Sunday, October 4, 2009

Come On In - Charles Bukowski


2006; 279 pages. Genre : Modern Poetry. Dewey Decimal Number : 811.56 B869C. Cost (new) : $27.50; Cost to check it out from the library : free. Overall Rating : A-.
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The prologue to Come On In reads : "These poems are part of an archive of unpublished work that Charles Bukowski left to be published after his death." Although he is best known for his 5 semi-autobiographical novels (Ham On Rye, et. al.), most of Bukowski's books are either poetry or poetry/short stories.
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What's To Like...
The poems are broken into four sections. The first part is his reflections on growing old; the second is about women; the third is about the writing profession; and if there's a unfying theme in the fourth section, I didn't catch it.
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The poems have no meter, no rhyme, and no structure. I usually struggle with this form of prose, but these were quite readable. There are even two poems referencing Li Po, who happens to be my favorite classical Chinese poet. It's amazing that Bukowski was familiar with and influenced by him.
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I found the "Aging" section especially poignant. It should be rated PG-50 : anyone younger than that has to read it with their parents. Towards the end of his life, Bukowski was battling leukemia; and he offers a lot of insight regarding his mortality. His point in one poem is that a poet is never allowed to retire. His public expects him to keep following his muse and composing poems, even when he's dying.
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The "Women" section is revealing, but less inspiring. Bukowski's philosophy on the opposite sex seems to be : Live with them, even marry them if need be. But when they get to be irritating, it's time to move on. He chides couples that have been married 60-70 years, writing, "either of whom would long ago have settled for something else, but fate, fear and circumstances have bound them eternally together".
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In the "Writing" section, he cuts through the BS associated with his fame, laughing at aspiring authors who butter him up, then send him their unpublished manuscripts for him to read and forward along.
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I give Come On In and A- because it resonated with me. There's nothing high-brow here - indeed, he mocks poets who feel compelled to work Greek and Roman gods into their prose, or who try to impress with a line or two of French or Italian. Instead, Bukowski is a poet for the proletariat, a Robert Frost with an attitude. Read Come On In when you're tired of social snobbery and just want some honest, down-to-earth insight.
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Excerpts...
I can't think of another poet who makes people as
angry as I do.
I enjoy it
knowing that we are all brothers and sisters
in a very unkind extended
family
and I also never forget that
no matter
what the circumstances,
the park bench is never that far away
from any one of
us.
(last part of "the x-bum")
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peace of mind and heart
arrives
when we accept what
is:
having been
born into this
strange life
we must accept
the wasted gamble of our
days
and take some satisfaction in
the plesaure of
leaving it all
behind.
cry not for me.
grieve not for me.
read
what I've written
then
forget it
all.
drink from the well
of your self
and begin
again.
(last part of "mind and heart")

9 comments:

Amanda said...

I've never read Bukowski, but I've heard his views on woman are so awful that I'm not likely to read him any time soon...

hamilcar barca said...

i'd recommend his poems before his novels because they're less anecdotal. yeah, he's sexist, but that's not surprising, given that he was born in 1920. he doesn't apologize for his views, but he's not really extolling them either.

reading-wise, i'm okay with viewpoints that don't match my own, as long as they're well-written and non-preachy. Come On In conforms to that.

Julie said...

Bukowski definitely sounds like a guy with an interesting life and way of looking at things. I like his idea of a poet never being allowed to retire. I like the idea of having a pen & paper at my deathbed. It sounds comforting to me, you know, jotting down any last words.

hamilcar barca said...

"I like his idea of a poet never being allowed to retire".

there are certain musicians that i feel that way about. For example, Pink Floyd. Even though they're all in their 60's, and have enough $$$ from royalties coming in to last them for the rest of their lives, they're not allowed to stop putting albums out!

Julie said...

Ahhh, My most memorable Pink Floyd experience was listening to their music in the shadowy darkness of a Planetarium show. Those stars were twinkling. Very cool!

hamilcar barca said...

Oooo, Julie. Great ambiance for PF music! they simply have to do one more tour. we fans demand it.
:-)

Lula O said...

Does every planetarium show play that music? Because I remember that too. That and don't look directly at the lasers, lest they melt your eyeballs.
I remember doing ah, other stuff to Pink Floyd as well.
Groovy stuff.

hamilcar barca said...

groovy, eh? far out!

Julie said...

One more tour! One more tour! :-)

I'd love to go and hear them at the Planetarium again. Glad you remember it too, Lula. That's so cool! :D

I wonder about the groovy stuff....hmmm... :L