Sunday, 6 December 2009

CHARLES BUKOWSKI -The Captain is out to lunch and the sailors have taken over the ship. ( a brief extract)

Charles Bukowski, a determined outsider, he may not have been a beat, but he lived a cruel driven sort of life, always thirsty, hungry, a prolific writer of both prose and verse. He is itinerant America, with all it's dumb failings, he is it's voice, from the street; his stories full of America's downtrodden, the frowned upon ,the dispossessed, the fallen, the lonely, forlorn and forgotten. For me at least he was beat, truly beat, his life like a heartbeat gradually whittling away, money running out, desperate for the rent, the dark underbelly, America without it's shiny white teeth, destitute, naked , his voice reflecting its dark underground. His words scrambling in America's darkness looking for some sweet sanity!

He was born in Andernach, Germany in 1920 , and came to the U.S.A at the age of 3. He was raised in Los Angeles, where he worked for many years for the U.S Postal system. His words were wild confessionalisms , containing existential bleakness, combined with a conversational style, using American speech and a gritty alcohol infused lyricism.

He died in 1994 but kept on writing to the very end. This act of writing sustained him for sure, it kept all sorts of demons away. Despite the crippling ravages of a disease which overtook his body, his mind was adept at stealing a moment here, a moment there. He knew his writing was what validated his life, it made him something in a society that did not care for him, or him for society. Their have been numerous posthumous Bukowski publications, so prolific was he. So many books, so many titles. In his poetry you will ,a post modern rejection of metaphysics that pushes sometimes an experimental style that casts asides so called proper poet's rules. A great anti- literary literary writer then! He did occasionally grapple with tenderness, he did have a soft side, which does not undermine his sometimes excessive macho role. What follows is a bit from a collection of journal writing with it's fantastic elongated title, the title of this post.It displays him , as a poet of the racehorses. Enhanced at the time with classic Robert Crumb illustrations.
Off we go then.


11:36 PM

A title for the new book. Sat out at the track trying to think of one. That's one place where one can't think. It sucks the brains and spirit out of you. A draining blow job, that's what that place is. And I haven't been sleeping nights. Something is sapping the energy out of me.
Saw the lonely one at the track today. " How ya doin' camaraderie. He wants to talk about things. Horses. You don't talk about horses. That's the LAST thing you talk about. A few races went by and then I caught him looking at me over an automatic betting machine. Poor guy. I went outside and sat down and a cop started talking to me. Well, they call them security men. "They're moving the toteboard," he said. "Yes," I said. They had dug the thing out of the ground and were moving it further west. Well, it put men to work. I liked to see men working. I had an idea that the security man was talking to me to find out if I was crazy or not. He probably wasn't. But I got the idea. I let ideas jump me like that. I scratched my belly and pretended that I was a good old guy. "They're going to put the lakes back in," I said. "Yeah," he said. "This place used to be called the Track of the Lakes and Flowers," " Is that so?" he said. "Yeah," I told him, "they used to have a Goose contest. They'd choose a goose girl and she went out in a boat and rowed around among the geese. Real boring job." " Yeah," said the cop. He just stood there. I stood up. "Well," I said , " I'm going to get a coffee. Take it eary." "Sure," he said, "pick some winners." "You too man," I said. Then I walked away.
A title . My mind was blank. It was getting chilly. Being an old fart, I thought it might best to get my jacket. I took the escalator down from the 4th floor. Who invented the escalator? Moving steps. Now, talk about crazy. People going up and down escalatoes, elevators, driving cars, having garage doors that open at the touch of a button. Then they go to health clubs to work the fat off. In 4,000 years we wont have any legs, we'll wiggle along on our assholes, or maybe we'll just roll along like tumbleweeds. Each species desroys itself. What killed the dinosaurs was that they ate everything around and then had to eat each other and that brought it down to one and the son-of-a-bitch just starved to death.
I got down to my car, got my jacket, put it on, took the escalator back up. That made me fell more like a playboy, a hustler- leaving the place and then coming back. I felt as if I had consulted some special secret source.
Well I played out the card, I had some luck. By the 13th race it was dark and beginning to rain. I bet ten minutes early and left. Traffic was cautious. Rain scares the hell out of L.A drivers. I got on the freeway behind the mass of red taillights. I didn't turn on the radio. I wanted silence. A title ran through my brain: "Bible for the disenchanted." No, no good. I remembered some of the best titles. I mean , of other writers. " Bow down to Wood and Stone." Great title, lousy writer. "Notes from the underground." Great title. Great writer. Also "The heart is a Lonely Hunter." Carson McCullers, a very underrated writer. Of all my dozens of titles the one I liked best was "Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live with Beasts." But I blew that one away on a little mimeo pamphlet. Too bad.
Then the freeway stopped and I just sat there. No title. My head was empty. I felt like sleeping for a week. I was glad I had put the trash cans out. I was tired. Now I didn't have to do it. Trash cans. One night I had slept, drunk, on top of trash cans. New York City. I was awakened by abig rat sitting on my belly. We both, at once, leaped about 3 feet into the air. I was trying to be a writer. Now I was supposed to be one and I couldn,t think of a title. I was a fake. Traffic began to move and I followed it along. Nobody knew who anybody else was and it was great. Then a great flash of lightning crashed above the freeway and for the first time that day I felt pretty good.

by Charles Bukowski ; illustrated by Robert Crumb Black Sparrow Press

Some of Bukowski's poetry :-


the dead can sleep
they don't get up and rage
they don't have a wife.

her white face
like a flower in a closed
window lifts up and
looks at me.

the curtain smokes a cigarrette
and a moth dies in a
freeway crash
as i examine the shadows of my

an owl, the size of a baby clock
rings for me, come on come on
it says as Jerusalem is hustled
down crotch- stained halls.

the 5 a.m. grass is nasal now
in hums of battleships and valleys
in the raped light that brings on
the fascist birds.

I put out the lamp and get in bed
beside her, she thinks I'm there
mumbles a rosy gratitude
as I stretch my legs
to coffin length
get in and swim away
from frogs and fortunes


in grevous deity my cat
walks around
he walks around and around
electric tail and

he is
alive and
plush and
final as a plum tree

neither of us undertands
cathedral or
the man outside
watering his

if I were all the man
that he is
if there were men
like this
the world could

he leaps up on the couch
and walks through
porticoes of my admiration.

16 years old
during the depression
I'd come home drunk
and all my clothing-
shorts, shirts, stockings-
suitcase, and pages of
short stories
would be thrown out on
the front lawn and about the

my mother would be
waiting behind a tree:
"Henry, Henry, don't
go in... he'll
kill you, he's read
your stories..."

"I can whip his

"Henry, please take
this... and
find yourself a room."

but it worried him
that I might not
finish high school
so I'd be back

one evening he walked in
with the pages of
one of my short stories
(which I had never submitted
to him)
and he said, "this is
a great short story
I said, " o.k.,"
and he handed it to me
and I read it.
it was a story about
a rich man
who had a fight with
his wife and had
gone out into the night
for a cup of coffee
and had observed
the waitresses and the spoons
and forks and the
salt and pepper shakers
and the neon sign
in the window
and then had gone back
to his stable
to see and touch his
favourite horse
who then
kicked him in the head
and killed him.

the story held
meaning for him
when I had written it
I had no idea
of what I was
writing about.

so I told him,
"o.k.,old man, you can
have it."
and he took it
and walked out
and closed the door
I guess that's
as close
as we ever got.


the mockingbird had been following the cat
all summer
mocking mocking mocking
teasing and cocksure;
the cat crawled under rockers on porches
tail flashing
and said something angry to the mockingbird
which I didn't understand.

yesterday the cat walked calmly up the driveway
with themockingbird alive in its mouth
wings fanned, beautiful wings fanned and flopping,
feathers parted like a woman's legs
and the bird was no longer mocking
it was asking, it was praying
but the cat
striding down through centuries
would not listen
I saw it crawl under a yellow car
with the bird
to bargain it to another place


  1. once again,a cool post mate.
    buk is/was a huge influence...
    i prefer his shorter prose & the stuff he wrote for open city,later published as "Notes of A Dirty Old Man" totally cracked me up when i first read it.his poetry i also love,although i always felt he could have done with a decent editor at BSP, some of the later volumes are canny uneven.
    laters xx

  2. If I may be so bold, I'd like to add one of my fave Buk poems.
    From the superb collection 'Burning in Water Drowning in Flame'.

    some people

    some people never go crazy.
    me, sometimes I'll lie down behind the couch
    for 3 or 4 days.
    they'll find me there.
    it's Cherub, they'll say, and
    they pour wine down my throat
    rub my chest
    sprinkle me with oils.

    then, I'll rise with a roar,
    rant, rage -
    curse them and the universe
    as I send them scattering over the
    I'll feel much better,
    sit down to toast and eggs,
    hum a little tune,
    suddemly become as loveable as a
    overfed whale.

    some people never go crazy.
    what truly horrible lives
    they must lead.

    Good that, ain't it.
    Some poems really can save your life you know.

  3. exactly , was going to stay in bed today and curse mediocricity, had books to read instead, I can win the battle later, cheers heddwch,
    appreciate comments x x[

  4. ''some people never go crazy.what truly horrible lives they must lead'' is one of my fav buk lines... really makes being a total fuck up less hard work.
    big hugs to you both.x