Bukowski, the beatnik

Writing, boozing, whoring around, and living in misery were all basic themes in Charles Bukowski’s work. 

He was an American poet, and novelist, who focused on the lives of poor Americans.  There was no glamour in his work, it was dreary yet startlingly insightful on the daily grind of life.  He was no Eliot but he was a prolific writer whose work was heavily infused with what is known as ‘dirty realism’, in which the focus is mainly on surface descriptions with a limited amount of words.  I think it is this last characteristic of Bukowski that reminded me most of Dostoyevky’s writing, or rather the genre of realism in Russian writing.  A lot of Bukowski’s poems have an underlying Dostoyevskeyan essence to it, because what they talk about is so harrowingly ordinary yet still so stark in its unequivocality.  It’s candid.

Here’s one his poems, entitled “How to be a Good Writer”:

How to be a good writer

you’ve got to fuck a great many women
beautiful women
and write a few decent love poems.

and don’t worry about age
and/or freshly-arrived talents.

just drink more beer
more and more beer

and attend the racetrack at least once a


and win
if possible

learning to win is hard —
any slob can be a good loser.

and don’t forget your Brahms
and your Bach and your

don’t overexercise.

sleep until noon.

avoid paying credit cards
or paying for anything on

remember that there isn’t a piece of ass
in this world over $50
(in 1977).

and if you have the ability to love
love yourself first
but always be aware of the possibility of
total defeat
whether the reason for that defeat
seems right or wrong —

an early taste of death is not necessarily
a bad thing.

stay out of churches and bars and museums,
and like the spider be
patient —
time is everybody’s cross,

all that dross.

stay with the beer.

beer is continuous blood.

a continuous lover.

get a large typewriter
and as the footsteps go up and down
outside your window

hit that thing
hit it hard

make it a heavyweight fight

make it the bull when he first charges in

and remember the old dogs
who fought so well:
Hemingway, Celine, Dostoevsky, Hamsun.

If you think they didn’t go crazy
in tiny rooms
just like you’re doing now

without women
without food
without hope

then you’re not ready.

drink more beer.
there’s time.
and if there’s not
that’s all right too.


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