April 7, 2004

where art improves upon life, call it background music

* "The only unequivocally good policy option before the American people is to dump the president who got us into this mess, who had no trouble sending our young people to Iraq but who cannot steel himself to face the Sept. 11 commission alone." [via talking points memo]

* "America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves.... It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters."
- Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five [via wood s lot]

* The White House will not allow the 9/11 Commission to see the full text of the speech National Security Advisor Condi Rice was supposed to give at Johns Hopkins University on September 11, 2001, claiming "draft documents" are confidential. "The Washington Post, citing former U.S. officials who have seen the Rice speech, reported last week that the speech was designed to promote missile defense as the cornerstone of a new national security strategy. It said the speech included no mention of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups."

* 1985 New York Quarterly interview of Charles Bukowski. excerpts:

NYQ: How do you write? In longhand, on the typewriter? Do you revise much? What do you do with worksheets? Your poems sometimes give the impression of coming off the top of your head. Is that only an impression? How much agony and sweat of the human spirit is involved in the writing of one of your poems?

CB: I write right off the typer. I call it my "machinegun." I hit it hard, usually late at night while drinking wine and listening to classical music on the radio and smoking mangalore ganesh beedies. I revise but not much. The next day I retype the poem and automatically make a change or two, drop out a line, or make two lines into one or one line into two, that sort of thing—to make the poem have more balls, more balance. Yes, the poems come "off the top of my head," I seldom know what I’m going to write when I sit down. There isn’t much agony and sweat of the human spirit involved in doing it. The writing’s easy, it’s the living that is sometimes difficult.
NYQ: When did you begin writing? How old? What writers did you admire?

CB: The first thing I ever remembered writing was about a German aviator with a steel hand who shot hundreds of Americans out of the sky during World War II. It was in long hand in pen and it covered every page of a huge memo ringed notebook. I was about 13 at the time and I was in bed covered with the worst case of boils the medics ever remembered seeing. There weren’t any writers to admire at the time. Since then there has been John Fante, Knut Hamsun, the Celine of Journey; Dostoesvsky, of course; Jeffers of the long poems only; Conrad Aiken, Catullus…not to many. I sucked mostly at the classical music boys. It was good to come home from the factories at night, take off my clothes, climb on the bed in the dark, get drunk on beer and listen to them.

NYQ: Do you think there’s too much poetry being written today? How would you characterize what you think is really bad poetry? What do you think is good poetry today?

CB: There’s too much bad poetry being written today. People just don’t know how to write down a simple easy line. It’s difficult for them; it’s like trying to keep a hard-on while drowning—not many can do it. Bad poetry is caused by people who sit down and think, Now I am going to write a Poem. And it comes out the way they think a poem should be. Take a cat. He doesn’t think, well, now I’m cat and I’m going to kill this bird. He just does it. Good poetry today? Well, it’s being written by a couple of cats called Gerald Locklin and Ronald Koertge.
NYQ: You have a fairly distinct persona in most of your poems, and your strong voice seems to come out of that persona. It’s the mask of a bored, dirty old man who’s boozing it up in Li Po manner because the straight world isn’t worth taking seriously. Usually there’s an hysterical broad banging your door down while the poem is taking shape. First do you admit to this persona in your poems, and then to what extent do you think it reflects Bukowski the man? In other words are you the person you present to us in your poems?

CB: Things change a bit: what once was is not quite what it is now. I began writing poetry at the age of 35 after coming out of the death ward of the L.A. County General Hospital and not as a visitor. To get somebody to read your poems you have to be noticed, so I got my act up. I wrote vile (but interesting) stuff that made people hate me, that made them curious about this Bukowski. I threw bodies off my court porch into the night. I pissed on police cars, sneered at hippies. After my second reading down at Venice, I grabbed the money, leaped into my car, intoxicated, and drove it about on the sidewalks at 60 m.p.h. I had parties at my place which were interrupted by police raids. A professor from U.C.L.A. invited me to his place for dinner. His wife cooked a nice meal which I ate and then I went over and broke up his China closet. I was in and out of drunktanks. A lady accused me of rape, the whore. Meanwhile, I wrote about most of this, it was my persona, it was me but it wasn’t me. As time wet on, trouble and action arrived by itself and I didn’t have to force it and I wrote about that and this was closer to my real persona. Actually, I am not a tough person and sexually, most of the time, I am almost a prude, but I am often a nasty drunk and many strange things happen to me when I am drunk. I’m not saying this very well and I’m taking too long. What I am trying to say is that the longer I write the closer I am all hell in the stretch run. I am 93 percent the person I present in my poems; the other 7 percent is where art improves upon life, call it background music.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home