Listening to Bukowski on the way to work on Saturday. I have a CD of him reading his poetry at a place called The Sweetwater in Redondo Beach, CA in 1980.
If you don't know him, he was a drunken poet. I prefer drunken poets to pretentious poets and, fortunately, there have always been lots of drunken poets around. I believe that is because fiercely creative people are supra sensitive, cannot deal with the arbitrary rules and regulations society imposes, straight jacket-like, so the creative souls check out and hope to survive on creativity alone.
Drunken poet doesn't capture the whole deal. He also was a novelist and short story writer. His stuff was gritty and raw. He lived in flophouses and with bums, drunks, losers, tough guys and tough broads. He wrote about these people and his own life.
Lives lived day to day, taking whatever jobs are around, moving from apartment to apartment, room to room, planning and scamming, living on false hope and booze. Always the booze.
These people are no different than you or I. They are maybe more honest. We accept our roles, work jobs that we hate, kiss the asses that need to be kissed to survive, allow disappointment to become our reality, and become bitter and jaded. We pretend that we are happy, that we got it made but nobody is being fooled.
And there is the booze. Always the booze.
We are broken people with better clothes, a bank owned house that we pretend to own, barbecue grills and lawn chairs. But we don't hide our broken dreams any better than people crawling the streets. And I am not sure that being chained to a job and a mortgage is a better way of life.
But I digress.
Bukowski became a caricature of himself and this is what people came to see. Kind of the Charlie Sheen of poetry. He would sit at a table, bottle at hand and read. People would heckle him, try to get insanity out of him because they knew he was drunk. They wanted drama and didn't appreciate the poetry. At least didn't appreciate it enough.
Many of his poems make me cringe, they bring tears, sometimes laughter, they capture the broken human spirit perfectly. They explode with emotion and pain and reality. Sensitive souls might call them vulgar. Truth is expressed in many ways, and if you can't get past the language you are probably the type who is critical about everything in life except yourself.
Hunter S. Thompson had the same problem. Early in his career he said he felt he was a prisoner of the persona he created. People wanted to see the insanity, the show. Instead of appreciating the writing and the mind of a man who created an entire genre of writing.
It is a shame to know how much originality and creativity is ignored because of the shallow nature of what is considered entertainment in this country.
As I listened to Bukowski read as the audience hooted and hollered for all the wrong reasons, it occurred to me that the majority of us become caricatures of ourselves.
We start out with good intentions and wind up with scraps, leftovers, small hints of the life we thought we would have. We create a persona to survive and then waste our lives living up to that persona.