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Charles Bukowski

1920–1994

Charles Bukowski was born in Andernach, Germany, on August 16, 1920, the only child of an American soldier and a German mother. At the age of three, he came with his family to the United States and grew up in Los Angeles. He attended Los Angeles City College from 1939 to 1941, then left school and moved to New York City to become a writer. His lack of publishing success at this time caused him to give up writing in 1946 and spurred a ten-year stint of heavy drinking. After he developed a bleeding ulcer, he decided to take up writing again. He worked a wide range of jobs to support his writing, including dishwasher, truck driver and loader, mail carrier, guard, gas station attendant, stock boy, warehouse worker, shipping clerk, post office clerk, parking lot attendant, Red Cross orderly, and elevator operator. He also worked in a dog biscuit factory, a slaughterhouse, a cake and cookie factory, and he hung posters in New York City subways.

Bukowski published his first story when he was twenty-four and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. His writing often featured a depraved metropolitan environment, downtrodden members of American society, direct language, violence, and sexual imagery, and many of his works center around a roughly autobiographical figure named Henry Chinaski. His first book of poetry was published in 1959; he went on to publish more than forty-five books of poetry and prose, including Pulp (Black Sparrow, 1994), Screams from the Balcony: Selected Letters 1960-1970 (1993), and The Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992). He died of leukemia in San Pedro on March 9, 1994.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

2 by Bukowski (1967)
A Love Poem (1979)
Africa, Paris, Greece (1975)
All the Assholes in the World and Mine (1966)
Another Academy (1970)
At Terror Street and Agony Way (1968)
Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems, 1955-1973 (1974)
Cold Dogs in the Courtyard (1965)
Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live with Beasts (1965)
Crucifix in a Deathhand: New Poems, 1963-1965 (1965)
Dangling in the Tournefortia (1981)
Fire Station (1970)
Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wail (1959)
Grip the Walls (1964)
If We Take... (1969)
It Catches My Heart in Its Hands: New and Selected Poems, 1955-1963 (1963)
Legs, Hips, and Behind (1978)
Longshot Pomes for Broke Players (1962)
Love Is a Dog from Hell: Poems, 1974-1977 (1977)
Love Poems to Marina (1973)
Maybe Tomorrow (1977)
Me and Your Sometimes Love Poems (1972)
Mockingbird, Wish Me Luck (1972)
Night's Work (1966)
On Going Out to Get the Mail (1966)
Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit (1979)
Poems Written before Jumping out of an 8-story Window (1968)
Poems and Drawings (1962)
Run with the Hunted (1962)
Scarlet (1976)
Sparks (1983)
The Curtains Are Waving (1967)
The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses over the Hills (1969)
The Flower Lover (1966)
The Genius of the Crowd (1966)
The Girls (1966)
The Last Generation (1982)
The Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992)
The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems, 1946-1966 (1988)
To Kiss the Worms Goodnight (1966)
True Story (1966)
War All the Time: Poems, 1981-1984 (1984)
Weather Report (1975)
While the Music Played (1973)
Winter (1975)
sifting through the madness for the Word, the line, the way (2003)
Storm for the Living and the Dead: Uncollected and Unpublished Poems (Ecco Press,2017)

Fiction

Barfly (1984)
Bring Me Your Love (1983)
Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness (1972)
Factotum (1975)
Ham on Rye (1982)
Hollywood (1989)
Horsemeat (1982)
Hot Water Music (1983)
Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969)
Post Office (1971)
Pulp (1994)
South of No North: Stories of the Buried Life (1973)
There's No Business (1984)
Women (1978)

Letters

Screams from the Balcony: Selected Letters 1960-1970 (1993)
The Bukowski/Purdy Letters: A Decade of Dialogue, 1964-1974 (1983)

Poetry & Prose

Septuagenarian Stew (1990)

By This Poet

4

so you want to be a writer?


if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
fame,
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.


if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

the suicide kid

I went to the worst of bars
hoping to get
killed.
but all I could do was to
get drunk
again.
worse, the bar patrons even
ended up
liking me.
there I was trying to get
pushed over the dark
edge
and I ended up with
free drinks
while somewhere else
some poor
son-of-a-bitch was in a hospital
bed,
tubes sticking out  all over
him
as he fought like hell
to live.
nobody would help me
die as
the drinks kept
coming,
as the next day
waited for me
with its steel clamps,
its stinking
anonymity,
its incogitant
attitude.
death doesn't always
come running
when you call
it,
not even if you
call it
from a shining
castle
or from an ocean liner
or from the best bar
on earth (or the
worst).
such impertinence
only makes the gods
hesitate and
delay.
ask me: I'm
72.

1990 special

year-worn
weary to the bone,
dancing in the dark with the
dark,
the Suicide Kid gone
gray.

ah, the swift summers
over and gone
forever!

is that death
stalking me
now?

no, it’s only my cat,
this
time.