It's been almost a year since I was gifted this book, Charles Bukowski on Writing. I vaguely remembered hearing his name and thought it could be an interesting read. I put it in the bathroom with my other books and  read a few pages a week on the loo. It took a long time before his genius sank in. Now I've downloaded two of his novels, Ham on Rye and Women. I was worried I might not find any writer as raw and earthy as Henry Miller. Thank you Anahi.

 

EXCERPTS

Perhaps the first atrocity was the human foot upon the untouched.

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My days, my years, my life have seen ups 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.

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When you write only to get famous you shit it away. I don’t want to make rules but if there is one it is: the only writers who write well are those who must write in order not to go mad.

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I’m not a true revolutionary. I just write words down. But the idea of replacing one govt. with another govt. hardly seems a major gain to me. we’ve got to begin with the individual.

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I’m not here to save the People, I’m here to save my own coward’s ass.

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I don’t know, you know. Take some poets. Some start very well. There is a flash, a burning, a gamble in their way of putting it down. A good first or second book, then they seem to d i s s o l v e. You look around and they are teaching CREATIVE WRITING at some university. Now they think they know how to WRITE and they are going to tell others how to. This is a sickness: they have accepted themselves. It’s unbelievable that they can do this. It’s like some guy coming along and trying to tell me how to fuck because he thinks he fucks good.

***

What I’m trying to say here is that nobody is ever famous or good, that’s yesterday. Maybe you can get famous and good after you’re dead but while you’re alive, if anything counts, then if you can show some magic through the turmoil, it must be today’s or tomorrow’s, what you have done doesn’t count for a shitsack full of cut-off rabbit’s bungholes. This isn’t a rule, it’s a fact. And it’s a fact when I get questions in the mail, I can’t answer them. Or I’d be teaching a course in CREATIVE WRITING.

***

If there are any good writers, I don’t think these writers go around, walk around, talk around, abound, thinking, “I am a writer.” They live because there’s nothing else to do. It piles up: the horrors and the non-horrors and the conversations, the flat tires and the nightmares, the screamings, the laughters and the deaths and the long spaces of zero and all that, it begins to total and then they see the typer and they sit down and it pushes out, there’s no planning, it occurs: if they are still lucky.

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I was always basically a “loner.” there are people like that, either from nature or psychosis or whatever who are in agony in the crowd and feel better alone.

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I never liked the beats, they were too self-promotional and the drugs gave them all wooden dicks or turned them into cunts. I’m from the old school, I believe in working and living in isolation; crowds weaken your intent and your originality . . . When you’re hanging with writers you’re not hearing or seeing anything but that. Or maybe my nature is just to grub it out alone. I feel good without anybody around.

***

all I need is typewriter ribbons, paper, something to eat and a place to stay—preferably with a window facing the street and a crapper not down the hall and a landlady with good legs who swishes her thighs and behind against you now and then. against me, now and then.

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I stare up at the ceiling and listen to the rain or the sound of nothing and I wait for my death. These poems came out of that. Something like that.

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Poetry can be entertaining, it can be written with an astonishing clarity, I don’t know why it has to be the other way, but it is. Poetry is like sitting in a stuffy room with the windows down. And very little is occurring to let in any air, any light.

***

Old F. N[ietzsche] had it right when they asked him (also in the old days) about the poets. “The poets?” he said. “The poets lie too much.”

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Yes, yes, I know, there was Li Po and some of the early Chinese poets who could compact great emotion and great truth into a few simple lines. There are other exceptions, of course, the human race is not so lame as to have not taken a few steps. But the vast bulk, pulp, ink and link of it all is treacherously empty, almost as if somebody had played a dirty trick on us, worse than that, and the libraries are a farce.

***

your offer of $10 for 2 poems, damn gracious. well, since I’m hustling, can we cut that in half?

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It appears to me that some members of The Women’s Lib. are attempting to impose a censorship upon freedom of expression, a censorship which exceeds even the ambitions of some city, county, state and govt. groups out to practice the same ends and methods. A man can write a story about fucking or even lousy women without being a woman-hater. The sisters must realize that limitations on certain forms of writing will eventually lead to control and limitation of all forms of writing except that chosen by some sanctioned body.

***

Your Alta is confused. There are men who rape and men who think of rape. Writing of this does not mean that the author condones rape, even if it is written in the first person. The right of creation is the right to mention what does exist. I even know some women—personally—whose greatest desire is to be raped. Creation is creation. For instance, just because a man is black does not mean he can’t be a son of a bitch and just because a woman is a woman does not mean she can’t be a bitch. Let’s not censor ourselves out of reality from a goody-goody stance.

***

As I get into the 2nd bottle of wine and glance back over this letter I will note that if it is ever seen that some reference will be made that Bukowski mentioned Blacks and Homosexuals as if he might have a distaste for them. Therefore, let me mention: women, Mexicans, lesbians, Jews. Let me state, that my distaste is for Humanity and especially, the creative writer. This is not only the age of Hydrogen doom, it is also the age of Fear, Immense Fear.

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I’ve always rather admired the Chinese. I suppose that’s because most of them are so far away.

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If I write badly about blacks, homosexuals and women it is because those 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.

***

I’m back to playing with the poem now. Although Hustler recently asked me for a short story so I sat down and typed them a ditty called “The Hog.” I liked their reject: “. . . the subject matter is just too strong for us to handle. Specifically, it’s the bestiality and also its violent result that we don’t feel we can accept.” So I popped it off to German Playboy. It should make them shit up a raw wiener schnitzel but I expect it back.

***

Generally a writer of force is anywhere from 20 years to 200 years ahead of his generation, so therefore he starves, suicides, goes mad, and is only recognized if portions of his work are somehow found later, much later, in a shoebox or under the mattress of a whorehouse bed, you know.

***

I’ve never much liked writing, creation, I mean what the other boys have done. it seemed to me rather thin and pretensive, still does. I kept writing not because I felt I was so good but because I felt they were so bad, including Shakespeare, all those. the stilted formalism, like chewing cardboard. I didn’t feel very good when I was 16, 17, 18, I walked into the libraries and there was nothing to read. I searched all the rooms, all the books. then I walked back out on the streets and I saw the first face, the buildings, the automobiles, whatever was being said had nothing to do with what I was seeing before my eyes, it was a mimic, a farce. there was no help. Hegel, Kant . . . some fucker called Andre Gide . . . names, names, and build-ups. Keats, what a bag of shit. nothing helped. I began to see something in Sherwood Anderson. He almost got there, he was clumsy and stupid, but he let you fill in the blanks. unforgivable. Faulkner was phoney as greased wax. Hemingway got close early, then started strumming and turning this big machine which kept farting in your face.

***

I stay away from the poets. When I was in my slum rooms it was more difficult to do this. When they found me they sat about gossiping and drinking my booze. Some of these poets were fairly well known. But their rancor, their bitching, and their envy of any other poet having any luck was unbelievable. Here were men who were supposed to be putting down words of verve and wisdom and exploration and they were just sick assholes, they couldn’t even drink well, spittle drooled out of the edges of their mouths, they slobbered on their shirts, got giddy on a few drinks, puked and ranted.

***

I still shoot the word out of the cannon—which beats drippings from a limp cock. for it all, though, getting into Evergreen did me good because it taught me that everything is nothing and that nothing is everything and that you still have to lace your shoes if you have shoes and make your own magic if there is any to be made.

***

on anti-war poems, I was anti-war a long time ago, at a time when it was not popular or in to be so. it was a very alone situation, World War II. it seems that from the intellectual and artistic viewpoint that there are good wars and bad wars. to me, there are only bad wars. I am still anti-war and anti a hell of a lot of other things, but I still remember the other situation, and how poets and intellectuals change like the seasons, and what trust and stand I have rests mainly within myself, what’s left of me, and when I see the long lines of protestors now, I know that their courage is only a kind of semi-popular courage, doing the right thing in proper company, it’s so easy now. where the hell were they when I was thrown into a cell, World War II? it was very very quiet then. I don’t trust the human beast, Head, and I don’t like crowds. I drink my beer, hit the typer and wait.

***

think I told you a bigwig interviewed me in a long dark room with a lamp down at the end of big table. real Kafka-nazi stuff. I was told they didn’t like my column “Notes of a Dirty Old Man.” I asked, “are we to presume that the postal officials are the new critics of literature?” “uh, no, we didn’t mean that.” like hell. then he told me, “if you had stuck to poetry and poetry books you would have been all right.” “but this . . .” and he tapped the newspaper and my column, and left the rest unspoken. it is the writing itself that simply pisses them, but I’m hardly even obscene. they don’t know how to hook me. and we keep shaking hands. but they are waiting for my one slip and then they are going to step in and break my neck.

***

well, I do not pretend to be a Christ-like creature, and anyhow it wouldn’t be worth a cat-turd to be a Christ-like creature, don’t you think? I don’t think.

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No matter how much the White man may hate himself, he is simply gifted, but it may be ending for one reason or another. . . . Spengler’s The Decline of the West, written so many years ago . . . the signs are showing . . . Either Whitey’s finally got to get some SOUL or all his cleverness will be just so much spilled jism . . .

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I do think that for (or in spite of) my 46 years in hell that I have retained a splendid little chickenshit glory cockroach spittle of musing + cracked laughter under (perhaps) my left big toenail, which keeps me halfway between suicide and striving.

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whatever I write, good or bad, must be me, today, what it is, what I am. the drunken room and whore poems were all right in their time. I can’t go on and on with that. the Americans always want an IMAGE to catch to, something to label, to cage. I can’t give them that.

***

I never did like the literary type, then or now. I drink with my landlady and landlord; I drink with x-cons, madmen, fascists, anarchists, thieves, but keep the literary away from me.

***

... the last one I want to drink with or listen to is a writer. I’ve found more gut-life in old newsboys, in janitors, in the kid waiting window at the all-night taco stand. It seems to me that writing draws the worst, not the best, it seems to me that the printing presses of the world are just endlessly pressing out the pulp of insufficient souls which insufficient critics call literature, poetry, prose.

***

try to get Martin to tell you about the printer sometime. there was a poem of mine with the word “fuck” in it. he set up everything but that word. said he couldn’t do it. never had. suggested to Martin that they get a little rubber stamp and stamp it in. my god, the poem never ran. he couldn’t do it. he calls my poems “real sadistic.” god o mighty, what a world of whammy halfpeople.

***

I carve into stone not because it lasts but because it is there and it does not talk back like a wife. I carve into stone because the 2 or 3 good men of a future world will pick me up and laugh. That’s enough—my centuries have not furnished me this.

***

I’ve worked the factories and slaughterhouses and park benches and I know that WORK and DISCIPLINE are dirty words. I know what they meant, but for me, it has to be a different game. it’s just like a good woman: if you fuck her 3 times a day, 7 days a week, it usually isn’t going to be much good. everything has to be set. of course, I remember one, it worked that way with her. of course, we were drinking wine and starving and had nothing else to do except worry about death and rent and the steel world, so it worked with us. (Jane.) but now I’m so old and ugly and the girls seldom come around anymore, so it’s horses and beer.

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Once a man has leaped 18 feet straight up into the air and then comes back and only leaps 13 feet, it’s just not enough for us.

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But even like those who come around with their guitars, I’ve found that the least talented scream the loudest, are the most abusive and the most self-assured.

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I’m still working. I don’t have it right yet. I probably won’t get it right. I even love my ignorance. I love my yellow butter-smeared belly of ignorance. I lick my god damn soul out with my typewriter tongue.

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I’ve found myself snapping at Linda and I even kicked the cat the other night. I don’t like to act like a little prima d. but it looks like if the stuff doesn’t come out I get poisoned, I forget how to laugh, I find myself no longer listening to my symphony music on the radio and when I look into the mirror I see a very mean man there, tiny eyes, yellow face—I’m pinched-in, useless, a dry fig. I mean, when the writing goes, what is there, what’s left? Routine.

***

in one area all of us fail badly. the man-woman relationship. I’ve seen more bad faith and lacking and inconsistency in this area than in any about. people just aren’t large enough to care truly, and if the male and the female can’t find each other then how can they find a government? ah well, the birds are still singing . . .

***

On drugs, I’ve used them, of course, but laid off. Grass destroys motivation and always makes you late with no place to go... But I’m an alky, you last longer, can type more . . . Meet more women, get into more jails . . .

***

I get love letters from ladies in far off places. A lady in Australia sent me the key to her house. Long letters from others. And here, in the U.S., I get offers from girls from 19 to 21 to come see me. I tell them, nothing doing. Nothing is free. There is a price on everything. I tell them to go fuck somebody their own age. [ . . . ]

***

On quitting your job at 50, I don’t know what to say. I had to quit mine. My whole body was in pain, could no longer lift my arms. If somebody touched me, just that touch would send reams and shots of agony through me. I was finished. They had beat on my body and mind for decades. And I didn’t have a dime. I had to drink it away to free my mind from what was occurring. I decided that I would be better off on skid row. I mean that. It had come to a faltering end. My last day on the job, some guy let a remark fall as I walked by: “That old guy has a lot of guts to quit a job at his age.” I didn’t feel I had an age. The years had just added up and shitted away.

***

For it all, I will always remember reading Ask the Dust, which I still consider the finest novel written in all time, a novel which probably saved my life, for whatever it is worth.

***

Well, anyhow, what I’m trying to say is, for me, having enough money at the moment allows me to live in this small town, San Pedro, where the people are quite normal and easy and dull and good and you’d have a hard time finding a writer or a painter or an actor anywhere around. This is where I can live with my 3 cats and drink almost every night and type until 2 or 3 a.m. And the next day there’s the race track. That’s all I need.