Thursday, 19 June 2014

Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame by Charles Bukowski (4/5)

First published: 1974
Page count: 232

The back says: Nothing, but in the introduction he writes: The poems in the first three sections of this book are from the years 1955-1968 and the poems in the last section are the new work of 1972-1973. The reader might wonder what happened to the years 1969-1971, since the author once did vanish (literally) from 1944 to 1954. But not this time. The Days Ran Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills (Black Sparrow Press, 1969) contains the poems from late 1968 and most of 1969, plus selections from five early chapbooks not covered by the first three sections of this book. Mockingbird Wish Me Luck (Black Sparrow Press, 1972) prints poems written from late 1969 to early 1972. So, for my critics, readers, friends, enemies, ex-lovers and new lovers, the present volume along with Days and Mockingbird contain what I like to consider my best work written over the past nineteen years.

I say: I have read poetry by Bukowski before, but without paying it proper attention. For whatever reasons I get him mixed up with William S.Burroughs – not being knowledgeable about either of their work – so I decided to borrow some of the former’s work from the library in an attempt to grasp what he wants to say.

I’m equal parts impressed and confused.

Four things that Bukowski keeps talking about: gambling (horses in particular), drinking, women and the meaning of life and death. The first I have zero interest in, the second intrigues me, the third fascinates me and the last is what I relentlessly obsess about.

Bukowski’s gambling is portrayed as the least of his problems; he wins some, he loses some and that’s all there is to it. His drinking and his women, on the other hand, are both complicated parts of his life because he cannot stay away from either. They’re both addictions that he appears to take at face value. Sure, some women manage to get close and it’s interesting to read why, but in the long run they all leave him.

Or he leaves them. 

the tigress

terrible arguments.
and, at last, lying peacefully
on her large bed
which is
spread in red with cool patterns of flowers,
my head and belly down
head sideways
sprayed by shaded light
as the bathes quietly in the
other room,
it is all beyond me,
as most things are,
I listen to classical music on the small radio,
she bathes, I hear the splashing of water.

I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the poetry in this collection because I thought that it would be vulgar and coarse and portraying things I’d rather not think about. However, the majority is beautiful and poignant, revealing a very broken man – and men, and women. There is a vulnerability behind the roughness that mingles perfectly with an intelligent observation of the world around him, and I find that the poems with the fewest words are the ones that move me the most.

i met a genius

I met a genius on the train
today
about 6 years old,
he sat beside me
and as the train
ran down along the coast
we came to the ocean
and then he looked at me
and said,
it’s not pretty.

it was the first time I’d
realized
that.
 

4/5 because the collection wasn’t perfect, but I will be reading more of his works.

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