Charles Bukowski
Image from portlandmercury.com.
Image from portlandmercury.com.

A friend of mine told me that I write like Charles Bukowski “if Bukowski was ironically funny.”  I said, “But, Bukowski is ironically funny.” “Not in the way you are,” he said.  Fair enough.  I am not Bukowski, after all.

I have never bet on a horse, and no matter how hard I try, I am not really an alcoholic.  I do have very poor impulse control, but I’m not really addicted to anything anymore.

I don’t write poetry, unless you consider the occasional haiku battle royale to be poetry.  Sometimes, I have whole conversations with some friends written in haiku  (<- that sentence is a haiku). But beware; thinking in five-seven-five is hard to stop once you start (<-also a haiku).

Bukowski lived in a different era than I do.  Also, he had a penis.  I do not.  Therefore, we are bound to have two entirely different perspectives on the world.  We do share the same city, though.

Another friend of mine says that Bukowski was a one-trick pony.  He says he did that trick better than nearly anyone, but still, it was just the one trick. I suppose what my friend said is a little true, even though I don’t entirely agree. Women, booze, gambling, work, life in Los Angeles and the tortures of being a struggling writer were his main topics. I don’t really write about any of the above, except maybe the last three.

Bukowski was much more prolific that I am.  The man wrote every damn day for forty years or more.  I try to force myself to write every day, but the words just don’t come.  This week has been a pretty good week for writing.  The words have just been flooding out. I wish every day could be like that, but I’d never get anything done.

I have little to no control over my writing, when you get down to it.  The words form themselves in my mind. I have hardly anything to do with it at all.  I’ll be taking a shower, driving or be otherwise occupied, and a sentence just pops into my mind.  Then another follows, and maybe one after that.  I’ll go to my laptop, open it up and they all come out like prisoners into a yard.  They mill about in little groups until I put them into some sort of order.  It’s not a conscious or deliberate thing.

Sometimes, I’ll read something I wrote a while ago and it doesn’t even seem like I wrote it.  I’ll read something I wrote and laugh as if I never heard the joke before, even though it came from inside of me.  Or I’ll read a sentence and think, “I wrote that?  Hey, that’s pretty good!” but it doesn’t sound like me.  It is me, but it’s not a conscious part of me.  The words come from some hidden part and all I do is write them down like a court reporter. It’s nice that there’s something I can do subconsciously without much effort.

I can write something like this here thing that I’m writing now, and when I read it just minutes later, I’m already disconnected from it.  If I lose a section of what I wrote, because I’m dumb enough to compose in WordPress (which has happened far too many times), I won’t be able to get it back.  Once it’s out of me, I don’t seem to remember it all that well.  I can’t even quote myself. Forgetting my own writing does allow me to read it more objectively, though.

A thousand years ago, I had a boyfriend who was mainly an asshole.  He was a drunk musician who continually kept me at arms length, but I will always look back fondly on that asshole because he was the one who first introduced me to Bukowski.  He handed me a copy of Post Office and said read this.

After that, I sought out more and more and more. Fortunately, there are more words written by Bukowski than you could probably track down in a lifetime and more long-lost books are published all the time.  Bukowski is like the Tupac of books; there are more posthumous releases every year.  I still haven’t even come close to reading it all.

Bukowski has been one of my favorite contemporary writers for a long time now.  Even when I was only reading books that were more than fifty years old and originally written in another language (particularly books with appendices), Bukowski was the one contemporary American author I would name if asked.

Although the differences between us are great, I identify with Bukowski a little bit. I relate to his struggle.  I relate to his yearning to be free from all the petty things in life that bog us all down.  I envy the particular way in which he puts simple words together to form a new and surprising sentence.

As far as writing like Bukowski is concerned, while I will gladly take the compliment –  and I do look at is as a compliment, maybe the best I’ve ever received – I think I’ll stick to writing like an ironically funny version of me.

“my goldfish stares with watery eyes
into the hemisphere of my sorrow;
upon the thinnest threads
we hang together,
hang hang hang
in the hangman’s noose;
I stare into his place and
he into mine . . .
he must have thoughts,
can you deny this?
he has eyes and hunger
and his love too
died in January; but he is
gold, really gold, and I am grey
and it is indecent to search him out,
indecent like the burning of peaches
or the rape of children,
and I turn and look elsewhere,
but I know that he is there behind me,
one gold goblet of blood,
one thing alone
hung between the reddest cloud
of purgatory
and apt. no. 303.

god, can it be
that we are the same?”

– From The Roominghouse Madrigals by Charles Bukowski.