One of the great perks of working in the RBML is not merely being surrounded by the fabulous rare and unique books and manuscripts we care for, but also having colleagues who share their own discoveries. Today was just such a day: while conferring with Carrie Hintz, one of RBML’s manuscript processors, about our Beat Collections, Carrie pulled out a letter from City Lights publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti to poet Gregory Corso. And not just any letter: this is the one in which Ferlinghetti accepted the poem "BOMB" for publication and included a little sketch of the proposed mise-en-page.
Gregory Corso’s poem "BOMB"– first published by City Lights in San Francisco, 1958–was printed as a calligram, that is, a poem whose typographical characters are spatially arranged in a manner that corresponds to the poem’s theme or topic. The letter comes from RBML’s Allen Ginsberg Papers.
Ferlinghetti’s enthusiastic response also mentions his plan to print the poem as a broadside, or as a single sheet. The format is particularly appropriate for BOMB, graphically reinforcing the impact of Corso’s theme. Columbia’s copy of the printed poem is shown at left, and can be seen up close in the RBML reading rooms. RBML Call number: B812C818 O5 1958
RBML also has a Gregory Corso collection with correspondence, art works, and the poet’s notebooks.