I heard belatedly, as is my wont, that they were doing a letterpress book in a day on 24th April and of course I missed the deadline with my ‘submission to play’ which was-
So I must learn to get in touch, I never did keep in touch, I am cool as a fool, no, make that tree werds; cool aka fool. I like this 3 werd ting. I spose it emanated from koans? Anyway, a friend was asking about how I write/prepare my blArts? As he sispected (hey spellcheck sod off, when I say sispected I mean sispected. Hell it’s hard to do sispected when spellchecker keeps changing the i to a u.) I don’t just write it off the top of me bonce, I longhand write it first then type it, the type-in is the first ‘edit & add’ stage then it goes on. I can ‘ed’ it again as I upload and I sometimes go back maybe weeks later and ‘edit & add’ agin. The following three werds show how I edit my writing
See what I mean? That encapsulates what I do. Those three words show how I edit and improve. The 3 I put in late were ok, but done in a rush sans gestation. Then I slept a couple o nichts on it and re-did my Buko article ready to post here and slept agen and saw that it would be better as CRAZY AS CASSADY. I wrote those tree werds cos Bukowski who didn’t like many folk liked Cassady and was like him except his drug of choice was alcohol whereas Cassady’s wer ‘speed’. In factotum speed was eventually, altho it took a LO…OO…OONG time, the death of Cassady when he decided, altho not any longer a young man, to race a alongside train, it was probably a art attack.
May be better still.
I was not going to do this subject but I decided to because the centre for bookarts Bristol did an artist-buk-owski-in-a-day this week. I wrote this article on the Big Bolcher back in 2010 for canongate’s sadly defunct now culture site, Meet At The Gate. I thought those of you who know not a lot about the Big Bolcher might be fascinated by the following. I must admit I read the bio and the poetry books over the Christmas period and I am afraid they did nothing to help me have a merry time that year. In fact, every Christmas since I have been dull and unfestive. Not sure if that’s cos I gave up drinking alcohol, or the damage of seeping in Buko’s sad mindset or just age?
Review by Pete Kennedy Jan 2010. Image above (my copyrite) – Is this Bukowski as a youth?
“Dear Mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold,
But the ale-house is healthy & pleasant & warm”
William Blake wrote that and he also said it is, “the road to excess which leads to the palace of wisdom.” He may have been fore-seeing The Big Bolcher himself.
This big book, beautifully presented, with a new photo of our gnarled hero on the cover, is stimulating and enjoyable reading. Bukowski’s poems are not mystical like Kahlil Gibrans nor zen koans and Lorca influenced like Leonard Cohen. His were more downbeat with an earthy soul which climbed as high as any but with regular use of obscenities and sometimes distasteful subjects are not for the faint hearts. Len is quoted on the cover of this Canongate ‘best of the best’ Bukowski collection as saying that, ‘He brought everybody down to earth, even the angels’. Indeed he did and he dug deeper into the human condition too. He chose to retreat from ‘normal’ life doing low paid menial jobs which neither taxed his brain nor his preferred social standing, in the belly of society. I also worked in the post office awhile, and it was the pits for me too and like Bonny Face Boy says, working there helps you to ‘get’ Big Bolcher’s viewpoint. I got very upset working for nobodys who mis-used their position but that led to one of the best bits of advice I ever heard, from a good salt of the earth postman, ‘Hey Teach. Don’t expect nothing from nobodys.’ And despite his penchant for the lowest ebb of life Bukoboy was not a nobody.
Bukowski had his own influences, from e e cummings to his favourite John Fante and the great Kenneth Patchen, whose habit of accompanying his work with paintings and drawings Bukowski replicates in the limited editions he did for John Martin his long time publisher who selected these poems to represent the work he thinks stand out.. Bukowski was driven to write finding his voice* battering away at an old typewriter, usually into the night, after a couple of six packs. Bukowski’s religion was alcohol, mostly beer but cheap wine would do. His young daughter learned to call Ned’s liquor store, ‘Hank’s Store’ as her dad spent so much time in there. He was known as Hank to his close associates. (See p334 for his ode to Marina which shows his undoubted doting for his child.) For some reason when drunk he would hanker to fight the barman, or other drunks, or his woman, the former may have been a retribution for the beatings he suffered from his father. He often comes over as reprehensible like when casting insults about Madonna to her husband Sean Penn. He compulsively sought sexual pleasure outside the norms of ‘acceptability’, asking the recent widow of his good friend Jon Webb to make love with him. Despite his low view of the human condition he had a deep hope. His poems carry a beautiful but ironic insight. Bukowski lived at a time when men were men and women were a good source of sex and food makers. In a late poem, p399, on his life he refers to all his friends, men, dying and he regrets not knowing enough (about) women until late on, too late maybe? Despite all of his faults his work was very popular by the time he died. His friend Sean Penn stayed true and turned up at his funeral. All of his life he had refused to run with the pack which gave him the outsider’s viewpoint. His was a questioning spirit which looked at all humanity with a critical eye. He was the Clown Prince of Poetry and like jesters of old he took on society, shining his torch on the soft underbelly of all our weaknesses. He acted a fool as the drunk irresponsible hurt and potentially harmful human. His main view was from the bottom with his preferred view being of the woman’s bottom! He adopted the stance of a nihilist yet he was an inveterate survivor whose constitution refused to succumb to the consequences of his lifestyle. He had no need to wear a mask as from behind his challenged features he viewed the world with the disdain of the down-trodden. The final two sections of this book, one on his cats and then on his impending death show his ability off magnificently. His ode to a ‘cross-eyed tailless cat’ is possibly his best self portrait ever. The penultimate poem-‘bluebird’- shows he had a heart and that he deliberately treated it badly until the very end! John Martin’s knowledge, garnered over half a life-time editing out the dross Bukowski sent alongside the gems, benefits this collection of poems.
* There are recordings of his reading but it seems his earlier best ones, uncontaminated by hecklers uninterested in his poems but eager to provoke his uncontrolled use of expletives in his reaction, were not recorded. His having lived the life of a punk at the time it was just becoming fashionable was a bonus for his public image. His spoken voice was however quite sensitive. He spoke slowly because as a child he had to measure everything he said as one wrong word could result in another beating from his father. His poems are best read aloud in a deep gruff Los Angeles lilt like Tom Waits who was surely influenced by Hank. As ‘The Boss’ Bruce Springstein must have been too, “The poets down here write noting at all, they just sit back and let it all be.”(Ashbury Park.)
The book has a good alphabetical index of the poems and a list of his major works with their dates. It would perhaps benefit from a mention of the date of writing and its published source at the foot of each poem?
I also reviewed a biog of Bukbolcher:
Review of Sounes’ Bukowski book by Pete Kennedy. Jan. 2010.
“Outsiders appear like pimples on a dying civilisation…If a civilisation is spiritually sick (so is the individual). If he is healthy enough to put up a fight, he becomes an Outsider.” (‘Religion & the Rebel’ by Colin Wilson, p9.)
The above quote encapsulates a large portion of Bukowski’s life, that is until his lifestyle became the object of fascination and he became quite rich and famous and people from Madonna to female students on a dare would pay him visits. He had the pimples, acne, which along with his German nationality led to his being ostracised at school where he would not join in the sporting hero mentality and was already siding with ‘losers’. He was not afraid of the bullying that came with being rejected as at home his own father would leather him with a strop, when he was not beating his wife whose own fear led to her seeming complicity as the boy got beaten. The beaten ones develop a hardness which in turn makes them harder to beat and later Bukowski was to take glee, during his drunken stupors, in fighting the bar-tender. Maybe he saw them as father-figures and wanted to vent his mis-placed anger on them. Some of his women were ‘whores’ and/or drunks and they would tease him sometimes by going off with other men, later when his women became more reliable he had the previous model imprinted on his psyche and successfully ruined many a good relationship by false accusations. One of Bukowski’s least tasteful habits was to fight his woman, even breaking Linda King’s nose, an act which cannot be condoned but which had an inevitability considering his previous penchant for picking the dregs of society as soul mates. If you think you can hack this guy read on, it gets worse, yet you gotta love him! Bukowski was a man of little faith in his life and great hope in his work which was eventually born out. When Rohde talks about men with a lack of faith in the power of love not surprisingly with his history this epitomises him as a man who has lost faith, who lives in fear and suspicion. Yet he had a great Humanity, and a good writer’s voice and that is what attracted me to his work in the mid -1970’s. Although I loved his poems in ‘Days disappear like Wild Horses over the Hill’, I think his best poems are among the best poems, I became disenchanted with him on reading ‘The Fiend’, a short story about a rape, in ‘Bukowski Stories. Erections, Ejaculations etc’ whose editor at City Lights, Gail Chiarrello, must have allowed him total freedom. In this biography Sounes points out that basically Bukowski was ‘pandering to his readers’ basest expectations’ and seeing how far he could push the barriers. As a 25 year old aspiring writer in 1976 I was impressed by Bukowski’s apparent freedom from editorial eyes, I saw him as a freedom fighter and free thinking writer. Which, in some ways he was, but not in his work for City Lights where he was earning a fast buck by writing stuff beneath his real ability in order to titivate. However, most of the writing was done because he was obsessively driven. Like all good writers he had something to say and it would out. John Martin at Black Sparrow Press would receive batches of poems and would sift out the weaker ones with Bukowski’s permission. Hank left a large body of commendable work which outweighs the stuff he felt the need to do to survive.
From Bukowski’s relatively long and complex life Sounes has pieced together a commendable work which he went about researching well, following up many interviews with surviving friends, lovers and protagonists of the poet. He leaves no stone unturned in the quest to uncover Bukowski, worms and all. Although there is still an academic book to write about Bukowski and his inspirations and influences which would provide great food for thought this is a thorough testimony. Bukowski used his own low-life experience rather than explain it, as Mallarme said “suggestion is the ultimate creative act whereas to name is to destroy”. As an Outsider Bukowski hated any form of privilege, hence his disdain for Robert Creeley the Black Mountain College poet and his liking of Neal Cassady, friend of Kerouac, who he believed was madder than he was!
Finally, the book has good source notes, bibliography & index which are truly helpful. It sets out Bukowski’s life in a brisk easy to read style.
Some more quotes relevant to Buk’s stance?
“If Henry Miller is to be believed, the erotic nihilist is the most pronounced type in America” (Peter Rohde in ‘Henry Miller, Between Heaven & Hell a symposium’ p51)
In the same pubcn.- …we find in (Miller & Whitman) the same joyous and impudent glorification of the sinful life. ..they are strong, full of health, at peace with themselves… they believe in life and they plunge into the intoxification of living with a child-like brutality. (Albert Maillet, p65)
The similarity of this Ice Age sculpture from Czechoslovakia made me wonder if it is a 26,000 year old ancestor of Bukowski? Was he around then or is he a reincarnation?
Is Bukowski an Immortal?
Now we deal with copyrights. I don’t own the © on any of the tree images above, but do I? You see I have changed them, so does that make them mine? Well, I tink you got to change them so much they are unrecognizable but then let’s say I appropriated some images. I wish it to be known I have invented this following symbol (a) as it’s like a ©, but I cannot get this stupid computer to place it in a circle. But the c in a circle denotes copyrights. So, I appropriate (so I Am). I appropriate an image from a magazine, I won’t tell you it’s from National Geographica as they may sue you for looking at it. The image is one they have appropriated from a 26,000 year old sculpture-man, altho it may be a woman wot did it so I shall utilise my word for male and female humans, ubein. T’other image I appropriated frae canongate’s cover, but they won’t mind cos I just advertised their two buks about Buko. And anyway, the composition of the tree images together is mine and mine only, so therefore QED. In fact, letting you in on a secwet, I intend to do a lot of images in ‘panels’ like that, you know, triptychs and all. © pete kennedy2014
http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/world-book-night-2014.htm 2014 booknite video
http://themostdifficultthingever.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/world-book-night-special-wednesday-23rd.html a blog about bukowski by kevin Boniface