In collaboration with PhillyCam, Moonstone Art Center’s Who Do You Love? series celebrates poets old and new through conversations between Philly’s best writers, poets and arts organizers. Please join us live on September 1st for a discussion of the life and work of Sonia Sanchez featuring Ursula Rucker, Yolanda Wisher and Christopher K.P. Brown.
THIS MONTH, we celebrate the life and work of LA poet and novelist Charles Bukowski. Born August 8th, Bukowski came into success in his 50s after a hard childhood, bouts of addiction, and a series of low paying jobs. His poems reflect the grit and grim of his life, full of sex, black humor, hopeless lows and small everyday victories. His poetry was never pretty, but it was always honest. Earlier this month, we invited Bedfellows editor Alina Pleskova (bedfellowsmagazine.com) and poet Charlie O’Hay to PhillyCam to chomp it up over this raw, controversial poetry figure.
What is you favorite Bukowski Poem? Give a stanza if you can.
But there are so many great ones. I love the sadness of "Bluebird," or "The Japanese Wife." And I love the humor of "The Sex Fiends" and "Hot". I’m going with "Something for the Touts, the Nuns, the Grocery Clerks, & You."
"Something for the Touts, the Nuns, the Grocery Clerks, & You" (great audio of him reading it, here)
and nothing, and nothing, the days of
the bosses, yellow men
with bad breath and big feet, men
who look like frogs, hyenas, men who walk
as if melody had never been invented, men
who think it is intelligent to hire and fire and
profit, men with expensive wives they possess
like 60 acres of ground to be drilled
or shown-off or to be walled away from
the incompetent, men who'd kill you
because they're crazy and justify it because
it's the law, men who stand in front of
windows 30 feet wide and see nothing,
Why should be people read Bukowski today?
Through and past his often cartoonish misanthropy, his dude-are-you-for-real misogyny, and his whiskey-sodden bravado: when he's at his best (when he's not playing to some caricature of himself), there's something pulsating and alive & utterly human at the core of Buk's poetry. It's plainspoken & unadorned. It's written to & for just about anyone. It meets the reader right where they are.
The voice is an unmistakably human voice — not some lofty speaker using abstruse language. For younger poets especially, I imagine Buk being a really accessible 'in' to poetry as a form.
Bukowski’s enduring relevance resides in his defiance of convention, his contempt for overwrought academic poetry, and his accessibility. For me, Bukowski was my gateway drug to poetry. And because of his gutsy brevity and colloquial style, he can still be that for lots of readers who may be put off by the flowery diction of the Romantics or the shredded syntax of the Language poets. Also, Bukowski was never shy to praise the writers he admired—such as John Fante, Robinson Jeffers, Al Purdy. So for me he was a gateway to those writers too. And finally, Bukowski blends the comedic and the tragic in a way that few other writers can.
If Bukowski hung out in Philadelphia today, where do you imagine him being?
I think many of those dive bars have vanished from Center City, but I think you’d be more likely to find him in the neighborhoods like Kensington and Port Richmond, where the corner bars (and hookers) remain.
Oh, easy: loading up on $1 chili dogs at McGlinchey's, arguing with someone about Stravinsky v. Schoenberg at Dirty Franks, hiding in a corner at Doobies with Céline in one hand and a pint in the other.
Describe Bukowski in 3 words.
Well on the broadcast I said, “pure emotion” and “whiskey.” I think I would also agree with Alina in saying “accessibility” and maybe add “tragicomedy.”
Terse, tenacious, unpretentious