Just received a 'pocket book' written by none other than your favourite Bukster - Ben Pleasants. It's called "REXROTH, BUKOWSKI AND THE POLITICS OF LITERATURE", a gossipy memoir consisting of little more than one conversation with Rexroth, who, I imagine, is some sort of big deal in American literature.

Ben does another hatchet job on Buk, using Rexroth, apparently another sort of big deal in American literature, as a proxy. This time, writes Ben as ascribed to Rexroth, our man Buk wrote something that apparently sent Patchen to his grave. Come to think of it, Buk could really slay his fellow writers. First that ex-con William Wantling was done in by a story and then Patchen. Mighty is the pen!

Very well-produced booklet by The Beat Scene Press. Number 12 in the Beat Scene Press Pocket Book series. No. 96 of 125 numbered and signed copies. Beat Scene press always does a good job with their stuff.

I also got the magazine TRANSIT no. 6. Number 1 of 10 copies numbered 1-10. Which really means precious little. So what if they're numbered?

Another nice item in the same batch just in is Beat Scene Flyer No. 1 with Buk's poem, HUSK. An attractive little broadside.
Ben does another hatchet job on Buk, using Rexroth, apparently another sort of big deal in American literature, as a proxy. This time, writes Ben as ascribed to Rexroth, our man Buk wrote something that apparently sent Patchen to his grave. Come to think of it, Buk could really slay his fellow writers. First that ex-con William Wantling was done in by a story and then Patchen. Mighty is the pen!

Check here for the Buk, Patchen, Rexroth connection. Or possible connection.

And I suppose Rexroth was a big deal at one point in the history of American Literature. Involved with and published by New Directions.
The Advantages of Learning

I am a man with no ambitions
And few friends, wholly incapable
Of making a living, growing no
Younger, fugitive from some just doom.
Lonely, ill-clothed, what does it matter?
At midnight I make myself a jug
Of hot white wine and cardamon seeds.
In a torn grey robe and old beret,
I sit in the cold writing poems,
Drawing nudes on the crooked margins,
copulating with sixteen year old
Nymphomaniacs of my imagination.
Published July 5, 1964 in The New Yorker

July 5, 1964
There's Poetry in a Ragged Hitch-Hiker

By Charles Bukowski.

Charles Bukowski suffers from too good a press- a small but loudly enthusiastic claque.
Down in New Orleans, where they publish a magazine called The Outsider, the local
advance guard seems to consider him the greatest thing since Homer. He is not.
However, if you put aside his volunteer public-relations experts, he turns out to be a
substantial writer.

I suppose the academicians would call him the most recent representative of naturalism
and anti-literary revolt. His friends are always comparing him to Hemingway. This is not a
fitting comparison. Hemingway, with all his virtues, was a literary figure and socially part
of the elite of celebrities. Bukowski might well be the outsider for whom the magazine is
named. He is certainly far less with it- it being the established rat race- than Colin Wilson
who invented the current use of the term "outsider" and who was immediately co-opted
into the Establishment.

No Establishment is likely ever to recruit Bukowski. He belongs in the small company of
poets of real, not literary, alienation, that includes Herman Spector, Kenneth Fearing,
Kenneth Patchen and a large number of Bohemian fugitives unknown to fame. His special
virtue is that he is so much less sentimental than most of his colleagues.

Yet there is nothing outrageous about his poetry. It is simple, casual, honest, uncooked.
He writes about what he knows- rerolling cigarette butts, cashing in the neighbor's milk
bottles to get two-bits for the morning visit to the bookmaker, the horse that came in
and the hundred-dollar call girl that came in with it, the ragged hitch-hiker on the road to
nowhere, the poignant, natural real scene around him where the last ride set him down.

Bukowski is what he is, and he is not likely to be found applying for a job with the picture
magazines as an Image of Revolt. Unlike the beats, he will never become an allowed
clown; he is too old now, and too wise, and too quiet. More power to him.


It is curious that Tim Reynolds, whose life, to judge by his poems, resembles Bukowski's
not at all, should yet strive for the same disengagement, for that special accent of
truculence the French have taken to calling ressentiment, narrowing the meaning of the
word in critical trade jargon to mean "like Celine." Does Reynolds seek it or does it just
seep through his artful complexities?

What is wrong shows up most clearly in the translations and imitations of Sappho, Plato,
Meleager, Ronsard, Horace and the Japanese. There is just too much contrivance. So
many elaborately tied knots destroy conviction. This is rhetoric that shields reader and
writer from all decisive impacts, all final realization.

When you finish his book, "Ryoanji," you feel that there were poems there, but so
swaddled in anti-poems that you never found them. It is not that Reynolds is very
literary, though he is. The excessively literary can have its own pity and terror and
immediacy. It's that literature is used to dodging the issue- while Bukowski, on the other
hand, never heard that the issue was something you were supposed to dodge.

E.N. Sargent's "The African Boy" is one of the most successful manifestations of
negritude to appear so far in American writing. In fact, it sounds like a translation from
the French of Sedar Senghor, Diop, Cesaire, Niger, or some other African poet committed
to the restoration of native idiom and tradition. It is certainly the equal of most
contemporary African verse in technical mastery and convincing air. Presumably, most of
the material comes from anthropological reading rather than experience, yet the reader
never doubts the reality of the poems.

One can realize just how hard a job it is to make this material widely believable by
comparing the long and dubious history of the anthropological ballet. Even when it comes
from Guinea, much less when it originates in New York, it never manages to be plausible.
"The African Boy" which, in fact, is about what it means to be a tribal African girl, is more
than plausible; it is so convincing that it is startling.

I have no wish to review Ted Roethke's book, "Sequence, Sometimes Metaphysical," in
the common sense, but to praise it. He was my friend, and his early death was an
especially serious loss to literature because he was still in middle life, growing as a poet,
growing in joy, insight and nonchalance- he was becoming always a wiser man. We have
little enough writing now that is joyful and wise, but these posthumous poems are in full
measure. They are graceful poems, too; their skillful workmanship is hidden; they seem so
easy, the bright, casual utterance of a knowing man. The publishers and the illustrator
have conspired to make a handsome memorial to Roethke- when I think of Ted and look
at the book on my shelves, I will feel only pleasure. And that certainly is what a memorial
should do.

Mr. Rexroth is a poet, translator and critic. His books include "In Defense of the Earth" and "Bird in the Bush."
rexroth, bukowski & the politics of literature

You can now read Rexroth, Bukowski & the Politics of Literature by a certain Gnome Pleasants online.

This essay was originally published as a Beat Scene Press chapbook, and appears courtesy of the author.
Knowing how much he is held in revere here, m'dears this is the link:

Interesting that he mentions Wormwood, and a story Bukowski wrote around the Rexroth threat. Cited as WR 80. It's actually, WR 81-82, a story titled "a friend". Not the same as the one in the database so that should be changed at some point.

I believe the story that got Rexroth so worked up was published in NOLA Express #96. It had a note from Bukowski at the beginning: "There is no intent to hurt or malign living persons with this story. There is enough hurt now. I doubt that anything happened as happened in this story. The author was only caught in the inventiveness of his own mind. If this is a sin, then all creators of all times have sinned... c.b."

Oh b.p., what happened? There used to be baden powell, be prepared, bernie parent, bennie parsons, and butt pucker. Now there is british petroleum and .....

I had trouble with this essay as I went further into it. My mind wandered. I got lost in names. I noticed typos....

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