‘Poetry Reading’ by Charles Bukowski

charles - Copy

Because someone tweeted that today was Bukowski’s birthday, born 16th August, 1920, so it isn’t a landmark anniversary but that doesn’t stop us celebrating.

I thought I’d join the tribute by selecting a favourite Bukowski poem, but that’s impossible. So I’ve gone for this one which is from my copy of the Bone Sparrow Press Bone Palace Ballet which I’ve read often and occasionally used in my teaching.

I like its candour and lack of empathy and pretty accurate summation of what he wanted to and did write about:

poetry readings have to be some of the saddest
damned things ever,
the gathering of the clansmen and clanladies,
week after week, month after month, year
after year,
getting old together,
reading on to tiny gatherings,
still hoping their genius will be
discovered,
making tapes together, discs together,
sweating for applause
they read basically to and for
each other,
they can’t find a New York publisher
or one
within miles,
but they read on and on
in the poetry holes of America,
never daunted,
never considering the possibility that
their talent might be
thin, almost invisible,
they read on and on
before their mothers, their sisters, their husbands,
their wives, their friends, the other poets
and the handful of idiots who have wandered
in
from nowhere.

I am ashamed for them,
I am ashamed that they have to bolster each other,
I am ashamed for their lisping egos,
their lack of guts.

if these are our creators,
please, please give me something else:

a drunken plumber at a bowling alley,
a prelim boy in a four rounder,
a jock guiding his horse through along the
rail,
a bartender on last call,
a waitress pouring me a coffee,
a drunk sleeping in a deserted doorway,
a dog munching a dry bone,
an elephant’s fart in a circus tent,
a 6 p.m. freeway crush,
the mailman telling a dirty joke

anything
anything
but
these.

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