Yesterday was the birthday of poet and novelist, Charles Bukowski, who died in 1994 at the age of 73. To date, he has over sixty books in print—poetry, stories, novels and one screenplay—the most recent published in 2009. Bukowski’s wife, Linda Lee has continued over the years since his death to sort through the numerous boxes of unpublished pages her husband left behind, and to offer ‘new’ collections of his work. Through her, his readers have been treated to a new book almost every year, despite his death sixteen years ago.
The book featured here in the photograph is one I randomly chose from my collection, carries another typically Bukowski-like title, Septuagenarian Stew: Stories & Poems, and was published in 1990. I say randomly chosen only meaning that careful thought isn’t needed to pick a good book by Bukowski; they are all good, and all have their strengths. Septuagenarian Stew is an excellent example of the writer’s overview. There is also Run With the Hunted: The Charles Bukowski Reader, which many will recommend. Either one provides the reader an excellent introduction to Bukowski, if such is needed.
A short poem from Septuagenarian Stew, “cause and effect”
the best often die by their own hand
just to get away,
and those left behind
can never quite understand
would ever want to
Bukowski’s gravestone reads: DON’T TRY
He explained this phrase in a letter:
‘Someone at one of those places asked me: “What do you do? How do you write, create?” You don’t, I told them. You don’t try. That’s very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it.’