Sep. 11, 2005

poetry readings

by Charles Bukowski

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Poem: "poetry readings" by Charles Bukowski from Bone Palace Ballet © Black Sparrow Press.

poetry readings

poetry readings have to be some of the saddest
damned things ever,
the gathering of the clansmen and clanladies,
week after week, month after month, year
after year,
getting old together,
reading on to tiny gatherings,
still hoping their genius will be
making tapes together, discs together,
sweating for applause
they read basically to and for
each other,
they can't find a New York publisher
or one
within miles,
but they read on and on
in the poetry holes of America,
never daunted,
never considering the possibility that
their talent might be
thin, almost invisible,
they read on and on
before their mothers, their sisters, their husbands,
their wives, their friends, the other poets
and the handful of idiots who have wandered
from nowhere.
I am ashamed for them,
I am ashamed that they have to bolster each other,
I am ashamed for their lisping egos,
their lack of guts.
if these are our creators,
please, please give me something else:
a drunken plumber at a bowling alley,
a prelim boy in a four rounder,
a jock guiding his horse through along the
a bartender on last call,
a waitress pouring me a coffee,
a drunk sleeping in a deserted doorway,
a dog munching a dry bone,
an elephant's fart in a circus tent,
a 6 p.m. freeway crush,
the mailman telling a dirty joke

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the poet James Thompson, born in Roxburghshire, England (1700), known for his epic poem The Seasons. Thompson was considered a sybarite, because he liked to stand in his garden with his hands in his pockets, eating the sunny sides of the peaches hanging there. Near the end of his life, he wrote the lines to "Rule Britannia":

When Britain first, at Heaven's command,
Arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of her land,
And guardian angels sang the strain:
Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves!
Britons never shall be slaves.

It's the birthday of William Sydney Porter, who wrote short stories under the pen name O. (Oliver) Henry, born in Greensboro, North Carolina (1862). As a young man in Austin, Texas, he worked as a teller at the First National Bank where he was accused of embezzlement, convicted, and sentenced to five years at the penitentiary. Porter tried all his life to hide the fact that he had served time, but it was in prison that he began his career as a writer, publishing his first story under the pen name O. Henry, a story called Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking. After prison he moved to New York, where he published 10 collections of short stories before his death in 1910. His last words were: "Turn up the lights, I don't want to go home in the dark."

It's the birthday of the architect William Holabird, born in Amenia Union, New York (1854). He practiced in Chicago with his partner, Martin Roche, and is known for developing the concept of a steel skeleton as the support of a building, which permitted buildings with glass facades.

It's the birthday of David Herbert Lawrence, D.H. Lawrence, born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England (1885), the son of a coal miner, who began writing poetry when he was 19. His first novel was The Trespasser (1912), the same year he fell in love with Frieda von Richthofen Weekley, a married woman and the sister of Baron von Richthofen, the German flying ace. A month after they met, they moved to Italy together, where he completed Sons and Lovers (1913) and wrote The Rainbow (1915), which was denounced, and more than a thousand copies were seized by Scotland Yard, which caused Lawrence to delay the publication of his next novel, Women in Love, for four years. His novel Lady Chatterly's Lover (1928) was first published privately. Lady Chatterly was not published in unexpurgated form in the United States or England until thirty years later. In the 1920s he and Frieda moved to New Mexico.

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