happy birthday bukowski!

If Charles “Hank” Bukowski hadn’t died of leukemia on March 9, 1994, today would have been his 93rd birthday.  Honestly, between his drinking, smoking, and contracting of TB, it’s a wonder he made it to 73.  Prolific poet, novelist, gambler, boorish drunk, and voice of the dispossessed and lonely working class, Bukowski was one of very few writers able to see in his work enter the canon of great American literature in his own lifetime.

The other day I was feeling down and I turned to Bukowski and the documentary about his life, “Born Into This.”  The man who wears his lust, anger, sadness, and shit on his sleeve is no less intense in person.  Over the course of the film, between interviews with the man himself and the people who knew and were affected by him, a person emerges, just as real as you or me, whose pain bled into everything he touched and offered many people a new kind of hero.

You can watch this documentary of Netflix, or on youtube.

Also, in honor of today, HarperCollins has released eight Bukowski works as audiobooksPost Office, South of No North, Factotum, Women, Ham on Rye, Hot Water Music, Hollywood and Pulp.  If you haven’t experienced his work before, I recommend you start from the beginning (of Hank’s life, that is) with Ham on Rye.

Also, here’s a letter he wrote in 1993 to Daniel Halpern, of Ecco.

And while we’re at it with his notable letters, here’s a link to a letter he wrote to John Martin (the publisher who offered him $100/month so long as he quit his job to write full time).  An excerpt:

“And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.”

This letter is just as relevant today as it was when he wrote it in 1986.  The system hasn’t changed, and neither has the human response.

And speaking of human response, let’s talk poetry for a minute.

Love Is a Dog from Hell is the first book I read from Bukowski.  It opened me up to a whole new way of thinking about poetry and what magic can be cast with even common words and phrases.

So I’ll leave you with some poems from LIaDfH:

“this then–”

it’s the same as before
or the other time
or the time before that.
here’s a cock
and here’s a cunt
and here’s trouble.

only each time
you think
well now I’ve learned:
I’ll let her do that
and I’ll do this,
I no longer want it all,
just some comfort
and some sex
and only a minor

now I’m waiting again
and the years run thin.
I have my radio
and the kitchen walls
are yellow.
I keep dumping bottles
and listening
for footsteps.

I hope that death contains
less than this.

“we will taste the islands
and the sea”

I know that some night
in some bedroom
my fingers will
soft clean

songs such as no radio

all sadness, grinning
into flow.


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