Bukowski: Poetry for the damned

If we turn to the post-Beat scene of writing from the American West Coast we find many noteworthy literary creatures. The poetry of Charles Bukowski stands in contrast to Houellebecq’s nihilism. Bukowski’s dirty realism pulsates with the same themes as Houellebecq albeit with much more in the way of exuberance. He doesn’t so much languish in complacent affluence as live and breathe the filthier side of life. Bukowski remains an essentially American writer in his unabashed individualism, which serves to complement the reservoir of squalor and misanthropy in his prose. He has no coherent social message to convey only defiant … Continue reading

A master of everything

The title of Bukowski’s second novel is actually stolen property, pilfered by the English, like so much else, from Latin. The implications are worth noting for a factotum is a “master of everything” and in the case of Henry Chinaski this means not just repairing bicycles and factory work, it means gambling, drinking and womanising. Just as Karl Marx viewed production as a sensuous human activity, as much a part of our species-being as it is our alienation, Bukowski seems to take a more literal line – he is production. Henry Chinaski makes his way across the States often penniless … Continue reading

A Dirty Old Man

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The poet and self-described dirty old man Charles Bukowski died twenty years ago. He passed after a battle with leukaemia in which he finished his novel Pulp (1993). He gave up the ghost with a sigh of relief. He was the American equivalent of Céline. He lived his work. It was the end of the Beatniks and the Hippies when Bukowski burst onto the scene, having been crowned King of the Little Magazines, and churned an incredible bulk of poems and short stories from the 1940s onwards. It was a hard struggle, writing from the gutter, mainly for others who found themselves there … Continue reading