Bukowski, you dirty old man

August 2013

There’s no other art form, apart from perhaps medieval sculpting and sci-fi inspired Japanese bonsai tree light installations that seems as daunting and highflown as poetry. I knew nothing about it, and was even slightly scared of it. Then I read 'For Jane' by Charles Bukowski.

At first glance, we shouldn’t have anything in common. I’m a privileged young(ish) woman from a happy family, and I have a nice job and  health insurance. He was a depressed old man, a starving writer, whose father used to abuse him with razorblades. I’m a well-behaved product of a Scandinavian welfare state, he was the king of American lowlife with a drinking problem and an unhealthy amount of random sex affairs. I lost two pet budgies when I was 12 years old. He lost the love of his life, Jane, way too early. Me and Charles Bukowski shouldn’t click.

But right there lies the beauty in poetry. You can be three decades and two worlds apart from each other, and still feel like you’re under the other one’s skin. Bukowski, especially, is known for his remarkable skill of mixing personal and universal. Any of his poems could be written just for you or about you. But every one of them could only be written by Bukowski, from his veins, from his pain. And many of them

For Jane

There’s no other art form that can be so ugly and so beautiful at the same time.

225 days under grass
and you know more than I.
they have long taken your blood,
you are a dry stick in a basket.

There’s no other art form that can be so cruel and so gentle at the same time.

is this how it works?
in this room
the hours of love
still make shadows.

There’s no other art form that can be so direct and so intricate, at the very same time.

when you left
you took almost
I kneel in the nights
before tigers
that will not let me be.

There’s no other art form that can say so much with so little.

what you were
will not happen again.
the tigers have found me
and I do not care.

Me and Bukowski clicked. I haven’t lost a Jane (my pet budgies were named after the Flintstones) but such is the power of his carefully curated words that I can almost imagine. And what I can’t imagine, well, that I just morbidly admire.

For decadence and sorrow have always been cool, and romanticised especially by those who can observe it from a safe distance; dip their toe into it and then quickly take it out, when it starts to feel too real.

His was real, mine is the safe Dalston-kind of decadence; over-aged pseudo-bohemian struggling mostly with what filter to use for my instagrammed beetroot salad, the imaginary demons after on the morning after the night before,  and what to do with myself when I finally grow up.

But yeah, me and Charles, we hit it off.


Words by MARIA KIVIMAA (a few of them by Charles Bukowski)