BUKOWSKI - The Legend Killer
Ëvelina Bonell, 2015
Charles Bukowski, the father of transparency was born August 16, 1920 in Andermach, Germany and came to the United States at the age of two.
In 1939 to 1941 He went to Los Angeles City College. He didn’t graduate, dropping out when World War II begun. He decided to move to New York to become a writer. For some time he spent writing, most of his work was rejected. A few years later Bukowski gave up his writing, for ten years. After nearly dying from a bleeding ulcer in L.A, he tried writing again. His professional writing did not take off until he was around 35 years old. He started by posting in underground papers and in local papers like Open City and the L.A. Even though Bukowski died of leukemia in 1994, his work continues to make a statement and lives on till today.
Bukowski was a man who spoke factualism when others feared to. Many don’t “get” Bukowski – I believe it’s an acquired taste, you either love it or you don’t. He was a writer whose words spoke truth on American society and used his experience, strong emotions, tough words and sexual explicitly in his writings. While many felt his work was offensive, mastering the male ego attitude through the use of explicit sexual forwardness, brutal alcoholism, cowboy smoking and violence, but Bukowski was only speaking the factualness on what “real-life” was about.
I recall when I was in college and my professor using Bukowski’s writings in her teachings. She showed the different styles in poetry and short tales. Her argument was not all poetry had to rhyme and have a Shakespearean era feel to it. After demonstrating Bukowski’s writings, she required the class to have an open discussion, raise questions and give their own theories on his works.
I for one was blown away by the raunchy but extreme bluntness. I was in awe that a person could make an insane life sound so poetic. His shocking way of not giving a “shit” of what anyone thought, because this is how I felt and this is what we should call TRUTH … now this to me is “real life” poetry. I admire those who reach deep inside and say what needs to be said and not what others think should be said.
I wholeheartedly believe that those are the people who truly have a voice and the ones that aren’t afraid of what society thinks of them. That without any doubt had raised my interest and captured my attention.
Funny thing is, I thought my classmates would feel as I did. Since we come from a generation that is more liberal, vocal, and more socially accepting... Boy was I wrong! People immediately judge him because he didn’t “fit” in poetry’s standards. Certain students only saw that he was always impaired due to drinking and couldn’t stand the way he slurred whenever he spoke. Some felt poetry shouldn’t be so raunchy. I think only 1% of the class really got it.
It’s hard for a few to handle the raw authenticity of Bukowski, because sad to say it’s almost a rare notion in our society. We live in a world where transparency seems…well, non-existent. Stephen Kessler himself stated;
“Without trying to make himself look good, much less heroic, Bukowski writes with a nothing-to-lose truthfulness which sets him apart from most other ‘autobiographical’ novelists and poets,” He also said; “Firmly in the American tradition of the maverick, Bukowski writes with no apologies from the frayed edge of society.”
(San Francisco Review of Books)
One book my professor used was Post Office (Bukowski, Post Office). Some students found this book to be about a man who did nothing but whine about his job at the post office. There were a few who felt it was a waste of time to read. I was in such disagreement vehemently; Post Office in my opinion was about Bukowski addressing real life issues about poverty, individualism, conforming to society, the bleakness of reality and the illogical indulgences to get by. He spoke strongly for us all; the social misfits and outcasts. Like he wrote in his letter down below to his publisher John Martin in August of 1986.
Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.
You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”
And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.
As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?
Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”
They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.
Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:
“I put in 35 years…”
“It ain’t right…”
“I don’t know what to do…”
They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?
I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.
I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”
One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.
So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.
To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.
Those who understand Charles work will agree that he was a tough S.O.B, a passionate poet/writer and of course a mans man. Many would go as far as to call him a drunk and a misogynist in true form. He was a man with much to cloak, but his transparency would not allow him to camouflage his life. He wrote courageously, own up to his mistakes and completely disregarded society’s so called “standards”. He was brutality honest in his poetry/stories and yes perchance some even saw him less alluring to like his work after witnessing his extreme forwardness, but when you read what the people who love him wrote (and still write) you see he was just a human in a society where people aren’t really good, they’re just good at hiding things.
"She says she never had a fight with her father, never saw him drunk when she was a child and can remember only one thing she and her father ever had a disagreement over jazz." She loved it; he hated it. Her memories of Bukowski sound across-the dashboard positive."
(Stevens) – Joe Stevens Long Beach Press-telegram.
"I miss just knowing he's there," Marina says. "It's definitely surprising how much I still miss him. I'd say that it's a profound loss...I don't have any regrets. We both knew we loved each other. I told him that. But I wish my dad could have seen his grandchild. I'm so happy with my son, and I wish I could've seen him as a grandfather."
(Stevens) – Marina Bukowski, daughter of Charles Bukowski
"People believe what they want to believe," says Martin, who still runs Bukowski's Black Sparrow Press and was the best man in his wedding. "What was Shakespeare like personally? Nobody knows. Great writers, from William Faulkner to Walt Whitman, have these public personas that are much different than what their friends know. Faulkner is known as this big drinker who liked young girls. Was that really him?"
(Stevens) -John Martin, Bukowski’s publisher (retired)
often it is the only thing between you and
impossibility. no drink, no woman's love, no wealth can match it. nothing can save you except writing. it keeps the walls from
failing. the hordes from closing in. it blasts the darkness. writing is the ultimate psychiatrist, the kindliest god of all the
gods. writing stalks death. it knows no
quit. and writing laughs at itself, at pain.
it is the last expectation, the last explanation. that's what it is.
from blank gun silencer.
Marina (His poem to his daughter)
majestic, majic infinite my little girl is sun on the carpet-
out the door picking a flower, ha!
an old man, battle-wrecked,
emerges from his chair
and she looks at me
but only sees love,
ha!, and I become
quick with the world
and love right back
just like I was meant to do.
“my beerdrunk soul is sadder than all the dead christmas trees of the world.” – Charles Bukowski (Quote)
In the writings like the ones I placed above they can surely leave you feeling touched by his hurt and humbleness that most failed to describe. To me, that is the true definition of poetic ART. It’s how he tells his story you can feel the intense inner struggles. Personally, he has taught me that regardless what society teaches us about standards or how “normal” one should be – stick to being yourself.
I don’t consider myself to be an outstanding writer, but I know my words are valuable and worth jotting down. Bukowski sends immense encouragement through out his writings, for you to value yourself first. Critics will always find a way to agree/disagree with what you think or believe, but that should never be your motivation. Besides, motivation?! That’s for rookies… Being passionately in love with what you do will help you create what you need and of course get what you want…life.
Bukowski’s gravestone reads: "Don't Try", an expression which Bukowski used in one of his poems, encouraging ambitious writers and creators.
"Somebody at one of these places … asked me: “what do you do? How do you write, create?' You don't, I told them. You don't try. That's very important; 'not' to try, either for Cadillac’s, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of It."
~ Charles Bukowski 1963 letter to John William
To us here at Taylor &Co we stand firm behind Bukowski.
He was a very influential innovative underground author and poet with artistic profundity that is spiritual, emotional and intellectual. May you see the creative truthful side of Bukowski with an open mind and know that you can take any circumstance and turn it into ART. Go out there create and inspire. Speak Art, Speak Loud and maybe one day you yourself can become a legend killer, like Bukowski…