Tag Archives: Bukowski

Poet in Mind: Charles Bukowski’s Birthday

Today would have been Charles Bukowski’s 93rd birthday*. Ever since I started writing poetry, I’ve had a fascination with Bukowski: His writing style, his curmudgeonly persona. He had a very rough childhood, with a strict upbringing, and episodes of bullying. Some say he suffered from dyslexia, which contributed to depression and his subsequent alcoholism. He suffered early rejection in his writing career and even gave it up for a time. Eventually, he returned to writing with a distinct style. He’s not the kind of writer that appeals to everyone…you either love or hate him. His poetry can be very blunt and crass, but at the same time, insightful to the plights and depravity of everyday urban living. I don’t want to glorify the lifestyle**, yet, his ability to condense his own issues into compelling poetry can’t be denied. He rarely made use of metaphor and subtlety, but relied solidly on direct language, anecdotes, and his own experiences.

I don’t want to run the risk of violating someone’s copywrite, so I won’t share any of his poems here. But, I’ll direct you to the Poetry Foundation website as a start if you are interested. And these really only scratch the surface. The man was an incredibly prolific author/poet***.

Because I consider Bukowski influential, I’ve been known to “attempt” mimicking his style (for better or for worse) or at least channel him. I think most poets/writers have an influential style that they sometimes attempt.

A Hand to Bukowski

Short Poems

What Matters Most

*Bukowski died in 1994 from leukemia.
**Among other things, Bukowski wrote of his numerous affairs, sex with prostitutes, violence, drinking, and gambling.
***Bukowski wrote more than forty books of poetry, prose and novels while living. There have been nine compilations of “new” poetry published since his death.

what matters most

Somewhere between
Blaze and the Indian Cave
and Bukowski,

I discovered the undead.

The multitude of stumbling carcasses
that slowly overrun the world.
They move as a herd toward the nearest
warm-blooded creature with a brain.

– They like those, don’t they?

They stay in houses, alleys, shopping malls,
libraries, hospitals
and churches,

but not in caves.

Caves are for rustlers and Indian treasure.
Boys and their horses.

Zombies are obsessive.

They like brains.

They stagger and lurch as they walk.
Not like horses, that gait, gallop
and jump.

Fences and shit like that.
Horses wade through deep water
or jump hoops of fire

Zombies don’t like water or fire,
and can’t jump either;
Not up from the ground
or out of 8 story windows.

Well, maybe for brains they would.

A Hand to Bukowski

I was dreaming about smoky rooms
and back stairwells, when
the ghost of Charles Bukowski
woke me up at 2:15 AM
and said,
“Help me write this poem.”

I rolled over and reached out in disbelief,
and I swear, I could have touched him,
but he turned
and left the room.

I swung my legs out of bed
and followed him to the kitchen.table.
He was drinking a cup of coffee
and mumbling to himself, doodling
on a napkin.

“I never wrote a poem about polar bears.”

Why does it have to be polar bears? I asked.

He wrote down that sentence.

What do you know about polar bears? I asked.

“Nothing,” he said and continued
to scribble and recite,

“Damned polar bears in zoos
have it good.
Their keepers throw them fish.
Bears eat.
Bears sleep.
Bears screw.
Nobody throws Chinaski a fish,
And they gawk at me all day.”

I left him at my kitchen table
with his head in his hands,
smoking a cigarette,
and mumbling to himself.

I faded off to sleep,
and dreamed of polar bears.

Bukowski is a lousy muse.