Tag Archives: poetry

Charles Bukowski Where It Counts

poet
The poet Charles Bukowski
samplex

Date: Thu Sep 26, 1996 6:48:50 PM America/New_York

To the Editors of The L.A. Free Press,
November 15, 1974

Hello editors:

Regarding the Lynne Bronstein letter of Nov. 15 about my story of Nov. one:

1. The story was about pretentiousness in art. The fact that the pretender had female organs had nothing to do with the story in total. That any female made to look unfavorable in a story must be construed as a denunciation of the female as female is just so much guava. The right of the creator to depict characters any way he must remains inviolate—whether those characters are female, black, brown, Indian, Chicano, white, male, Communist, homosexual, Republican, peg-legged, mongolian and/or ?

2. The story was a take-off on an interview with an established female poet in a recent issue of Poetry Now. Since I have been interviewed for a future issue of the same journal and for future editions of Creem and Rolling Stone, my detractors will get their chance to see how I hold or fail under similar conditions.

3. When the narrator lets us know that he has Janice Altrice's legs in mind might infer more that he is bored with the poetry game, and also might infer that he could have a poolhall, dirty joke mind, at times. That the narrator might be attacking himself instead of trying to relegate the lady back to a "sex object" evidently is beyond the belief of some so-called Liberated women. Whether we like it or not, sex and thoughts of sex do occur to many of us (male and female) at odd and unlikely times. I rather like it.

4. That "she is indeed speaking for Bukowski himself, who has expressed a similar contempt for unknown poets who give each other support." The lady spoke for herself. Her "contempt" was toward poets not academically trained. My dislike is toward all bad poetry and toward all bad poets who write it badly—which is most of them. I have always been disgusted with the falsity and dreariness not only of contemporary poetry but of the poetry of the centuries—and this feeling was with me before I got published, while I was attempting to get published, and it remains with me now even as I pay the rent with poesy. What kept me writing was not that I was so good but that that whole damned gang was so bad--when they had to be compared to the vitality and originality that was occurring in the other art forms. As to those who must gather together to give port, I am one with Ibsen: "the strongest me alone."

5. "Now that he's well-known and the only California poet published by Black Sparrow Press, he thinks that nobody else is entitled to be a poet—especially women, My dear lady: you are entitled to be whatever you can be; if you can leap twenty feet straight up into the air or sweep a 9 race card at Western harness meet, please go ahead and do so.

6. "A lot of us think there's more to write poetry about than beer, drunks, hemorrhoids, and how rotten the world is." I also think there's more to write poetry about than that and I do so.

7. "Female artists, on the other hand, try to be optimistic." The function of the artist is not to create optimism but to create art—which sometimes may be optimistic and sometimes can't be. The female is bred to be more optimistic than the male because of a function she has not entirely escaped as yet, the bearing of the child. After passing through pregancy and childbirth, to call life a lie is much more difficult.

8. "Could it be that the male is 'washed-up' as an artist, that he has no more to say except in his jealousy, to spit on the young idealists and the newly freed voices of women?" Are these the thought concepts you come up with in your "ego-boosting" sessions? Perhaps you'd better take a night off.

9. "Poetry is an art form. Like all art it is subjective and it does not have sex organs." I don't know about your poems, Lynne, but mine have cock and balls, eat chili peppers and walnuts, sing in the bathtub, cuss, fart, scream, stink, smell good, hate mosquitoes, ride taxicabs, have nightmares and love affairs, all that.

10. "... without being negative ..." I thought they'd ridden this horse to death; it's the oldest of the oldest hats. I first heard it around the English departments of LA highschool in 1937. The inference, when you call somebody "negative" is that you completely remove them from the sphere because he or she has no basic understanding of life forces and meanings. I wouldn't be caught using that term while drunk on a bus to Shreveport.

11. I don't care for Longfellow or McKuen either, although they both possess (possessed) male organs. One of the best writers I knew of was Carson McCullers and she had a female name. If my girlfriend's dog could write a good poem or a decent novel I'd be the first to congratulate the beast. That's LIBERATED!

12. Shit, I ought to get paid for this.

Charles Bukowski ©1974

I was 28 years old however before I ever uttered my first curse words aloud, so ingrained was my early parental training and youthful leanings. I moved to DC, donned a leather jacket, infiltrated its punk rock scene, made some drunken guitar friends, consciously worked to fit in so diligently that I apparently overdid it by all accounts but my own, and soon my mouth became the crowded gutter my poor southern heart apparently was meant to reveal.
A swashbuckler, that CB was, no doubt. He was always concerned about getting paid, but then I know I am too, and only Sue pays me a whiff, so I must admit I feel terribly obligated to succeed on some level or the other in due time although I would simply love to "create art and suppress it" as Len Bracken preaches from the idealogical remnants of his own hero Debord, while privately scavenging for fame and fortune with an high energy drink clenched in both fists like none other in my own flattened circle, but I digress.

I think this was some pretty cheeky thinking, although the political correctness crowd had hardly stormed the gates at this point, merely the first and second waves of feminism, and the first stirrings of the gay assault on the closet. Bukoswki hit the mark as far as I am concerned, although I am certainly no great fan of his so-called poetry, and have never bought a book of his poems. His minimalist-styled novels are decent enough as a reflection of a down and out substrata of humanity, but I hardly call his work great writing. But his theory abides mine. This ain't no touchy feely world we live in and report from. Life is cruel even among the most civilized and friendly of friendlies. And while I question rock and rap and even these action adventure flicks on the grounds of perpetuating a sad influence upon impressionable minds (and whom dares brag of having an unimpressionable mind), I certainly am no adherant of the Disneyfied approach to artistic expression. The Jean-Jacques Rousseau idea of keeping young minds pure until they reach the age of eighteen, characterized in his novel Émile has had a good run in the West. It seemingly has failed.

But on a side note: personal liberty and more specifically, the abolition of slavery and the notion of equal rights is uniquely a western male idea as Dinesh D'Sousa, of East Indian descent, points out very poignantly in his own book. No other culture in the history of humanity can touch what Jefferson and his cronies idealized in the late eighteenth century. But here I go again, venturing out of the CB parameter.

"...and while talking to him I learned something: Larry Flynt (publisher of the Hustler skinflynt) ain't just kidding about his religious stance. The copy editor told me that my story had several "god damns" in it and Larry wouldn't allow God to be used like that in his mag so my people instead of saying "god damn" would have to end up saying "damn"..."

Now that's bizarre. Seems I recall plenty of filthy religious cartoons and shit, but Flynt (as any wacko eccentric we know is prone) is weird about combining this word and that word... Seems Jehovah and even Jesus were quite adept at damning this and that whenever the mood was ripe for a curse or two, but this fear of uttering God and DAMN in the same breath is really astonishing. I was 28 years old however before I ever uttered my first curse words aloud, so ingrained was my early parental training and youthful leanings. I moved to DC, donned a leather jacket, infiltrated its punk rock scene, made some drunken guitar friends, consciously worked to fit in so diligently that I apparently overdid it by all accounts but my own, and soon my mouth became the crowded gutter my poor southern heart apparently was meant to reveal.

GT

Wipe Those Feet

Each American city evaporating
into the clean cool dusk
experience sends tapping nervous patients
on suspicious knees, devoid of grassy knolls,
brokering unabridged entropy, fixated
on last hope expense checks electronically mailed,
and yet without fair warning.

We laugh out of sheer geometry,
absorbed in a crackling worth, our capacity
for sweet shock stilled for camera shots
and misfitted shoes of fortune gaping a t the naked
grizzled flesh, shoving it across in public
bodies of water and wine and mud...

We drop our coin
into each inverting slot,
pulling a bag behind the bushes,
a bag actively malevolent, still cruising
our crusted minds like a decade
we forgot to peel.

Traffic Gerund

Good evening good peoples of Single Bibliophile Universe.
Good evening to you Guildrunners who aren't.
(No Wittgenstein. You may not eat the gerund.)
Welcome.
Relax.
Take the kinks out.
Vibrate.
Dreamland asterisk marital status: comprehensive but vague.
Rest up for the holiday soon.
When you most expect it loosen your hair.
Burn off old habits.
Rock along the microwave with a New Waver.
Unfasten the refrigerator, Lux.
Throw punk rock at a dog whipping him into shapes only a cat loves.
Dust off your planted coffee-table books.
Pick them up.
Sniff them.
And demand a miracle.
Fish-pay the rent.
Let your memory bank stand in any hallway it chooses.
Consent to surpass the oracle of the Gaza Strip.
Open your monologue for staring strangers to see.
A very casual thing to do.
Dualist or donkey?
Inconveniences all queer statements must suffer.
Only if you wash me.
Designed to demolish warts and other unsightly buildings.
Please pardon this occasion of theology.
An aborted plot to dazzle you with distractions invariably most serious.
Boz is the real flaw.
The president smiling the greatest compliment allowed by law.
Given on the basis of one promise per chapter.
Brass doorknobs are selling where apples can't get past the canal.
To look at you I would say your problems are not worth it.
Irkwink yourself if there is no other art of curvature in your corner.
They took us as fools and pried us free of our questions.
Where are you in that picture?
The living eternal end.

Now that those days have passed on to their reward,
cute daffy lions bralessly stop by, convincing
me I am suggesting myself. Despite Delilah's
climax, poets are sometimes easy prey
to the desires of skin and savagery.
If you avoid the one, you catch the other.

Some of the people can be naked some of the time.
And all of the people can be naked all of the time.
But none of the people can be naked none of the time.
I see God's face in my feet. I think Yeats said that.
Babes observe their impacts. True as glass.
Lines prepare their streets. Hit the books, son.
Samson loved Delilah and long-winded facts.

There is no time left to write poems,
only slogans which are mere wordsuck
resurrecting the legends we breathe our songs for...

[ 1983, Atlanta, GA ]

Nickel

I am in disgrace, imposed
Strictly between the lines hunger drew,
Composed of
I had it! I had it!
But a poor speaker gone near-public
With a whetted conscience of mayonnaise
And economic morality gone sour,
I jerk off into another memory, sifting
My self-rising hour, shifting on my feet
Like an entrepreneur trading promises,
Looking to the burning bush for better days.

I've been swallowed by that whale,
Caught in the drift of a dedicated urge.
I had it, I'll borrow to
Replace it in one revolution or two.
Yes indeed! I had it to give it
Its proper massage at face value,
To grease the palm tree with coconuts
Or oil spilt during an afternoon's taboo.

If'n you are polite, say
You are void of impulse, and
Let it go at that, say no thanks
But I have to go. (Periodically
Perjury is a motive known
To the best of legends.)
I had it, almost.

Language, your honor,
Is mere alphabet dirt. Abandonment is energy
Too sharp to touch without furor,
But say, haul it in,
Taste beyond contentment
The release
Doing its own work,
And other mad values captioned in crime.

Strapped to thyself against the deck, say
Blow, say blow bay blow, say
Grab up cane and tame the vicious dog.
Know that fear's elect echoes no chorus
But somehow somewhere sometimes forgets
To clothe itself with dignity befitting
Its call, say howl Allen Ginsberg
If you chance meeting him
In occupied territory
Where gods wrestle and speak, say
Speak to us in whale. And to the last word
Nymphomaniacs and their guessing captors,
Legging margins across the dispassionate land, say
Hey button those blouses open to angry remarks
Ruthless enough to Naomi, say
Juggle yesterday's summer
Until parenthetical dawn, say
Nothing to Walt Whitman,
Ezra say Pound, the captain of swans,
Willie Mays say hey Neil Young, say
My…my…my…nothing
To the brash Elvis, research impulsive,
Or Johnny Rotten in the heat
Of awkward citizenship.

And Mother Alibi, say the key to happiness
Won't open the door
Where implication and silence
Are only as good
As each word implies,
Say, how is it every time I pray
I feel like deodorized vomit, say
Souls grow on bones but die beneath
Banker's hours, say
Tell us your name whale, and
We'll make you a star, casting
Matches like chorus lines
Between government issues, say
Where do we hang our hammock, say
Hope a man will cut his hair
Simply to punctuate a sentence, or
Fix his neighbor a cheese sandwich, say
To Delilah Mae Jones,
Samson is dead. Say, but
There has come another greater than he, say
Welcome y'all, say crab canons are delicious
Ways of life, say whales of America
Are a sign to insurance agents.

If'n you are angrily plundered, say
Do not be tricked by men, say
But let them trick you, sampling
Their techniques
So that you are never sent to the orchards
To gather unbias pickles, say
Pairs of excuses are unexplainable
To a whale who is strictly vegetarian
For reasons only the father knows, say
Midnight cravings innocently coded
In hollow rhetoric
Are useless to the slayers of
Civil disobedience, say
Navel oranges tapered to grip expense
Sit down, roll around, gnaw bones, shape knees,
And remind us that chaos is culture, say
Practice what you preach, say
Silence. I am in disgrace, almost.

[ 1982, Atlanta, GA ]

Samplex

I was swinging flamelessly flawed
Crookedly along a line of shooting fame
Where bleeping patriots bang
Living bull winking after coming
All that distance for nothing

and knew it mattered something
as my lead,
felling numbers by the wayside.
Washington. ID'ed.

D'ever visit
Looking like what is it
The keeping of the holy sanctuary
Ringing in clocks and cells
Sent off spacely spiffed
And then gathered erroneously
Introducing numbers colored
What has been?

In the beginning there was no faith
Tremble forsook theirs
The lady barker bit as something silent
And something like slender pumped branches
Of guilt-ridden hitchhiker fire
Gave zero a sympatheticological smile
Charging the going rate of two dollars
And manslaughter
And acts half flag
Half rag

Gagging suspicious gangs
Some sing some hesitate to recall
Soil deep replacing
Me and you.

Deciding to return to space
Its only begotten
To do right by what's left
Like sheep they would leap
In a twinkling of a cobra's eye
Insufferably here to stay
Using maximum flair to cornbread level
Dressed above the Machiavellian hips
Calling themselves out as apostles of
Aesthetics of inactivity
Their seed.

I said that night
Bar stool on my tongue I am
The college of my choice
And you agreed
That mine is a subtle creed
Strangerhood breed
Speaking for myself as if I had no tongue
Some new testicles glorified
Kinetic Pierjudy Rapier
And his spicy bride
Who aspires to the moment I ask.

[ 1981, Corpus Christi, TX ]