#6. The Titanic Shadow Of Charles Bukowski

charles bukowski poet


Did you like it, did you hate it? Let me know in the comments section down below.

As for what I think? I’ve never read Bukowski outside of the poem, so I don’t know. The guy has been dead for over 25 years now. If I ever met Charles Bukowski, had I been born 25 years earlier, I know exactly what I would say to him:

(A/N: I removed this entire section because of my colorful language. I believed it to be a little excessive and, really, to spare you, dear reader, from another one of my impetuous temper tantrums towards American authors and poets.)

…and maybe I would even regret saying those words! Because I never really knew him, and I know that all of his words must have come from somewhere – from experience, surely – and having looked up a brief biography of the man on poets.org (where I copied + pasted this poem from), the man also apparently worked as a dishwasher, so I feel for him. Maybe him and I were more alike than I’d like to think, or maybe not. He had 50 years on me when he kicked the bucket, so I’d say I’m doing pretty well for myself so far.

Anyways… LOOK, here’s the brass tacks: even if I do agree with some of what Bukowski is saying here about not being a writer for fame or sex (which, to be honest, you shouldn’t pursue any occupation for fame or sex), what is so wrong about being a writer for money? You think you’re better than me, you pretentious old fart?

so you want to be a dishwasher?

if you have to spray down the dishes

for more than five seconds

don’t do it.

if the thought of pushing an entire carton

of dirty dishes into a machine

and letting it do all the work

frightens you

don’t do it.

Like, does it really matter if you’re not ready, Bukowski? Instead of offering advice to blossoming writers, your plan is to attack them for their inexperience and inauthenticity? Yeah, okay, big guy.

Even if I do agree with most of what he says, that still doesn’t excuse the fact that it is a deliberately self-indulgent piece which is a massive middle-finger to anybody that isn’t on the same level as him. Not everybody can be Charles Bukowski, yet here we are, cowering underneath his titanic shadow.

The king is dead. Long live the king!

Even so, all of that would be perfectly acceptable. But I will never, never accept Bukowski’s position on the pretense of this passage alone:

don’t be like so many writers,

don’t be like so many thousands of

people who call themselves writers,

don’t be dull and boring and

pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-


This is the essence of each and every “Fuck you” I have directed specifically at Charles Bukowski. I will never understand this dumb elitism and ubiquitous need to be unique as a writer. There is nothing so undermining and condescending and frankly pretentious as saying “don’t be like everyone else,” like, hey, no shit, pal? I’d like very much to be my own person, but we’re not there yet. I need to be a person before I can be my own person, and I struggle being a person every day of my life.

What’s more than that, though, is the statement “Don’t be dull and boring and pretentious,” written as if to mean anything. What is dull? What is boring? What is pretentious?

Most offensive of all, though, is the maxim “Don’t be consumed with self-love”.

This I cannot agree with in any capacity.

If I am to be consumed, I would rather have it be by myself than by an awful life I have resigned to.

unless being still would

drive you to madness or

suicide or murder,

don’t do it.

unless the sun inside you is

burning your gut,

don’t do it.

I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I HATE IT.

I hate it because I know he is speaking from a place of certainty. He believes this to be the truth, and there are many who will believe it to be the truth. But I know that, for certain, it’s simply NOT true.

This idea of virtuous suffering, of self-sacrifice being the greatest good… it’s not true.

If you are consumed by the flames of that burning passion that you give yourself to, then I’m afraid that’s it. There’s nothing after. You are consumed, and there is nothing left. You ought not to drive yourself to madness for the glory.

None of us are born with a value attached to us. There is a light only you can see, a significance that is only evident to yourself. Do not discount it for the world at large.

But maybe… just maybe I’ve read Bukowski’s words wrong. It’s a little hard to say for certain and, after all, the essence of art is that everything is open to interpretation – but I feel correct in my reading of Bukowski’s poem here.

Either the work says more about the artist, or the work says more about the reader, depending on the context.

Again, art is open to interpretation. It is one of art’s greatest strengths and its most reliable shortcomings. I could be dead wrong. But, you know what? Bukowski could’ve been dead wrong, too. You don’t need to listen to the preachy ramblings and poetic musings of a bunch of old coots to know that your feelings and experiences are valid. That’s a lesson I learned a long time ago.

Maybe Bukowski didn’t mean any of what I am accusing him of meaning here – absolutely – maybe my anger and distaste towards him is completely unjustified, but maybe that says more about me than it does about him. In that sense, perhaps my reaction is a valuable outcome in and of itself.

Again, there is considerable significance and value in the misinterpretation of words and their meaning.

JD-Jurado © all rights reserved 2020

Part 6 of 9
From Grim to Dire, A Testimonial for Being-To-Be


#Poetry #Reallife #Mondaymoods  #mondaymotivation

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