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Bukowski’s last stand: Hank’s final poetry reading from 1980
09:04 am


Charles Bukowski

Good and original poets spawn bad and imitative poetry.

Look at all the verbiage spewed out by those green and dappled flecked imitators after Dylan Thomas had one too many on a New York afternoon; or all the poems about PMT, swollen ankles and the indifference of men that came forth after Sylvia Plath’s sad demise; or the short men who swaggered after Charles Bukowski died, juggling six-pack and pen, writing long anaemic poetry about drinking, fighting and love. Yes, good poetry does often inspire bad poets.

It doesn’t always appear after death, sometimes it rubs shoulders with the living poet in hope of capturing some of their spark. I recall when the cool got hip to Bukowski and he appeared in Andy Warhol’s Interview talking with actor Sean Penn, that everyone including Penn was writing long three word a line poems about nothing much in particular, but this how it is if you’re a poet and you know sensitive and you gotta live that kinda life on the edge kinda thing blah-de-blah-de-blah. Suddenly it was hard to find a magazine that didn’t have some sub-Bukowskian ode in it, that looked like the stuff from high school poetry clubs and always made me think of G.K. Chesterton’s line that:

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.

Bukowski did not give many readings during his lifetime. Biographers have claimed he hated giving readings, but did it for the two hundred or three hundred dollars to keep him in booze, smokes and a wager on the horses. But this all changed in the 1980s, when money started coming in via checks and royalties for books and film options and Bukowski no longer needed that extra couple of hundred to tide him over. Bukowski gave his last poetry reading at the Sweetwater music club in Redondo Beach, California on March 31, 1980, almost a decade and a half before he died in 1994. The whole reading was (thankfully) filmed by Jon Monday, who left the performance unedited as he believed the sections between Bukowski reading his poems gave some insight into the man and his temperament. It certainly does, as Oliver Hardy would say, and shows why the original poet will always be better than the imitators.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Bukowski, it’s going to be sickening’: Charles Bukowski uncensored and animated
12:44 pm


Charles Bukowski

A candid conversation between Charles Bukowski, his then-wife Linda Lee Beighle and his co-producer John Runnette (the one asking the questions) from the 1993 Run With The Hunted recording session. Although this is just a short snippet of a conversation, it’s a perfect moment that reveals so much about the writer’s private self, which, in fact, doesn’t seem all that different from the version of himself that he presented in his autobiographical novels. I suppose imbibing as much alcohol as Buk did on a daily basis might erase that public/private dividing line quite a bit!

Bukowski: I just don’t love my stuff that much. You know what I’m interested in? What I’m going to type tomorrow night. That’s all that interests me… the next poem, the next fucking line. What’s past is past I don’t want to linger over it, and read it and play with it and jolly it up. it’s gone, it’s done. If you can’t write the next line, well, you’re dead. The past doesn’t matter.


Bukowski: I think my writing is really pretty fucking powerful stuff but I think after I’m dead and safe, they’re going to trot me out, I’m going to really be discovered you know.

Animation by HarperAudio.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
John Fante: The renegade writer Bukowski called ‘God’
01:20 pm


Charles Bukowski
John Fante

Charles Bukowski described the writer and novelist John Fante as his God—the one man who deeply influenced his own literary career.

Bukowski first discovered Fante’s work while looking for something to read at the Los Angeles Public Library.

“I was a young man, starving and drinking and trying to be a writer… It seemed as if everybody was playing word-tricks, that those who said almost nothing at all were considered excellent writers. Their writing was an admixture of subtlety, craft and form, and it was read and it was taught and it was ingested and it was passed on. It was a comfortable contrivance, a very slick and careful Word-Culture… one day I pulled a book down and opened it, and there it was…

“The lines rolled easily across the page, there was a flow. Each line had its own energy and was followed by another like it. The very substance of each line gave the page a form, a feeling of something carved into it. And here, at last, was a man who was not afraid of emotion. The humour and the pain were intermixed with a superb simplicity. The beginning of that book was a wild and enormous miracle to me. I had a library card. I checked the book out, took it to my room, climbed into my bed and read it, and I knew long before I had finished that here was a man who had evolved a distinct way of writing. The book was Ask the Dust and the author was John Fante.”


Fante was born into a poor, working-class Italian immigrant family in Denver, Colorado, in 1909. The relentless poverty of his childhood, and the family background of a hard-drinking father and devout Catholic mother, were to influence his writing, in particular his autobiographical alter ego, Arturo Bandini. The young Fante was bookish and smart, and enrolled at the University of Colorado, but he dropped out to concentrate on writing. His first success came with the publication of a short story “Altar Boy” in H.L. Mencken’s American Mercury in 1932. From there on, Fante gave his life over to writing short stories, novels and screenplays. He worked for the Hollywood studios, collaborated with Orson Welles, and produced his classic novels Wait Until Spring, Bandini (1938) and the book Bukowski described as the best novel ever written, Ask the Dust (1939). When not writing, Fante spent his time drinking and gambling, taking a similar route to the one Bukowski would follow years later.

A Sad Flower in the Sand (2001) was the first major documentary made on John Fante “the renegade author whose highly autobiographical novels illustrate his deep-rooted love of Los Angeles and his struggles working through poverty and prejudice.” Hailed as “an absorbing, film noir portrait,” this film explores Fante’s life, his influences, and his struggle to have his brilliant literary talents recognized. The documentary includes interviews with writer and director Robert Towne, publisher John Martin, biographer Stephen Cooper, and Fante’s wife Joyce and sons, Jim and Dan.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
A short tour of Charles Bukowski’s Los Angeles
08:28 am


Charles Bukowski

It’s just over twenty years since Charles Bukowski died on March 9th, 1994. I was in Paris when I heard the news, drinking beer and whisky chasers at a zinc bar, on rue de Lappe, the street where Edith Piaf once sang. It somehow seemed apt to be standing drinking, getting drunk in a bar when hearing the news of that great “drunk” poet’s death. Apt and sad.

I always picture Charles Bukowski at night, in bars, or passing through the neon-lit 7/11 with a six-pack of beers and a carton of cigarettes, back to his house to write endless pages of poetry or prose. I never think of him as out in the sun, tanned under blue LA sky and working for a living. But he did. He had to. He had a variety of jobs and held down twelve years at the Terminal Annex Post Office, 900 N. Almeda St. At nights, held court at 5124 De Longpre Ave.

It’s the association of Bukowski and parties and drinking and fighting and falling-in-and-out of love with women,and getting fired from jobs and waking-up hung-over to start a day drinking all over again. He lived it, but he also worked hard at being a writer. No one could write the quality or amount of poetry and prose if all they did was sit around in bars, fall down drunk and puke their guts out for days. There’s a difference between the telling of a lifestyle, and the living of a life.

This is a beautifully made wee film by multi-media producer Aric Allen that tours what’s left of Charles Bukowski’s LA. From his boyhood home, at 2122 Longwood Ave, to his refuge at the Central Library, to the Grand Central Market where he ate most days, to Musso and Franks on Hollywood Blvd, then on to 1148 W. Santa Cruz St., San Pedro, CA 90731.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Bukowski’s poetry used to sell Scotch
06:27 am


Charles Bukowski

A new ad for Dewar’s Scotch whiskey uses Charles Bukowski’s famous poem, “So You Want to Be a Writer,” to hawk their booze. The reading is quite beautiful, the kind of pathos-rendering performance one wishes they had first heard outside of an advertisement. Now, I’m way past caring about hearing my favorite song in a commercial. First of all, no one is dumb enough to think the artist or band is actually endorsing a project. Secondly, making money off of music is really difficult, so I’m pretty sympathetic to whatever artists or their surviving family have to do to make ends meet. This Dewar’s ad however, rubs me the wrong way, and I can’t quite figure out why it’s so different.

Maybe it’s because music is capable of being such a passive experience, while this kind of poetry requires a more focused engagement. Yes, we’ve all gotten wasted, put on the headphones, and listened to ABBA with a fevered intensity (or maybe that’s just me?), but most of the time, we have music playing while we commute, clean the house, type away at work, take care of the kids, or do whatever mundane task the day requires of us. Most music is art that we can fit into the nooks and crannies of our lives—a soundtrack—but this kind of poetry requires a bit of space, and a bit of time.

Or maybe It’s because this poem has always rubbed me the wrong way, as an anthem of creative onus. I’ve always felt it odd that someone would list off the many “wrong” ways to make art, as if it’s some sort of orthodox religion. And the idea that art should only be produced in a flash of inspiration or passion has been argued against by so many artists. Sometimes things take time, first drafts, second drafts, 134th drafts. Sometimes the failures and near-misses of creation are what’s necessary to really transform a project into something great. Sometimes creation is a schlep. Sometimes ideas and work needs to age (like a good whiskey!).

Or maybe I just don’t like the ad because I think Dewar’s is terrible Scotch?

Via Open Culture

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Charles Bukowski’s F.B.I. file
09:40 am


Charles Bukowski

In 1968, Charles Bukowski became a person of interest to the F.B.I. because of his writing for an underground newspaper.

Bukowski wrote a scurrilous and highly entertaining column, “notes of a dirty old man” for Open City. This column caused enough offense to the Postal Services and the F.B.I. that there was an investigation into the life and morals of the literary mailman.

What emerges from the 113-page file is a portrait of a man who was regularly absent from work, who enjoyed a drink, was considered a “draft-dodger”, and was once married to “Jane S. Cooney”—the “Jane” of many of his most heartfelt poems. Nothing new there. Though the finks at the F.B.I. did add their own literary pique by describing Bukowski’s work as “highly romanticized.”

Read the whole document here.
Via, h/t Open Culture
More pages from Buk’s FBI File, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Bukowski reading ‘Something for the Touts, The Nuns, The Grocery Clerks And You’

Happy birthday Bukowski. You are seriously missed.

“Something for The Touts, The Nuns, The Grocery Clerks And You” is Charles Bukowski at his absolute best—angry, bitter, sad, beautiful and funny. From the 1974 collection Burning In Water, Drowning In Flame.

The video is composed of found footage and excerpts from the works of Arthur Lipsett and Gregory Markopoulos.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Charles Bukowski on censorship
10:28 am


Charles Bukowski

A letter from Charles Bukowski to journalist Hans van den Broek in response to Bukowski’s book Tales of Ordinary Madness being removed from the Public Library in Nijmegen in 1985.

Tales of Ordinary Madness was described by the library as “very sadistic, occasionally fascist and discriminatory against certain groups (including homosexuals).”


Dear Hans van den Broek:

Thank you for your letter telling me of the removal of one of my books from the Nijmegen library. And that it is accused of discrimination against black people, homosexuals and women. And that it is sadism because of the sadism.

The thing that I fear discriminating against is humor and truth.

If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because of these who I met were that. There are many “bads”—bad dogs, bad censorship; there are even “bad” white males. Only when you write about “bad” white males they don’t complain about it. And need I say that there are “good” blacks, “good” homosexuals and “good” women?

In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see. If I write of “sadism” it is because it exists, I didn’t invent it, and if some terrible act occurs in my work it is because such things happen in our lives. I am not on the side of evil, if such a thing as evil abounds. In my writing I do not always agree with what occurs, nor do I linger in the mud for the sheer sake of it. Also, it is curious that the people who rail against my work seem to overlook the sections of it which entail joy and love and hope, and there are such sections. My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the “light” and never mentioned the other, then as an artist I would be a liar.

Censorship is the tool of those who have the need to hide actualities from themselves and from others. Their fear is only their inability to face what is real, and I can’t vent any anger against them. I only feel this appalling sadness. Somewhere, in their upbringing, they were shielded against the total facts of our existence. They were only taught to look one way when many ways exist.

I am not dismayed that one of my books has been hunted down and dislodged from the shelves of a local library. In a sense, I am honored that I have written something that has awakened these from their non-ponderous depths. But I am hurt, yes, when somebody else’s book is censored, for that book, usually is a great book and there are few of those, and throughout the ages that type of book has often generated into a classic, and what was once thought shocking and immoral is now required reading at many of our universities.

I am not saying that my book is one of those, but I am saying that in our time, at this moment when any moment may be the last for many of us, it’s damned galling and impossibly sad that we still have among us the small, bitter people, the witch-hunters and the declaimers against reality. Yet, these too belong with us, they are part of the whole, and if I haven’t written about them, I should, maybe have here, and that’s enough.

may we all get better together,

Charles Bukowski

Via Letters of Note

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Charles Bukowski tells his worst hangover story: ‘The strangest thing just happened…’
09:26 am


Charles Bukowski

Image via

It involves a lot of cheap wine, puking and… well, I don’t want to spoil it, I’ll just let him tell it.

Via The World’s Best Ever

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Happy birthday Bukowski
09:42 pm


Charles Bukowski

In 1967 an older poet friend of mine, Zoltan Farkas, gave me a copy of Charles Bukowski’s “Crucifix in a Deathhand” and my life was changed forever. I went from being a teenager interested in being a writer to a one who absolutely had to be a writer. I quickly found out that attempting to write in Bukowski’s straight ahead style was much more difficult than it appeared. Shedding literary pretension and cutting to the heart of whatever is at hand is a process in which you have to get rid of everything that stands between you and the truth, including art.

Here’s a little video I made for one of my favorite Bukowski poems. “Something for The Touts, The Nuns, The Grocery Clerks And You” is Charles Bukowski at his absolute best - angry, bitter, sad, beautiful and funny. From the 1974 collection Burning In Water, Drowning In Flame.

The video is composed of found footage and clips from the works of Arthur Lipsett and Gregory Markopoulos.

If you think you’ve seen this here before, you have. I felt it worth sharing again.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Cool Charles Bukowski graffiti
04:13 pm


Charles Bukowski

Photo: Mirgun Akyavas
Austin, Texas has some of the finest examples of street art of any city on the planet. Here’s something that recently went up in the downtown area. I don’t know who did it and they may want to stay anonymous. If not, and you see this, let us know who you are so we can give you credit for this splendid piece of art.

To the right of the portrait is the famous Bukowski quote: “Some people never go crazy, what truly horrible lives they must live.”

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Ben Gazzara as Charles Bukowski explains Style

Ben Gazzara performs Charles Bukowski’s poem “Style,” from Marco Ferreri’s film Tales of Ordinary Madness.

Style is the answer to everything
A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous
To do a dull thing with style is preferable
to doing a dangerous thing without it
To do a dangerous thing with style, is what
I call art
Bullfighting can be an art
Boxing can be an art
Loving can be an art
Opening a can of sardines can be an art
Not many have style
Not many can keep style
I have seen dogs with more style than men
Although not many dogs have style
Cats have it with abundance
When Hemingway put his brains
to the wall with a shotgun, that was style
For sometimes people give you style
Joan of Arc had style
John the Baptist
García Lorca
I have met men in jail with style
I have met more men in jail with style
than men out of jail
Style is a difference, a way of doing,
a way of being done
Six herons standing quietly in a pool of water,
or you, walking out of the bathroom naked without seeing me

A memorable definition, and a fine delivery from Gazzara, which you can compare against Bukowski’s reading below.

Bonus - Bukowski reads “Style”

Thanks Tara McGinley!

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Born Into This’: Charles Bukowski documentary

Charles Bukowksi (August 16, 1920 – March 9, 1994) made me want to write and he made it look it look easy. But there is an art and skill to “easy” that is everything but easy. Finding your own true voice in writing is something multitudes of young novelists and poets have attempted only to watch their words lay there on the page like orderly dead flies. Shake em off and start over again.

Bukoswki made me want to write because he made writing seem essential to life, a sign of life, as important as breath or food or drink. As profane as Bukowski could be, he could also draw forth the spiritual in the most mundane of acts and make tying your shoe seem as profound as death.

Rich with footage shot by Taylor Hackford and Barbet Schroeder and plenty of talking heads who knew Bukowski well, Born Into This is probably the definitive documentary on the man.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Charles Bukowski walks past Charles Bukowski
01:57 pm


Charles Bukowski

I can’t find the provenance of this one. Anyone know?
Update: It’s from Bukowski’s “Shakespeare Never Did This” with photographs by German photographer Michael Montfort. Thanks to everyone who wrote in!
(via KMFW)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Charles Bukowski: ‘I drink, I gamble, I write…’ the making of ‘Barfly’

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of Charles Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical movie Barfly, with Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway, director Barbet Schroeder and the great, Bukowski, who explained the film’s title:

‘I was the barfly. I would open the bar and I would close the bar and I had no money. It was a place to be. It was my home.’

Bukowski wrote the script for Schroeder, who was so passionate about making a film with the poet, that when backers Canon planned to exclude the project form its production schedule, the director threatened to cut-off his own finger with a battery-powered saw if he didn’t get the finance to make it.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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