Thursday, January 2, 2020


On Bukowski: He was either the best poet in the room or the worst. I don't mean that as a way of saying that the quality of his work depended on your tastes. Literally, I think Bukowski wrote poems that were so breath- takingly brilliant in their directness , language, and method at getting to a fact of human experience you hadn't come close to arriving at that he was a superior poet by any means I can define the term with. Alternately, he relied on his public persona so much that he was often running on fumes at best, rehashing his heart aches and downfalls with the arrogant laziness of a great talent who's stopped trying to be good. He could convey genuine pathos with the skid row realism he favored, and he could also indulge in alcoholic self-pity shamelessly , grandiosely, announcing himself a poet who was born to drink because he was born to feel too deeply. That kind is stuff is jive and I think he was best when he forgot the pose he was trying to present and instead told the tale, caught the cadence of the ache, genuinely crystallized a state of long term loneliness. When he was good, he had no peer.He was maddening, and having the best and worst qualities of a poet makes him a force a poetry lover cannot ignore.The basic problem with Bukowski wasn't his work, which, as far as it goes, ran hot and cold in between deadpan sublime and flat-footed bellyaching no worse than any other good-not-great poet, but that became, for a period , so wildly popular and became the only reference a large audience could think of when they try to recall a poet they like. Quantity changes everything, meaning more production means increasingly slapdash work, but in this instance a larger audience took Bukowski from the niche readership for which the earlier poetry and pose rang true, and wedged him into the big spot light where the newer poems became parodies of older victories on the page.That phenomena hasn't helped his reputation.

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