Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski born 1920, was an American writer and poet best known for his raw and unapologetic works such as ‘Post Office’ and ‘Ham on Rye’. Exploring the dark realities of those disenfranchised in society, Bukowski would become one of America’s most important literary figures of the 20th century.

Bukowski’s writing would appeal to the everyman as he refused to over-intellectualise, instead he focused on gritty realism. Semi autobiographical, his work often delved into themes of poverty, relationships, alcoholism and the absurdity of modern life. These themes made all the more richer as Bukowski would marinade his ideas; writing all the while but it wasn’t until the age of 49 when he was finally able to become a full time writer.

Prior to his breakthrough Bukowski worked at the American Post office for 11 years. This was a notoriously difficult job. Most may not remember the colloquial term in the 80s-90s; ‘Going Postal’; referring to uncontrolled rage and violence in a workplace setting. This was coined after a spate of workplace violence most notably in 1986, a former employee of a Oklahoma branch shot and killed 14 people and ultimately killing himself.

Bukowski later remarked that if he had to work much longer at the post office that he would have killed himself. For the writer, the post office was a pimple on the ugly face of the modern world, the puss of which contained everything he hated; monotony, boredom, authority and alienation.

Bukowski is the antithesis of western culture and used his disdain to fuel his writing. A culture where we are told to always be positive, enjoy our work, exercise and if we drink, to do so in moderation. Bukowski hated this culture and ultimately lived life opposing many of the principles stated above.

If you are in a place where you hate everyone and everything; Bukowski is waiting for you at rock bottom. He’ll show you that you’re not alone in this state, in fact he’s willing to follow you further down. But when you’re ready, he’ll prop you up just enough for you to start climbing out by yourself.

Soulr did a great job with this documentary and serves as a great intro for the author. The following is a poem by Bukowski:

There’s a bluebird in my heart that

Wants to get out but I’m too tough for him

I say, stay in there, I’m not going

To let anybody see you

There’s a bluebird in my heart that

Wants to get out

But I pour whiskey on him and inhale

Cigarette smoke

And the whores and the bartenders

And the grocery clerks never know that

He’s in there

There’s a bluebird in my heart that

Wants to get out but I’m too tough for him

I say, Stay down, do you want to mess

Me up? You want to screw up the

Works? You want to blow my book sales in

Europe? There’s a bluebird in my heart that

Wants to get out

But I’m too clever, I only let him out

At night sometimes when everybody’s asleep

I say, I know that you’re there

So don’t be sad

Then I put him back

But he’s singing a little

In there, I haven’t quite let him die

And we sleep together like that

With our secret pact

And it’s nice enough to make a man

Weep, but I don’t weep, do


– Charles Bukowski, 1972

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