Born to Italian immigrants, Corso experienced a brutal childhood in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Essentially orphaned at the age of 12, Corso was thrown in jail a few times because of petty theft. His experiences while in jail traumatized him--but also gave him an opportunity to read the classics and begin to develop his literary voice.
After being released from jail the final time, and while working petty jobs in New York City, Corso met Allen Ginsberg in 1950. The two had an instant connection and would be closely associated for many years to follow. Ginsberg influenced Corso to experiment with his poetry, and Corso went on to publish several volumes of poetry.
In the tradition of the Beats, Corso combines "hipster jargon" with Whitmanesque lyricism. He has been described as "an urchin Shelley" (by Bruce Cook in The Beat Generation. Corso was a strong believer in the power of poetry and its ability to induce change, often asserting that poetry can influence man to act.