Thursday, January 05, 2006

Come On In!

The new year brings with it yet another volume of new poems by the late Charles Bukowski.

Come On In! is the ninth posthumous collection of his work to appear, and the fourth to come from HarperCollins’s Ecco imprint since they acquired the rights to his work from Black Sparrow Press. And as nice as it is to still have his voice with us, it’s hard not to miss the old Black Sparrow production values that made each book seem like a modest work of art, something that was always partly due to the unique graphic design of publisher John Martin’s wife Barbara.

Coincidentally or not, the publication date also marks the 36th anniversary of the day Bukowski left his job at the post office at the age of 50, give or take a day. As everyone knows, he proceeded to let those years spill onto the page and become his first novel Post Office, which set both Bukowski and Black Sparrow on the road to popular success. John Martin had promised to pay Bukowski a monthly stipend if he would quit his job and devote himself to his writing full time. It was a gamble that paid off hugely for both of them.

I had an opportunity about a year ago to visit Los Angeles and I tried to take a Bukowski walking tour while I was there. Armed with a handful of addresses, I did my best to scare up some ghosts but his L.A. is long gone now. The sex shop is still there at the corner of Hollywood and Western, but there’s a Starbucks across the street from it.

You’d think they could have at least made it a “Starbukowski’s” or something and put some of his poems on the cups.

Still, the pilgrimage felt worth the effort as I walked the streets he walked so many times. I even got a couple of kids to take a picture of me outside the place where Post Office had been written so long ago. As I wrote to someone at the time, it all felt more intimate somehow than a visit to the gravesite would have.

But all we’ve got now are the poems, which is exactly the way Bukowski would have wanted it. Come On In! won’t hold many surprises for anyone familiar with the usual Bukowski mise-en-scene. There are the usual complaints, about poets, poetry, the dangers of success, and the general human condition:

you might as well be the only
person left on earth.
sometimes you feel as if you
and maybe you are.

But more importantly, there are the lyrical poems that sing the praises of silent courage and everyday endurance:

it’s stupid, I know, but I have an
ability to feel happy for little or no reason,
it’s not a great elation, it’s
more like a steady
warmth -
something like a warm heater on a cold

It ends, as most of these recent compilations have, with those poems written around the time of his final illnesses. These usually inspire him to speak with a sort of mentor’s voice as he tries to find a way to summarize a lifetime lived:

invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
change your tone and shape so often that they can
categorize you.

Or, as this particular collection ends:

cry not for me.

grieve not for me.

what I’ve written
forget it

drink from the well
of your self
and begin

And here I am at 50, having just lost my job of 20 years. It’s hard to get past.

Mockingbird…wish me luck.


Anonymous Cleetus Santana said...

Keep the faith will land on your feet again! Great speaking with you last night. Maybe this is the time you need to pursue your muse as well...

Stay Strong!


Thursday, January 05, 2006 9:57:00 PM  
Anonymous desk jockey tigerbomb said...

Aw ... man. Stinkers.

Y'know, it used to be my job to supposedly help other unfortunates look for gainful employ. I didn't like it much, although I went back to do it another two times. Unemployment does that to you.

My suggestion would be to think outside the box. Other people will suggest resumes and networking. Important, but not the whole deal. Mail me if you need to.


Friday, January 06, 2006 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Miss Templeton said...

Ah Count! Just read the news here. My thoughts are with you and Cleetus Santana is on to something about that muse pursuit!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Count Screwloose said...

To Everyone:

Thank you all for your kind and good wishes. Forgive the silence, but it has been a difficult week.

I'm still sorting things out and hope to be back soon.

I value your thoughtfulness and generosity. Thanks again.

All the best,


Thursday, January 12, 2006 2:08:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home