Thursday, May 24, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
The Transgressive Thrills of Charles Bukowski
By Adam Kirsch
March 6, 2005
The deal can also be seen, however, as a sign of Bukowski’s lack of literary confidence. Instead of offering his publisher each book as he finished it, Bukowski simply sent all his work to Martin, who then selected the contents of the new volume. “He didn’t even know what I was going to put in,” Martin is quoted as saying in the 1998 biography “Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life,” by Howard Sounes. “He didn’t care.” It sounds less like modern publishing, with authors and editors and agents all defending their own interests, than like the quasi-feudal relationship that John Clare, the archetypal nineteenth-century “peasant poet,” had with his publishers. Clare, too, sent off all his writing to his editor—John Taylor, of Taylor & Hessey—and received a regular allowance in return, a sign of the parties’ profound imbalance in social status and worldly savvy. But, while Clare and Taylor eventually had the bitter falling-out one might expect from such an arrangement, Bukowski and Martin remained close, trusting partners to the end. Black Sparrow continued to publish Bukowski until Martin retired, in 2002; the Bukowski catalogue was then sold to Ecco, itself a formerly independent house that is now part of HarperCollins. (The ironic result is that Bukowski, the ultimate underground poet, is now published by Rupert Murdoch.)
Published in the print edition of the March 14, 2005, issue, with the headline “Smashed.”
Adam Kirsch is a poet, a critic, and the author of, most recently, “Who Wants to Be a Jewish Writer?”THE NEW YORKER
Sunday, May 20, 2012
A student sitting in my office
Is privy to a conversation
I have with my publisher.
Through a strange quirk of fate
Harley-Davidson offers, possibly,
To ante up bucks for my new book ---
Something about improving their image
By taking the literary high road.
"How cool," the young woman coos.
"That's so unbelievably awesome.
Will they put a picture of you
On the back of a bike?"
I tell her quite frankly
This remains to be seen.
We have no sign of money yet ---
Only the word of an underling
Who wants a manuscript
Sent to his office,
Somewhere in Illinois,
By this time next week.
"Where the hell is Illinois?"
The inquisitive student wonders.
I think a geography course
With the dynamic Professor Leaver
May do her more good
Than the current poetry class
She visits rather infrequently.
Soon she is on her way,
All filled up by alliteration
And a dash of caesura --- for good measure.
I'm left with a curious image of me,
Straddling some red metallic hog,
Dressed from head to toe in black leather,
A rather disconcerting thought.
But, then again,
Things could fare far worse;
I could be perfectly posed
Behind the wheel of my father's Oldsmobile,
Driving the sleek General Motors dream,
Deep into the new millennium.
They've been taunting him
At the elementary school
And he wants a new name.
He'd prefer to be called Lance
Or Logan or Barry or Bill ---
Anything but Baby Harold!
We tell him every night
That he has a fine name,
He'll grow into some day
If he's just patient enough.
Baby Harold closes his bedroom door
And states he won't come out.
He's stewing and we know what this means.
He'll pout and act surly
For a good part of the evening
And it won't be fun for anyone.
I wish he took after his sisters;
Everything rolls off their backs.
What's in a name, anyway?
When he reaches the age of 21,
He can change it if he chooses,
But I'll bet he'll be fond of it by then.
Baby Harold eventually decides
We're worthy of his presence
And strolls into the living room.
He sits on his mother's lap,
Wearing the Cincinnati Reds cap
I bought him this afternoon.
He says he wants to play baseball
And be just like Hal Morris.
When I tell him Hal's real name is Harold
He seems rather puzzled for a moment;
Then he suddenly becomes pleased,
Beaming as if he's just seen the light.
Somewhere around midnight
I check up on Baby Harold
And discover him asleep in bed,
A small bat in his hands.
I remove it very gently
And find his little fingers
Tightly grasping my own,
As if he's holding on for dear life.
Perhaps, he's dreaming of the big game,
Hearing the crowd scream out
The same name I've learned to love
Ever since I was a boy.
In search of an onion bagel
To suppress last night's hunger
And find an old photograph
Hidden among the frozen foods.
You don't question how it got there ---
Stranger things have happened;
Rather, you take it in stride
And begin the thawing process.
About an hour or two later
It all comes into focus:
The year is circa 1960,
Your family carefully posed
Around the backyard swimming pool
Which will one day swallow
Your younger brother, Herbert,
Who will lie, motionless,
At the bottom of the deep end,
Before he is discovered by you.
But in the photograph, of course,
There is no sign of this tragedy ---
Just you two holding hands,
While your parents sit, lovingly,
On the edge of the diving board.
And that makes you wonder:
Who took this particular picture?
Any clue you hoped to find written
On the back of the snapshot
Has disappeared across the wet surface
And become, more or less, illegible.
This bothers you for a brief moment
Until you wash a week's worth of dishes
And place the photograph in the freezer, again.
From The Gentle Man
by Bart Edelman
(Red Hen Press)
Friday, May 18, 2012
Adonis … the Syrian-born poet, critic and essayist sees himself as a 'pagan prophet'.
Photograph: Magali Delporte
Adonis: a life in writing
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The making and unmaking of Dylan Thomas.
By Adam Kirsch
June 27, 2004
Published in the print edition of the July 5, 2004, issue.
Adam Kirsch is a poet, a critic, and the author of, most recently, “Who Wants to Be a Jewish Writer?”
THE NEW YORKER