Charles Bukowski Poetry: American Poets Analysis
Living on the periphery of society, Charles Bukowski forged a brutally honest poetic voice. The futility and senselessness of most human endeavor conjoined with the desperation and essential solitude of the individual are constants reinforcing his “slavic nihilism.” The trick, he suggested, is “carrying on when everything seems so terrible there is no use to go on. . . . You face the wall and just work it out. . . . Facing it right with yourself, alone.” It is this kind of courage and stoicism that informs Bukowski’s canon. He was neither a poet’s poet nor a people’s poet, but a personal poet who used his craft to ensure his own survival.
Bukowski’s “tough guy” image was less posturing than self-protective. One senses that he was an idealist soured by the ravages of time, wearied by political betrayals, and rather appalled by the vacuity of the American left and contemporary American writers who seemed to be playing it safe and producing pallid prose and senselessly arcane poetry. Interestingly, in his best poems, the tough guy persona falls away and one discovers a sensitive poet who chose to adopt a savage bravado. Clearly, he knew the reality of the seamy side of life; his poetry teems with grotesque and sordid imagery; but unlike those who would write in order to reform, Bukowski was content to capture the pathos and rawness of the streets.
Bukowski’s first four chapbooks properly acclimate the reader to his dual...
(The entire section is 4583 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Charles Bukowski Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!