2 months ago

Beatdom #22 – The Jack Kerouac Centenary Edition

Every year, we pick a theme for the next installment of Beatdom. In the past,…

3 months ago

The Beats: A Teaching Companion

Clemson University and the Beat Studies Association have been working together on a series of…

3 months ago

This website uses cookies.