By Denise Mckenzie
Charles Bukowski has long been an influence on me. I am not sure exactly what attracted me to his writing first. Was it his grittiness? His openness? I’ve always liked ’em a little rough around the edge… my favorite writers, my man, my friends, my life. There is a certain precarious charm to living on the fringe. I suppose I felt that I related to the old man in some ways. He wrote about being ordinary and I liked that. I think the first book I read was his very last novella, Pulp. I loved it. I read Post Office, Women, a couple others. Then I started delving into his poetry.
It is easy to see Bukowski as a surly, chauvinistic alcoholic man pig who can’t stop writing about his grubby life “mounting” as many fast women as he could in shitty 1970’s Los Angeles motels and rundown apartments, his weekly trips to the Hollywood Park Race Track and his general distaste for humanity. Not exactly a feminist icon or a role model at all. Most people probably wouldn’t even want to have a drink with him. But, fuck- was he real? Was he raw? More than any writers I can think of, especially of his time. He said things in his poetry that most people would not even consider saying out loud, let alone print on paper.
He chronicled his dirty, desperate drunken nights in bars across the city, at home with his women or alone with his typewriter. He did this in simple, poetic, relatable and at times, beautiful ways. He had a weak spot for horse races and Heineken. He liked classical music. He loved his cats. He even loved some of the women he wrote about, though he may have had a funny way of showing it at times.
Chuck was a real blue-collar type. A somewhat average Joe with a poetic soul writing about the mundane and seemingly meaningless existence of someone who works at a post office or some other mind-numbing job. He was a regular guy with gambling problems, relationship issues, possible struggles with alcoholism. A guy who could be very blunt about his obvious disregard for what you think, what Academia thinks, what the world thinks. He was someone who went home alone with a bottle of who the fuck cares and a pack of smokes to a machine with letters to type away the boring staleness that is unavoidable in all human existence. He was a cranky old bastard who was also a realist. No shame in telling you exactly what you don’t want to hear. This quality in a human can be abrasive but refreshing. I would have a drink with him.
I just picked Storm for the Living and the Dead: Uncollected and Unpublished Poems, the latest release of Bukowski’s works. The editor Abel Debritto intended to keep the newly published poems for the most part as they were originally written. Debritto has edited several other Bukowski editions and I think does a good job. So far, I am digging the Storm. I also hear that City Lights will be releasing something of Bukowski’s next year, which will be rad.
Philosopher’s Stone Poetry’s next event is BUKOWSKI POETRY NIGHT on December 5th at Gravlax in Los Angeles. We will be honoring the dirty old writer in his city of fallen angels by reading his iconic poems and sharing our most Bukowski-inspired work. I will be reading a poem from the new book and raffling off some of my artwork. Bring a friend, have some drinks and cheers to Chuck!
“To do a dull thing with style-now that’s what I call art.” – Charles Bukowski
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