Tuesday, April 1

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, April 01, 2014 23 comments
by Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Photo credit: alexfrance from morguefile.com
I see you drinking at a fountain with tiny
blue hands, no, your hands are not tiny
they are small, and the fountain is in France
where you wrote me that last letter and
I answered and never heard from you again.
you used to write insane poems about
ANGELS AND GOD, all in upper case, and you
knew famous artists and most of them
were your lovers, and I wrote back, it’ all right,
go ahead, enter their lives, I’ not jealous
because we’ never met. we got close once in
New Orleans, one half block, but never met, never
touched. so you went with the famous and wrote
about the famous, and, of course, what you found out
is that the famous are worried about
their fame –– not the beautiful young girl in bed
with them, who gives them that, and then awakens
in the morning to write upper case poems about
ANGELS AND GOD. we know God is dead, they’ told
us, but listening to you I wasn’ sure. maybe
it was the upper case. you were one of the
best female poets and I told the publishers,
editors, “ her, print her, she’ mad but she’
magic. there’ no lie in her fire.” I loved you
like a man loves a woman he never touches, only
writes to, keeps little photographs of. I would have
loved you more if I had sat in a small room rolling a
cigarette and listened to you piss in the bathroom,
but that didn’ happen. your letters got sadder.
your lovers betrayed you. kid, I wrote back, all
lovers betray. it didn’ help. you said
you had a crying bench and it was by a bridge and
the bridge was over a river and you sat on the crying
bench every night and wept for the lovers who had
hurt and forgotten you. I wrote back but never
heard again. a friend wrote me of your suicide
3 or 4 months after it happened. if I had met you
I would probably have been unfair to you or you
to me. it was best like this.

source: PoemHunter.com

It's day 1 of the A-Z challenge, and in honor of National Poetry Month, I'll be talking poetry, from the wry and colloquial to the deep and sublime, and everything in between. I'll share some of my own work, some favorite writing tools, and introduce you to poets and forms you might not have heard of.

Today's poem is by a German-born poet who made his home in Los Angeles and wrote about the ordinary lives of poor Americans. This piece is a wonderful example of his style, how he captures the cadence of ordinary speech through repetition, dialect (like the dropped-out endings in possessives and contractions) and colloquialisms. His image of romantic stability is so very ordinary, so visceral--placidly rolling cigarettes, hearing your beloved use the bathroom.  There's a lovely sadness here, of possibilities never realized, as the persona considers this woman he knows about but never met, who wrote "insane poems" and "got sadder" until she took her own life. This piece, though not particularly fancy-sounding, is a poetic from called an elegy--a poem that honors the dead--using a figure of speech called apostrophe--addressing an idea, object, or absent person.

Poetry doesn't have to rhyme, and it doesn't have to be difficult to understand or full of SAT vocabulary. What it does require is densely-layered images and meaning. Bukowski achieves this, oddly enough, by evoking ordinary folk through imitating their speech patterns. My favorite line is "I loved you / like a man loves a woman he never touches...."

What lines or images stand out to you?

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Muddy-Fingered Midnights by Laurel Garver

Muddy-Fingered Midnights

by Laurel Garver

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  1. It's an intriguing poem, by a poet I hadn't come across before.

    1. How often do we know about others without ever actually knowing them? I was intrigued by that idea, too. Thanks for coming by!

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  3. Interesting. I'd say "... go ahead, enter their lives, I’ not jealous
    because we’ never met." is my favorite line.

    Sheri at Writer's Alley

    Home of Rebel Writer CREED 2014
    Mighty Minion Bureau Team #atozchallenge

    1. I like his generosity of spirit, too. That he understands he can't ever really know this woman the way he wishes he might have, but isn't put out about it. Thanks for visiting!

  4. Interesting New Orleans was mentioned as I was born there. It really paints a picture.

    Brandon Ax: Writer's Storm

    1. New Orleans, Paris also. You get the sense both the poet and the person spoken of moved around a lot. Thanks for visiting!

  5. that's a different style of writing, I loved the imagery.. thanks for sharing it. I haven't read much of his works. And I agree, a poem doesn't need to have rhyme or heavy words.

    1. I like how stream-of-consciousness it feels, but if you pick lines apart, there's clearly been planning and revision to make the rhythm work as well as it does.

      Indeed, you don't need a PhD to write or read poetry. Thanks for coming by!

  6. Thought provking poem :) Stopping by from A to Z
    Gladiator's Pen

    1. Thanks. Some others in the series are more light-hearted. Thanks for coming by!

  7. Yikes. Goosebumps. Yup. That was so beautiful but so incredibly sad. =( Here's to epic artists and the way they shape our emotions, eh?

    1. Sad, yes, but there's also a kind of peaceful acceptance that he did have a positive place in her life, if mainly as a penpal and someone who tried to help her in publishing. Thanks for coming by!

  8. Thank you for sharing this beautiful, engaging poem. It is full of lost possibilities and ultimately, acceptance. I look forward to the rest of the month!

    1. Thanks so much! It is indeed an emotionally complex piece in the midst of street talk. The narrative voice is so engaging.

  9. Rhythmic, poignant, sad. I like imagery of the crying bench on the bridge. Made me think of Bridge Over Troubled Waters!

    1. It's so evocative, isn't it? I could picture this sad woman, seeing her teary face reflected in the water below.

  10. Not a big poetry fan but I remember being so charmed when I did my student teaching in first grade and had to teach the poetry unit. I groaned at first but the children were so delightful in their discoveries.

    enjoy the challenge!

    1. I'm willing to bet you just haven't found a style/school or author who speaks your language in a way that moves you. So much of the poetry of the past can feel stilted, distant. I hope you'll come back to see how very diverse this medium is.

  11. ...rolling a cigarette and listened to you piss in the bathroom...I've done this. Brilliant poem with such emotion. I love it. Look forward to reading the rest of your A2Z blog...Best of luck :)

    1. Nothing high-falutin' about it, which makes it all the more poignant. Thanks for coming by!

  12. Oh I am so glad you came upon me and now I have found you! Two poetry choices in and I know we are sisters. Bukowski is so tender and tough. I love his poem 'writing'. Here's a poet I think you will like - Sue Goyette.

    1. Sisters indeed! I am loving this blogfest for this reason. It's been awesome meeting cool people like you.