“You put the Boo in Kowski”

from an interview with Charles Bukowski (1971)

Charles Bukowski

How come you’re so ugly?

My life has hardly been pretty– the hospitals, the jails, the jobs, the women, the drinking. Some of my critics claim that I have deliberately inflicted myself with pain. I wish that some of my critics had been along with me for the journey. It’s true that I haven’t always chosen easy situations, but that’s a hell of a long ways from saying that I leaped into the oven and locked the door. Hangover, the electric needle, bad booze, bad women, madness in small rooms, starvation in the land of plenty, god knows how I got so ugly. I guess it just comes from being slugged and slugged again and again, and not going down, still trying to think, to feel, still trying to put the butterfly back together again… it’s written a map on my face that nobody would ever want to hang on their wall.

Sometimes I’ll see myself somewhere… suddenly… say in a large mirror in a supermarket… eyes like little mean bugs… face scarred, twisted, yes, I look insane, demented, what a mess… spilled vomit of skin… yet, when I see the “handsome” men, I think, my god my god, I’m glad I’m not them.

Charles Bukowski is a force. You can hate him all you want, but you really can’t deny his power.

I’m not a huge fan. He has his moments. I think that’s the thing with Bukowski– you don’t have to like him. Chances are, you probably won’t. He is what he is. Everything he writes is brutal and honest and real. Sometimes I hate him because he’s just so unconventional and vulgar. Then other times, I find myself reading something like “The Laughing Heart” or “Roll the Dice” in the middle of the night and the things I hated before push me back into a humbled awe. Not everything has to be clean and not everything has to be beautiful, and if it makes any sense, I think there’s a strange sort of beauty in that.

Fun fact: Wikipedia calls his sort of writing, “dirty realism.”

I watched an interview with him once. He is entirely unapologetic, and that’s really rare. If you can make it through the whole thing, you’ll hear him trash Tolstoy and equate writing poetry to taking a good shit. But god, Bukowski is never anything but himself. Most of the time, I don’t even agree with what he says. He is unforgiving and terribly cruel. Still, you have to give it to the man– he knows himself well.

I don’t know. Certain things have crawled their way under my skin lately, and I’ve just been letting them sit there to stink and rot. I don’t know what bothers me more, the things themselves or the fact that I’m not firm enough in myself to let them just slip away. Sometimes the things that hurt the most are the things we keep close to us. We pull them in, thinking if we wrap ourselves around them tightly, they’ll suffocate under the pressure. But they don’t. They just stick and melt into our bodies until they’re a part of us, and we forget that (at one point in time) we could’ve let them go. We could’ve just let it go before it ravaged its way through us, before it gathered in our joints like a dirty rust and weighed down heavy like a thick, metal chain. We forget, and we hold it close and we just take it.

But that’s the thing about Bukowski. He just lets that shit go. He is so set in himself, so firm and unmoving in his convictions and his ways, that anything anyone else has to say about him just falls to the side. He certainly isn’t my favorite writer/poet, but there is something about him I just have to respect. Bukowski is unflinchingly brutal. He gives as hard as he gets, and he never lets anything get the best of him. He never lets anything get too far under his skin; he lets it slide. It isn’t worth his time of day. It will never get what it needs to make a dent because he doesn’t give it that power. It rolls off him like a dirty sweat, irrelevant and quickly forgotten. It drips off his fat and on to the floor. And he walks on, he walks on.

You can hate him– it’s fine. But I’m telling you, Bukowski is a force.


About Booki
"Somewhere man must know that self-perception is the most frightening of all human observations. He must know that when a man faces himself, he is looking into an abyss."

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