Let me tell you something about an old and dirty alcoholic who also happened to write some of the best poems out there.
I stumbled upon Bukowski about a year ago, when a friend of mine gave me his novel “Post office” for my birthday. Not knowing what to expect, I starting reading and I hated it. How could anyone like to read about an old, drucken asshole who does nothing more than bet on horse races and somehow convince lonely women into sleeping with him? But a little further in I started to warm up to the book and after a little while, one could describe me as ‘in love’.
And here’s the thing: I am completely, utterly in love with the ugliness of it all. The raw, simplistic way Bukowski writes about the world. I hate when writers are naive. I despise reading about the idyllic lives of people destined to be happy. When you only decide portray the pretty side of the world you’re lying. Maybe you’re even lying to yourself.
I admit it: I am a pessimist and I like to know the full scale of what I’m getting myself into. Bukowski doesn’t lie. He puts the facts on a stick and hands them to us uncooked. And in this day and age, that’s something that you almost never see anymore. We all strive to portray a better version of ourselves, especially online. So reading the thoughts and observations of someone who just accepted everything the way it was is a refreshing breath of air. I think we sometimes choose to over-complicate matters. Bukowski describes life as any other thing, not overly complex, not overly embellished. It makes his work relatable and real, something a lot of literature is lacking these days. No matter how graphic the scene he is describing may be, it doesn’t change anything about the situation. If it happened, it happened. Why try and romanticize life? His use of simple language, but a strong choice of words are exactly what modern literature needs.
Why, you might ask, can I find anything an old man says relatable? When he writes, it’s almost like I can hear his rough voice telling me a story, the heavy scent of alcohol on his breath, a husky laugh here and there and a cigarette in his hand. Take his novel “Post Office” for instance: I have heard people describe the book as “funny”. It’s far from funny, I can tell you that. Bukowski takes the shitty things life throws at you and laughs. You will smile for sure when reading Post Office. You might even laugh. But don’t mistake the content for all fun and games. Under the surface, it’s heartbreaking and sad. But not in a way that will make you cry or feel sorry for the lad. It reveals a human suffering. If it’s from a toxic relationship or a shitty job… we can all relate to feeling helpless and suffocated. His alter Ego Henry Chinaski, has tuned out of the world. He is disconnected, but not fully. He’s still attached enough to give a shit, at least to a certain extent.
He writes about the world we all live in. His life is different from mine in nearly every aspect. But there’s a sense of understanding that he portrays in his poems. I feel like he gets me and my own personal problems, I feel like I connect with him when I read his work. And I love that author-reader bond. It also creates a community of Bukowski readers. I think that’s one of the reasons I like to read Bukowski in public areas. Strangers come up to me and start chatting to me about the book or some of his other works. And let me tell you, I’ve had some unforgettable conversations and discussions with intelligent and intellectual people. And that makes me feel like I’m part of something. It makes me feel understood. And if written words can create that, imagine the endless possibilities yet to be explored…
Bukowski writes the most beautiful poems because he writes about the dishonest reality we all live in. He gets as real as it gets and portrays life at its purest core. He doesn’t write to impress. He writes because he has an urge to. And that inspires the shit out of me.