As the spirit wanes the form appears? (1 Viewer)


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As you all know, one of the characteristic marks of B's poetry is the use of "free verse", the breaking of sentences "just if he hit the carriage return drunk wherever" as I've read somewhere.

Also there can be found numerous statements in his poems, prose and letters where he's dismissing any kind of poetic "form" or "technique" as dull, senseless, making him puke ... etc.

On the other hand, also cirerita pointed out:


he did give the rhyme at least three (known) shots, if only for the satirical effect.

So I was very surprised to read this part of an interview:

"Q: It does seem that there?s no way concrete poetry can contain any real feeling.

A: There's not enough meat in it. I tried something more profound. Write a line of poetry that comes to mind; say the first word has five letters, the second three, the third seven, etc. Under that line, you have to follow with one that makes sense with the top line but yet has the same number of words, with each word containing the exact number of letters as its corresponding word in the previous line. Kind of a stylized vision. It'll be like a set of columns, finally. It's a good exercise to make it make sense."

--> (via Wayback archive)

This seems like a very strict regulated way of creating a poem. Of course not something you would imagine with the drunken raving madman at his typer. (Another bit of dispelling) And it shows that B, if only as an experiment, did think about the form and even "exercised", in his own words, writing.

What are your thoughts about this one? And, does anybody know a poem which would be an example for this way of creating?


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That's how I read it too, and it was a bit of a surprise.

That 1972 Stonecloud interview on Dullaghan's site is incomplete...there are other not-so-flattering bits that he left out. I have the magazine here but I haven't scanned it yet. Good interview, not reprinted anywhere in its entirety. I'll try to get it up here soon.

Here it is.
Not an expert on Bukowski but I believe his thinking was more complex than it is often made to appear regarding poetic 'form'. Certainly, in common with all modernists he avoided 'metric' verse, but his lyricism can only be explained by metric subtlty. His inventive comic/tragic genius found 'form' that earlier poetic theories could not predict.
He meant that when writers and editors cling to form, its a pathetic excuse because they have no passion left.
When you write all the time and the spirit is in you, good stuff flows.
I also imagine that he heard a lot of crappy editorial rejections back then before he transitioned into being "well-known"
I disagree - the foundation of Japanese culture revolves around form AND spirit - - they are inexorably entwined.

Comparing the two (Bukowski and Haiku) is actually apples and oranges. Bukowski is a Western poet and Haiku is an Eastern discipline. Two different cultures. Two different lifestyles.

Bukowski was a passionate writer stuck depending on shit jobs while he embraced his passion and probably being rejecting by insipid 60s and 70s editors and his statement is focused more on understanding how the pitfalls of process and industrialization are less important than the passion and love of writing.
Maybe the haiku works much better in Japanese. To me, anyway, they seen very forced in English. The problem is that I do not speak Japanese, so any translation would be lost on me. I know that some of the beats tried haiku (Kerouac did, maybe others), but they were more into Eastern philosophy so that makes sense (although I did not like those either.) To me, in English, anyway, it all seems like a poetic exercise. My kids, 3th and 5th grade, write them in school then they talk about poetry.

I guess that the poem ART can also apply to those that sit down to write a "Bukowski" poem, etc. It is all planned form with no spirit. Buk certainly wrote like Buk when writing poems. The argument can be made that he copies the styles of people like John Fante when writing novels, but with his poetry he was blazing a trail that others would follow.

What sticks about these really short poems of Buk's is that they are so short, but so open to interpretation. Look at Buk's "My first Fax Poem." There has been much discussion about what he means by the word "smittten." Even his epitaph, "Don't Try" is interpreted a few different ways. I love that a two word epitaph, of such a short poem can generate such discussion. It is a bit like people pouring over the bible and two people reading the same passage can come up with two completely different meanings.


p.s. Welcome to the forum. Please visit the new blood section and introduce yourself! This forum is a wealth of good info. Have a look around. There is not a lot of info on Bukowski that is not contained here. Truth and myth and everything in-between!
Maybe the haiku works much better in Japanese. To me, anyway, they seen very forced in English.

I couldnt agree more. Syllables in the Japanese language are simple and there are a whole lot of reasons why Haiku poetry is specific to the Japanese language - both in sound and aesthetics.

IMHO, in English, it is very clunky. My appeal to Haiku in English is really driven by the little meta game of finding words that fit the form. I think its a great mental exercise.

p.s. Welcome to the forum. Please visit the new blood section and introduce yourself! This forum is a wealth of good info. Have a look around. There is not a lot of info on Bukowski that is not contained here. Truth and myth and everything in-between!

Thanks for saying so. I'm running short on time today, but I will circle back to new blood and post.


Founding member
Bukowski was [...] probably being rejecting by insipid 60s and 70s editors...
By the 70s and certainly throughout most of the 60s Bukowski's poetry was rarely rejected by editors of any kind (in fact, the 60s appear to be his most active small press publishing time during his life). There were certainly a few who recognized when he was sending them lazy work and sent it back, but by that time, not many. Most were more than willing to publish whatever he sent, good, bad or somewhere in between.

The period where Bukowski was well known in small press literary circles and well known by a more wide ranging public are quite far apart. He was a small press "star" long before the people who ended up buying greater numbers of his books in the 80s and 90s ever heard of him. Almost everything you see in the Black Sparrow (and later Ecco) collections first appeared in some small press lit mag somewhere. Rejection was not a tremendous problem for him where the poetry was concerned.

Maybe you're thinking of the short stories he wrote in the 40s and 50s and tried to place in mainstream magazines like Harpers and the Atlantic Monthly. He saw plenty of rejection from those kinds of places.

Haiku is pretty damn hard to write well--not matter what language you're writing in.

It's the subtle story that exists between the 2 images--either contrasted or as an unexpected, joined metaphor--such that a 3rd, unwritten thing occurs in the reading. So when Issa says that there are insects on a floating branch, yet they're still singing...or that a bird is building a new nest in a tree, one that's been marked for felling...we're to see the uselessness of the bird's (& our own) toil, and the fact that we might as well sing as we float along to our own deaths. It's great when it works.

It doesn't work as well because the translating is tough business--and top notch translators still can't agree on which words finally are best. In Japanese (as in English) there are many ways to say one thing, many words that can mean one thing (think of all the words we have or can easily use for "money" for instance: cash, cheddar, dead presidents, Benjamins...) and each one carries with it a kind of referential history for each individual using the words to make images, and images as they contrast/compound, creating the unwritten story without compromising the deeper historical symbolism of "cash" vs. "cheddar" PLUS hitting the correct number of syllables to recapture the original music of a line...damn hard to do.

Years of writing have convinced me that the great short poem is the hardest thing to write. No dancing around it, no goddamned tricks. I really admire some haiku, and guys like Issa specifically. AND his work shares something almost profound with Bukowski. The work of both men is so deceptively simple that it's only when you start breaking it a part, and seeing what they're doing that both guys are revealed as fucking rock stars...not only with words, but with what infuses the work behind the lines--their powerful, human spirits.

(end rant on haiku/begging BoSP to give haiku another chance)
"as the spit wants the form appears"
This line, it appears by what many are saying, can be interpreted in ways. However, if one looks at it as just an artist, creator or whatever title you wish and not exclusively a writer it is a comment on aging as an artist.
If you are serious in your craft whatever it may be, then as time has passed you will have noticed a significant improvement in your form as a Craftsman but as time passes and your "form" or abilities as an artist get better, age has been chipping away at your spirit or better said your, "spirit wanes". This can be said of any artist(Craftsman), successful or unsuccessful. In the case of the successful artist they can become jaded and in the case of a failed artist, the "spirit" or ambition, drive whichever word you want want to use becomes exhausted because of bitterness, depression or a combination of negative influences. So to me this quote is very meaningful or deep because almost any serious creator can identify with it. I'd like some feedback on my interpretation of this idea if anyone would care to share it. Thanks to anyone reading this.
My spit doesn't want, so I can't relate.
Thank you for your "feedback" or your sad attempt to be clever ,your choice , however I think most got the idea of the question. It seems like spell check didn't work or I have poor reviewing skills, whichever the case, I was posting a serious question and hoped for actual feedback. I apologise for my lack of good editing skills but still ask for a serious exchange of ideas. I'm new to this forum and figuring out the features, I still can't find how to edit my posts, so I implore patience. Please serious artists respond.
It seems like my post was not under stood and spell check did not work so please no jokes about "spit" or "wanting". Can't seem to find any obvious way to edit posts so the post will have to stand as it is for now. It seems that most of the people on these forums are NOT ignorant so if you read the post the meaning will be clear even if the spelling sucks so like I explained to the erudites that responded to the post, I ask for patience for I am new to the forum and it's features are not entirely clear to me, still figuring it out.


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You typed a seven word quote and replaced two of the words, turning the quote into gibberish. That's not a spelling error. The only impression anyone can get from that is that the words don't matter to you. That they aren't important.

You went on at some length analyzing those seven words, so I can only assume that you do believe that words matter. That they're important. If I'm right, and you do believe that, then you can understand why I took issue with your initial laziness.

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