Sunday, October 4, 2009

Come On In! - Charles Bukowski

2006; 279 pages. Genre : Modern Poetry. Dewey Decimal Number : 811.56 B869C. Cost (new) : $27.50; Cost to check it out from the library : free. Overall Rating : A-.
The prologue to Come On In! reads : "These poems are part of an archive of unpublished work that Charles Bukowski left to be published after his death." Although he is best known for his 5 semi-autobiographical novels (Ham On Rye, et. al.), most of Bukowski's books are either poetry or poetry/short stories.
What's To Like...
The poems are broken into four sections. The first part is his reflections on growing old; the second is about women; the third is about the writing profession; and if there's a unifying theme in the fourth section, I didn't catch it.
The poems have no meter, no rhyme, and no structure. I usually struggle with this form of prose, but these were quite readable. There are even two poems referencing Li Po, who happens to be my favorite classical Chinese poet. It's amazing that Bukowski was familiar with and influenced by him.
I found the "Aging" section especially poignant. It should be rated PG-50 : anyone younger than that has to read it with their parents. Towards the end of his life, Bukowski was battling leukemia; and he offers a lot of insight regarding his mortality. His point in one poem is that a poet is never allowed to retire. His public expects him to keep following his muse and composing poems, even when he's dying.
The "Women" section is revealing, but less inspiring. Bukowski's philosophy on the opposite sex seems to be : Live with them, even marry them if need be. But when they get to be irritating, it's time to move on. He chides couples that have been married 60-70 years, writing, "either of whom would long ago have settled for something else, but fate, fear and circumstances have bound them eternally together".
In the "Writing" section, he cuts through the BS associated with his fame, laughing at aspiring authors who butter him up, then send him their unpublished manuscripts for him to read and forward along to his publisher.
I give Come On In! and A- because it resonated with me. There's nothing high-brow here - indeed, he mocks poets who feel compelled to work Greek and Roman gods into their prose, or who try to impress with a line or two of French or Italian. Instead, Bukowski is a poet for the proletariat, a Robert Frost with an attitude. Read Come On In! when you're tired of social snobbery and just want some honest, down-to-earth insight.
I can't think of another poet who makes people as
angry as I do.
I enjoy it
knowing that we are all brothers and sisters
in a very unkind extended
and I also never forget that
no matter
what the circumstances,
the park bench is never that far away
from any one of
(last part of "the x-bum")
peace of mind and heart
when we accept what
having been
born into this
strange life
we must accept
the wasted gamble of our
and take some satisfaction in
the pleasure of
leaving it all
cry not for me.
grieve not for me.
what I've written
forget it
drink from the well
of your self
and begin
(last part of "mind and heart")

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