Some thoughts and quibbles
I will preface my comments by saying I like Bukowski alot. Perhaps that goes without saying, or else why would I be here?
That said, I have to disagree with a few of the replies.
Rekrab: Bukowski for me is almost always entertaining. He speaks directly and honestly and there has been many a time when I've read him and been comforted, cheered, surprised. He has many shades and the more I read his poems I find many great instances of tenderness and empathy which are always pleasing. But perhaps I preface too much. Essentially I think the "dry academic poets" are not always dry. They often work directly and with humor as often as they are oblique. I just think many of them have different concerns. Not all poetry has to be direct or immediately clear. I like Pynchon for example, who's responded to critics by saying why should literature be easy? Sometimes it's worth working through something, investigating the different levels, discovering new things, discovering new allusions and structural games to get at the meaning. And meaning is overrated anyway; sometimes well-crafted ambiguity is a good thing. Sometimes it works and sometimes it fails. Issues of authenticity and honesty are sometimes irrelevant. Each poet is a different animal and I hesitate to apply a global standard. Which is exactly what Buk's critics are missing. An appreciation of his differences. But those academic poets are read and well appreciated and they're not all lifeless drudges. Maybe some of them are force fed to us, but those that leave a bitter taste will be spit out while others will endure and be appreciated. Eliot is as academic as it gets and I think in terms of influence, strangeness and wit his are strong strong works. And people read the hell out of Eliot. I personally don't read and re-read him like I do Buk, but others do.
rjwin666: I totally disagree. Anything can be compared, the more different the better. To me, comprison is a crucial poetic act. We can compare Floyd and Sabbath in terms of technical skil, objectives, influence, record sales, instrumentation etc etc ad nauseum. Where it gets tricky is when we say what is "good" or "better." This is where it often boils down to taste. But to say nothing can be compared renders further conversation useless. I don't think comparison necessarily means putting down one of the things compared, and one need not valorize a poet by denigrating another. Their skill, their aims, how successfully they acheive their own goals, these are very evident areas for investigation and comparison. Comparison doesn't necessarily entail a value judgement, but it can, and why not? I would say hands down the Velvet Underground is better than Bitney Spears. Maybe ultimately I'd have to agree it's a matter of taste, but the journey towards that conclusion could be an enlightening and fun debate.
bernard: I do think there is some jealousy of Buk, but I don't think the Guardian blog is a guilty party here. The criticisms of Buk seem intelligent and well thought out, and revolve primarily around what the critics perception of poetry is, what a poem is. They say Buk sometimes makes aphorisms with line breaks or is simple prose arranged carelessly on a page. Their take on poetry is clearly diffent from mine or yours. But calling into question the nature of a poem is never a waste, unless it's merely capricious. I don't necessarily even think theirs is an elitist stance. One critic admits to liking Lew Welch (a minor Beat poet I also admire). Welch is hardly a mainstream academic standard. They do share some of the elitist opinions, though. I do think there is a genuine distrust of his success, which is by some standards pretty mainstream. I hesitate with that word because in this day and age mainstream is hard to define. He has runaway sales, which causes some people to pause. Which is bullshit, of course, but a pretty ingrained reactionary tendency of all manner of people. People hate Stephen King for the same reason. Putting down what millions in King's case enjoy strikes me as even more elitist but isn't he the epitome of the mainstream, populist writer? In many ways, Buk fans are themselves a bit elitist in their sense of being other, outre, outside, not kow-towing to the academy. (An afterthought I include for the hell of it, please don' t hate me for it!)
I think of the New Yorker article mentioned in this blog, which seems almost reluctant to compliment Buk, saying he's too "easy", that he's a cartoon of the real thing and gasp, that people that don't usually read poetry like Bukowski. Pretty damn insulting and snobbish but again, goes back to what these people think poetry is, which is what's interesting about this blog. It gave me pause to think, question some assumptions and reject the criticism.
Buk has a lot of failings which proably come down to, as one poster mentions, being frightfully over-published. I know some people await every new word but it's also true that so many mediocre things have slipped through. Buk also has a kind of casual, seemingly lazy attitude, despite the fact he worked hard at it, which some may seen in his epitaph, "Don't Try". (Despite what it "really" means, and i'm sure everyone here has their own take on it.) My own prejudices in this regard were wiped away by reading his letters, which belie all of the common assumptions which lead people to dismiss him.
I also don't think O'Neill is doing Buk any favors when he points to some rather thin lines as "genius" or asserting he's the most influential poet of the 20th c. He's influenced a lot of poets, sure, but has he influeced poetry as much as the Beats, Eliot, etc? I don' know. Who cares, really? I take his for what he is. I understand his context and get added pleasure from these layers but ultimately it's me and the page which matter, his "place" in literature be damned.
On a related note, though, another aside, I once searched Ron Silliman's poetry blog for Buk and got nothing. He goes on and on about Hughes, Padgett, the New York school, but no Buk. Norton's disses him. He's still a bit of a pariah in that mainstream. I don't know what my point is anymore. I'm rambling, but it's only because this blog set off a chain off events and thoughts in me worth exploring. I'm willing to give his dismissive critics an ear by and large if they keep it respectful and thoughtful.
Sometimes it seems the only contrary opinions one can find are from trolls and of course we blow up and dismiss what they say. It's harder to do when an obviously knowledgeable and intelligent person pipes up.
But again, I ramble. I've posted very little here before and linked to this because I think it's enjoyable. Hope I haven't come across as pedantic and disagreeable. I'm a bit drunk, you see, but wanted to disagree with a few things and add a few random thoughts. Hopefully not out of place. Given that so many still hesitate to give Buk his due I think its always worth looking into why.
Me, I've read all his novels and almost all short stories, much ephemera, many many poems, the biographies and other little books about him by admirers and petty haters. He remains a fascinating creature and that what holds up stands strong, baby. ;)
Sorry for the ramble....