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In Charles Bukowski's poem "My Old Man" which of the five senses are used and why?Five...

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ninoj90 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted December 5, 2011 at 10:20 AM via web

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In Charles Bukowski's poem "My Old Man" which of the five senses are used and why?

Five methods of sense: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 5, 2011 at 10:59 AM (Answer #1)

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When speaking of the five senses in poetry, we are talking about imagery.  I think the most prominent use of imagery in this poem comes visually.  Consider the long lists of mental (memory) images:

and all my clothing–
shorts, shirts, stockings–
suitcase, and pages of
short stories
would be thrown out on the
front lawn and about the
street.

And later:

one evening he walked in
with the pages of
one of my short stories

In these two descriptions, we see things in complete disarray.  Clothes and pages of the short story strewn about the front lawn and into the street.  A mess.  Later, his father does not approach him with a short story in his hands, but "pages of one of..." which to me, gives the image that these pages are not together, are possibly crumpled or out of order, and certainly glaringly incomplete.  This visual mess sets the tone for the psychological mess that the speaker is also dealing with.

And then of course there is the list of images from the short story, which, alone, come across as snapshots holding some mysterious meaning at first reading:

and had observed
the waitress and the spoons
and forks and the
salt and pepper shakers
and the neon sign
in the window
and then had gone back
to his stable
to see and touch his
favorite horse

On closer reading, these images, while common at face value, hold deeper and perversely sexual meanings.  Spoons and forks, common objects in a diner, are suggestive of male and female reproductive parts.  Salt and pepper shakers are like a male and female pair.  The neon sign could suggest a cheap motel, where this man is watching something through the window before going back to his stable (or his own home/room) to touch his "horse," which is clearly a euphemism.

The use of dialogue in the poem is certainly auditory imagery, and there are even hints of feeling imagery ("out into the night"), but it is arguably the visual imagery, the strength of which is what this poem clearly rides on.

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