Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bukowski: Issa's Sunday Service, #59 (and #60)

Charles Bukowski
is something of an anomaly; whether you hate him or you love him, it would be fair to say he was a major poetic voice of the last 50 years, particularly in the populist sense. This ambivalence is exemplified, I believe, in this week's Issa's Sunday Service cut, "Bukowski" by Modest Mouse.

There's no denying it, Buk was no picnic to be around. There is also no denying that beneath the crustiness, irascibility, and drunkenness, there was a tenderness that shone through the brutal honesty on more occasions than his detractors would allow. Here's a little number where he sidles up to his subject, drifts back, and brings it home:

me and Faulkner
sure, I know that you are tired of hearing about it, but
most repeat the same theme over and over again, it's
as if they were trying to refine what seems so strange
and off and important to them, it's done by everybody
because everybody is of a different stripe and form
and each must work out what is before them
over and over again because
that is their personal tiny miracle
their bit of luck

like now as like before and before I have been slowly
drinking this fine red wine and listening to symphony after
symphony from this black radio to my left

some symphonies remind me of certain cities and certain rooms,
make me realize that certain people now long dead were able to
transgress graveyards

and traps and cages and bones and limbs

people who broke through with joy and madness and with
insurmountable force

in tiny rented rooms I was struck by miracles

and even now after decades of listening I still am able to hear
a new work never heard before that is totally
bright, a fresh-blazing sun

there are countless sub-stratas of rising surprise from the
human firmament

music has an expansive and endless flow of ungodly

writers are confined to the limit of sight and feeling upon the
page while musicians leap into unrestricted immensity

right now it's just old Tchaikowsky moaning and groaning his
way through symphony #5
but it's just as good as when I first heard it

I haven't heard one of my favorites, Eric Coates, for some time
but I know that if I keep drinking the good red and listening
that he will be along

there are others, many others

and so
this is just another poem about drinking and listening to

repeat, right?

but look at Faulkner, he not only said the same thing over and
over but he said the same

so, please, let me boost these giants of our lives
once more: the classical composers of our time and
of times past

it has kept the rope from my throat

maybe it will loosen
Originally published in "Third Lung Review"

Though not known as a poet of double meaning or ambivalence, those last two lines give one pause, eh?


This week's featured poem from the Lilliput archive has the unique attribute of meaning something different then when it was originally published in #90, back 13 years ago this month. The difference isn't in the meaning - it means exactly what it meant back then. The difference is to whom it means.

Let's call it a generational thing.

Let's form a circle, old and slightly less old, and belt out a few choruses of something that isn't "We Won't Get Fooled Again," but very much like it.

Something perhaps by Brecht.

With more spittle and less, well, synthesizer.

You know what, it's Bastille Day coming up this week, my nomination for campfire song for the disaffected follows the poem and makes this week's Litrock a two-fer.

First, Mr. Solarczyk's bit of prescient nostalgia:

Dreaming we'd dreamt
a new dream
we slunk off at dawn
ashamed we'd been
dreaming at all.
Bart Solarczyk

#60 on the Class War Hit Parade:

he wipes horse shit off his hand
with a chrysanthemum
translated by David G. Lanoue


there are countless sub-stratas of rising surprise from the
human firmament ...


Conrad DiDiodato said...

guru of grit!

Have you seen "Tales of Ordinary Madness", film based on Bukowski's short stories?

Anonymous said...

Hank once said, in a poem, I believe, title forgotten for now, that he had a deep blue bird [of happiness] deep inside that fed him. Or something like that. And how he could sing! Thanks for a great posting.

Charles Gramlich said...

I read Bukowski's "Love is a dog from hell" in almost one sitting. I was both entranced and appalled, moved and disgusted. I was pretty impressed.

Having lunch with David Lanoue on Monday. Seems that I've had some haiku translated into Bulgarian and David has the copy for me. I'm looking forward to it. It'll be sushi, of course.

Jim H. said...

Smashing! (as in a smack on the head to wake me up again). I always liked Bukowski's stuff -- the genuine-ness, the bluntness, the humor -- but also felt a little guilty about it because of the misogyny and the relentless self-destruction. But there is joy, too, and thanks for reminding me of that.

The first play we read in a freshman dramatic lit class was Marat/Sade; all these years later, the first college production my son saw as a freshman was Marat/Sade. It holds up. I never liked Judy Collins, but that song was pretty good.

Got the bonus double-double of Lilliput Review yesterday. Thanks, Don, for those and this.

Poet Hound said...

I just noticed you had paypal available for people who want to subscribe--brilliant!
As always, a pleasure to read Issa's Untidy Hut...

Bart said...

That's a fine Bukowski poem & thanks for dragging me out of the archives back to back.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Conrad, no I saw "Barfly" which didn't do much for me. The Taylor Hackford bio film was most illuminating, full of sadness, anger and wonder. How did Ben Gazzara do?

Donna: Just found it. Thanks for pointing me to it ...


there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I put whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do

Charles, Buk grabs you and won't let go. Congrats on the Bulgarian translation (and wish I was there for the sushi!) Best to David.

Thanks, Jim. That play has haunted me too since I was a teen. I was lucky enough to see a live production of it by a small, serious Shakespeare company. Of course, there was the original shown on Public TV back when it had balls. Since my birthday is Bastille Day, I've started it everyday for 30 years listening to this song. Glad you got the new, very late issues.

PH, very glad you are enjoying the new issues and thanks again for the review/excerpts.

Bart, you're the best, good buddy. The back to back was purely serendipity - it is what it is and what it is is great.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...
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Issa's Untidy Hut said...
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Unknown said...

"music has an expansive and endless flow of ungodly
exploration". Those words will stick with me. I watched the documentary 'Born Into This'. If you haven't seen it, please do. The extremes that man was capable of, grotesque and beautiful. The scene in where he talks about his father beating him, in his old house haunts me.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

MLJ, I have seen it and the scene you describe is the very one in which I finally understood what was happening with Bukowski. So often, abusive scenes from this movie are held up, whether pro or con, as if to say this is Buk. But, as you imply, he is very complicated - the scene in his childhood home you refer to almost broke my heart.

Unknown said...

I always thought of Bukowski like great baroque art. "Chiaroscuro" the contrast between bright and dark. That's what I like about him.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

He definitely had it going on, MLJ ... frustration and beauty, in like doses.