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May 23, 2010


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I like the aquarium instructions, but most of the time I can't get over the "ick" factor with Bukowski. Often his poems are ruined for me by what seems to me to be gratuitous grossness. That's just me - I know lots of folks get a lot from his poems.

I would definitely be curious to hear from more people about the value of Bukowski's work. I was fascinated by him in college, and it was really the rhythm that he achieved that was mesmerizing. And this is a narrative rhythm, but translates really well to poetry. Meaning: he often tells a simple short story with each of his poems. However, his use of line break turns each part of the story into a small unit of description. At some point in most of his poems, there is a turning point. Here it is: "and my fattened cock entered/
into the miracle." this is the most important moment in the poem. it shows beneath all the "vulgarity" (objectification of a woman as the point of the poem and the graphic, even gratuitous nature of the content) that the most poetic moments that bukowski experiences are ones of oneness with another person. this is something that he shares with us through his poetry.

HOWEVER (big however) i outgrew him. i no longer find any value in reading his work. i see that each poem is a narrative of these small revelations that he has through detailed descriptions of sex, and i don't find that valuable to read. i don't find that socially valuable to produce. i would never teach bukowski in one of my workshops because i don't think that the content is valuable to read. as for the rhythm, i'm sure i can find other poets who employ this same technique.

Laura and lau-ra, thank you.

I can see how Bukowski's material is limited. It's one sordid episode after another. Demeaning to women? Consistently.

His craft? Mostly I don't have a problem with his craft. For example I think his line breaks are calculated and I can see him wrinkling his brow, deciding where to put the breaks. I think they work.

His material? He is macho and violent, fragile and afraid. He's a drunk and a bully (by extension a coward), he's selfish and pathetic. I think he is smart enough to know all of this about himself and a little horrified that his awful hijinks make him a successful and famous poet.

I take his poems as a warning: don't be a bully; don't drink too much; work hard; be good; keep learning; love your people; and especially don't take good things for granted because they are not granted.

In the poem I chose -- and I chose and transcribed three Bukowski poems before I settled on this one, like a flower in the rain -- I thought Bukowski was being tender. It is a tender poem. A little break in the ongoing bad news. I dunno if that comes through. It's good at the end when they tell each other how good they feel. And they eat the chicken and gravy and rolls.

Even if it is a tender poem, does that mean we sympathize with him? Recognize he's a wretch, vulnerable as anybody, but give him a pass? No.

But I dig the poem. It's one of my favorites.

I have six more poems lined up for this week, none of them Bukowski.

Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope you will come back.

I loved Bukowski when I discovered him in high school, loathed him in my early-mid twenties, and have come back, happily, to revel in his odd humor & absolute lack of pretension*. (*This, of course, is not a lack of ego, which it seems he had in buckets.) I think when I became serious about studying poetry at around age 19, Bukowski became threatening, seeming not artful enough, not complicated enough. But when I come across his work now, eight years and many other poet's voices later, I appreciate the stink & curse & wink of his work, especially as a poet who doesn't write much that's vulgar or funny.

wew! Bukowski's writing was heavily influenced by the geography and atmosphere of his home city of Los Angeles, and is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work

>>>Bukowski became threatening, seeming not artful enough, not complicated enough.

I think many people feel this way about B. Maybe that's valid for them and I respect that. Maybe Bukowski does nothing to make them want to write.

Bukowski makes me want to write. Not necessarily to write like Bukowski (I can't, not well or sustainably) but to write something. He also makes me want to read more Bukowski.

He is not everyone's cup of tea. I look forward to reactions to the other poems I will present here.

Thanks for reading, Sophie.

Thank you, Eric, for callling this poem to our attention.

It's hard not to find many aspects of Bukowski's presentation of self in his life and work to be objectionable. I remember hearing him read in a big gymnasium in San Francisco in 1973. People would yell out, "Fuck you, Bukowski!" and he would yell the same back at them. He sat on a little platform, a real refrigerator filled with beer on the stage with him. He would get up, pop a beer can, then get back to reading. He may even have thrown a few cans at the audience. I can't remember. It all seemed over the top and theatrical, but entertaining. Better than much of the boring writing that seems to prevail out there in the literary world a great deal of the time.

But with poetry, value resides in language, and Bukowski knows how to play his instrument. "Like a Flower in the Rain" is a beautiful piece of work. As a fuck poem, however, it takes second place to Geoff Young's "The 97th Kentucky Derby," which I heard him read in Baltimore on Saturday night.

Poet is too good a descriptor for what I read, Eric. I could write that crap, and I'm the farthest thing from a poet I know--except for Bukowski. Pornography doesn't bother me, and neither does the language. I just find no value in what he says.

Eric Bourland
Hi, Karla, thanks for your note.

Do you think Bukowski should be read by anyone? Or disregarded? Should he ever be taught in the academe?

No "writer" should ever be disregarded, Eric. I am thinking that I wish I had this man's writing to discuss during the freshman english college classes i've taught over the years. My initial reaction was worthy, but I certainly welcome any comments and/or discussion

I should mention that Karla was my 8th grade English teacher at Thoreau Middle School in the reservation town of Thoreau, NM. This would be around 1980? 1981? She was wise and kind and I remember with a lot of fondness her spirit and presence in that portable classroom in that backwater middle school. Today instinctively I want to call her Mrs. Lovorn. I have vast respect for Karla. If I am worth anything today, or anything well, Karla is a part of that, she helped to sponsor and build me when I was an intractable awkward early teenager.

I've found many of Bukowski's poems, well, profound. And the one Eric has posted here is a new one for me and I like it. His timing is first rate.

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