Once again, a new book of poems by Charles Bukowski has been published, The Continual Condition, copy write Linda Bukowski, the author’s widow. I’d been reading Bukowski since the early 80s and have read just about everything he’s written. What I particularly liked about him were his refreshing occasional caustic descriptions on the poetry milieu and poets of his day.
This volume is only 127 pages. Normally, Buk books are three times that. And this book doesn’t stipulate, as preceding books have done, the work to be previously unpublished, noting instead that “several” of the poems were previously published. In any case, who can tell the difference between the several thousand poems written on the racetrack or whoring or boozing and those presented in this volume? Indeed, the work is certainly not new. How could it be, considering the author died in 1994 and has been coming out with a book per year (or almost) ever since? The typical mix of poems is present: whoring, booze, racetrack, one or several on poets and writers, and one or several on the author’s later years as a well-to-do suburbanite. Overall, it is a disappointing volume with few, if any, memorable lines and not one great poem in the batch.
One has to wonder what the widow does with all the money from royalties. If she really wanted to promote her dead husband, the best thing she could have done was stop publishing more of his unpublished poems, the ones John Martin rejected when Buk was alive and participating in the creation of his Black Sparrow books. Evidently, however, her real purpose must be more money, despite what Bukies think (see http://bukowski.net/forum/showthread.php?t=472). What else could it be… diminishing and further diluting the author with poems that shouldn’t have been published because highly repetitive? After all, isn’t one great poem about the racetrack better than 100 mediocre ones?
This book left me wondering, while laying on the floor in the alcove readying to get up to begin the day, whether the poems were really Bukowski’s or were the work of a small team of HarperCollins wordsmithies, experts in the author’s style and subject. No matter. On the positive side, several poems did inspire me to write several poems. Buk’s style entered me—for a moment via poetosmosis. Below, thus, is the second bird.
A Correspondent Wrote Bitterly
and like the/ dead/ I/ didn’t/ reply.
—Bukowski, “A correspondent wrote bitterly”
A correspondent wrote bitterly:
“the pettiness and the
is what bothers me.”
And it bothered him
that pettiness and
And like the
Poem for a Rank-Out Artiste
(try to talk to them/ and you become one of/ them.)
—Bukowski, “heavy dogs in cement shoes”
A fellow wrote me, pissed off—really pissed off—
that I’d described the sister of the director
of the local book festival, which only invited
Chamber-of-Commerce-friendly writers and poets,
as “a chubby woman with red marks on her face
(wart removal or skin cancer?).”
Yet it was only a simple descriptive line of reality,
written in the middle of the essay I’d posted.
But he claimed I was making fun of the woman’s
appearance, for which he exploded in epithets:
“your poetry has all the grace and dance of a
defunct air-conditioning unit” and
“the wit and liveliness of a retired chamber pot.”
Could the “wart comment” alone have elicited
such antipathy for me and my writing?
Well, just days before he’d sent a poem,
which I edited patiently, but then suggested
he send it elsewhere.
Then the onslaught assailed: “ya dork,” he called me,
“lost cause,” “MisterFlawwwwless,” and even
Twas the old academic two step, barely disguised—
the thin, vacuous rhetoric rolled out as artillery
always in an effort to divert attention from the crux,
and how successful it could be!
“How can I dismiss your arguments
when I don't even know what they are?”*
*The words are M.P. Powers’.