Bukowski and the sun (1 Viewer)

Hi everyone,

there has been numerous discussions about the rose in Bukowski's poetry, but there hasn't been anything similar about the sun, although it seems to be everywhere (the letter collection "reach for the sun" is only one example).

I really can't figure out what it could represent. It seems to be represented as something rather positive, even something to strive for.
On the other hand, if you take only "Factotum" for example, the main character says many time that he wants to hide, find a hole to hide in, and obscurity is more soothing than frightening to him.

Anyway, will be happy to hear your thoughts on this :)
 

Ponder

"So fuck Doubleday Doran"
RIP
FBI Technician: What's forget about it?

Donnie Brasco: Forget about it is like if you agree with someone, you know, like Raquel Welch is one great piece of ass, forget about it. But then, if you disagree, like A Lincoln is better than a Cadillac? Forget about it! you know? But then, it's also like if something's the greatest thing in the world, like mingia those peppers, forget about it. But it's also like saying Go to hell! too. Like, you know, like "Hey Paulie, you got a one inch pecker?" and Paulie says "Forget about it!" Sometimes it just means forget about it.
 
Sometimes it just means forget about it.
This comment is so meta.

For full disclosure, I'd like to write about the strong tension in B's work between hiding and self-exposure (and it will surely be as boring as it sounds, but what can I do, I like writing boring stuff), and in that context, the fact that the sun is *everywhere* (as compared to the moon for instance) must, in my opinion, hold some significance. It was already present in the time when Bukowski wrote highly metaphorical, lyrical poems.
 

Ponder

"So fuck Doubleday Doran"
RIP
Here are both described in one line:

“We are like roses that have never bothered to bloom when we should have bloomed and
it is as if the sun has become disgusted with waiting”
 
Thanks for the amazing quote, can you remind me where it comes from?

There is also a third common theme in it: the WAIT. Have you seen how everything and everyone *waits* in the poems? Now, I won't even start with that one, I have no clue at all.
 
I never really understood, why he liked Jeffers' phrase 'Be ANGRY at the SUN' so much.
- of course I can imagine, it comes from an inner fight against Disneyfying the world.
Still I ... ain't sure.
 

mjp

Founding member
Maybe he didn't like it for any specific meaning but rather for the imagery. For a good turn of phrase. Language is enjoyable on its own sometimes.
 
When poets are only about enjoying language on its own, you usually get avant-garde conceptualistic meaningless poetry.

As you said, the sun might not be a metaphor for anything, but the choice of that specific imagery is interesting. After posting I realized that, in itself, it subverts classical poetry imagery, in the sense that B doesn't rant about the MOON for pages. In "Hollywood" at some point he writes about a ridicuous poem that was sent to him, about THE poet, who happen to be angry at the moon at the end.

Just one way to look at it. I do also dislike over-interpretation, it doesn't mean one cannot try and see if there's something more. If there isn't then fair enough, nothing was lost and the words stay as good as ever.

ps: I should say "Merry Christmas" but I´d rather wish good luck everyone with your family meetings!
 
For full disclosure, I'd like to write about the strong tension in B's work between hiding and self-exposure (and it will surely be as boring as it sounds, but what can I do, I like writing boring stuff), and in that context, the fact that the sun is *everywhere* (as compared to the moon for instance) must, in my opinion, hold some significance.
Not boring! You're right on the money. This is a great topic.
I never really understood, why he liked Jeffers' phrase 'Be ANGRY at the SUN' so much. - of course I can imagine, it comes from an inner fight against Disneyfying the world. Still I ... ain't sure.
Well, the Jeffers poem is about die herd and the sportsfan mentality that drives people. Specifically, it's a barely veiled attack on America's entry into WW2. Near the end of Ham on Rye Chinaski witnesses the frenzy that takes hold after Pearl Harbor. "The tribe was in danger." But the war hysteria is an absurdity. In Factotum he notes, "The war was on but the ladies were buying the hell out of dresses..."

Trying to fight against humanity's folly is like being angry at the sun. It's futile. We just have to live with it.
 

Johannes

Founding member
I never really understood, why he liked Jeffers' phrase 'Be ANGRY at the SUN' so much. - of course I can imagine, it comes from an inner fight against Disneyfying the world. Still I ... ain't sure.
Maybe he didn't like it for any specific meaning but rather for the imagery. For a good turn of phrase. Language is enjoyable on its own sometimes.
Both are true, I think. Reading Jeffers poem I always thought that despite the content he simply enjoyed the non-lyrical tell-it-as-it-is style which was quite unique at the time. Imagine being a young man and wading through mountains of milky bullshit and then suddenly finding a voice telling it like this:

Be Angry at the Sun

That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.

Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.

Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.

You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante's feet, but even farther from his dirty
Political hatreds.

Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.


Although Bukowski later wrote that Jeffers long narrative poems were the best and he (Jeffers) tended to get preachy in his short ones, you can feel the impact in some of Bukowskis own poems which tend to get preachy too.
 
[...] Trying to fight against humanity's folly is like being angry at the sun. It's futile. We just have to live with it.
Now that I know the poem, I see you're right.
Obviously.

"Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you.
"

Before I read that, I was only considering the title-phrase itself.
Like when Buk states:

"...
Then you always remember a thing or two one of the other boys have said. Jeffers: “Be angry at the sun.” All too wonderful...." ('The Captain')

He doesn't give the tiniest hint, that the line had to be put into the context of the poem to mean what it means. The way he delivers it here, it gives the impression, that the one single sentence alone was the great message.

Or like here:

"...
think of using a title
like BE ANGRY AT THE SUN. don't you
realize what that means?
..." (from: 'Be Angry At San Pedro')

Well, I must say: No, I don't (or didn't) "realize what that means" from the line alone. And again he just gave it away like it was the title itself being wonderful.


 
Last edited:
Dora, I am glad you noticed this and the other post have been interesting. I too noticed how much the sun comes up in his poems. He gave grief to Steve Richmond when he had something about "stars" at the end of his poem. Buk gave grief to anybody about moons, stars, rainbows, clouds or other such words but he is A' OK with the sun.

Have you ever noticed his often use of the phrase, "down through the centuries." I think the poem where the cat had the bird in his mouth the cat was walking, "down through the centuries" there.

As far as the sun idea in my own observation I view Buk as perhaps, he viewed the sun as something or some consciouness that viewed all things that went on with humanity and watched with a jaundice eye. The sun was the eye in the sky. It was all knowing and yet didn't act to save humanity from it's folly, it's suffering.

Buk always talked about all of the pain and suffering of humanity. Endless stories and poems dig into the muck of the suffering. He often says in various poems how the sun looked this color or that color using the various shades of the sun to paint certain scenes.

He definitely had something going on with the sun. I've never seen that Jeffers poem so it does seem that had an influence of Buk but I think he had an ongoing "relationship" with the sun that went beyond just the casual glance in the sky in it's direction that 99% of people do. I mean like holy shit....Buk thought we were all weird because none of us ever took 20 minutes to just stare at the knob on a dresser door. Buk lived in outer space.
 
I think Buk learned much from Jeffers.
I think that in Buk's work the sun is usually just the sun. No symbolism. But in places like Factotum when he is drinking wine at the employment agency, or in the poem 'for personnel managers' (as I recall without checking), a few other places, 'dinosauria we,' for example, the sun = time. Time burning away, a reminder that time is ticking away on us. It isn't really symbolism though. It is what it really is and it is conveyed as such very clearly in Buk's work.
 

Ponder

"So fuck Doubleday Doran"
RIP
I always liked the simple lines in the novel WOMEN:

I drove home, drunk. The sun was really up, painful and yellow. . . .

last lines, chapter 43.
 
"The sun was tired, and some of the cars went east and some of the cars went west, and it dawned on me that if everybody would only drive in the same direction everything would be solved."
factotum, p.120
 
G

GDPR 4124

I've always liked that quote. At first it struck me as very beautiful and optimistic, all of us going in the same direction, like a big happy unit, like a whole. But then I thought about how people like Bukowski himself never would have been able to surface if we all just drove in the same direction all the time. You know, "Wherever the crowd goes, run the other direction. They’re always wrong." I'm not sure what I wanted to say with this, but thank you for reminding me of the quote from Factotum. It really gives rise to a lot of thoughts in this little head of mine.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Buk mentions the sun 1446 times in 37 of his books (both novels and poem collections). I´m sure the count would be much higher if all of his books were included.
 
I was wondering why so many people were doing the "is the sun a metaphor or not" thing, then I re-read myself and saw this:
"I really can't figure out what it could represent."
Mea Culpa. My mistake. My bad.

I do believe it is possible to discuss a recurring pattern without resorting to find some non-existent deep meaning whatever. And I think Danny Mac worded it better than I did:
"He definitely had something going on with the sun.(...) I think he had an ongoing "relationship" with the sun that went beyond just the casual glance in the sky in it's direction that 99% of people do."

My thought exactly. Danny, next time I'll ask you to ask questions at my place :D
And I really like the discussion so far. Yes indeed, the sun is everywhere, sometimes it feels as if it were more alive than most human beings (doesn't Bukowski often describe the crowd as dead and faceless?).

Also, I wonder if it could be a typical Los Angeles thing? I am reading a book on LA poetry, and there was a quote by Paul Vangelisti about the LA daylight, and ho important it was to local poets. I could find the quote if anyone is interested.
 
Bill Mohr, Hold-outs; The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance, p.2
"Although the metaphorical cameras of poets often prefer skies the gray of crystal rather than a steady cascade of light, I suggested a quarter century ago (...) that the variegated quality of light in L.A. has served to attract or retain poets in a city whose cultural economy regards poetry as irrelevant"

p.2-3
"Paul Vangelisti (...) argues that the light in Los Angeles "is perhaps the single most distinguishing characteristic" for writers in Los Angeles. In a brief introduction to L.A. Exile , Vangelisti describes the appeal that living there can have for writers as "alluring... It is precisely the extreme presence and absence, the simultaneous up close and far away of things the light yields, drawing the writer to lose oneself inward in a most tangible way, not in the least nostalgic or metaphysical".
 
[...] the "is XXX a metaphor or not" thing [...]
somehow funny, this seems to be a topic of discussion very often amongst Bukowski-readers.
People can't stand the fact, that it's possible to be both, metaphoric AND literal.

Hank often uses everyday-things like the sun or Rain, or animals, or music with metaphoric qualities, while - at the same time - "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", or rain or a mockingbird or a piece by Wagner. There's no contradiction between these two views.

"Well, the rain had stopped but the pain was still there. Also, there was now a chill in the air and everything smelled like wet farts." (from: 'Pulp', where rain is used frequently to illustrate a certain mood or state of existence)

He once said somewhere, that what he liked about Pablo Neruda was, when he used the word "blue" he meant the word "blue" and nothing else.

maybe this post was to general to qualify as "on-topic". But the sun shines upon it.
 
I just stumbled upon a "sun" line that is indeed a bit different. This is from "Burning in Water" and the poem is "old poet" and it's on page 29.

an old poet nodding vaguely in halls,
cracking his stick across the backs
of innocent dogs
and spitting out
what's left of his sun.
 
I'm re-reading "Burning in Water..." again and there are so many sun references it's unbelievable. It seems like the sun is in every 5th poem or something. Here is one from "machinegun towers and timeclocks" page 64.

the dark green hose
the ever grass
the trees the birds
the cats dreaming in the butter
sun are
better off than
I

from page 70 of same book. "something for the touts......."

in the most decent sometimes sun
there is the softsmoke feeling from urns

The sun is everywhere in "Burning."
 
I think roni makes a valid point "it's possible to be both, metaphoric AND literal"
As a recurring theme, often the sun is almost a background character - just doing what the sun does. Equally it is given a distinct personality, albeit a harsh, unforgiving one, devoid of any emotion per se, almost reverting back to that background persona but with a more quietly authoritarian edge. Sometimes life giving and sometimes the giver of wilt and decay. Other than his references to god, it's almost the closest I've noticed him give something/someone an almost deity like quality.

That's what I get from it anyway.
 
I'll add one or two more suns. This is from "Betting on the Muse" page 109. Poem is "answer to a note on the door.

About 1/2 way through

ha ha ha the giants
the giant sun
am I, the giant. our sun
tonight
without sun
your shoes alone without you in them
and I alone frying steaks and drinking beer
and listening to Wagner
the price of the sun,
the price of the sun,
and I don't give a damn if you ever come back.
 
Buk mentions the sun 1446 times in 37 of his books (both novels and poem collections). I´m sure the count would be much higher if all of his books were included.

Who did all of this counting? This is amazing that someone took the time to do this. It just goes to show that Dora is obviously on to something. Someone could write a thesis on this subject for sure.

I've got one more 'Sun' for you. This is from "Mocking Bird Wish Me Luck" from page 67, the golfers

about 1/2 way down.

I drive on and start singing
making up the sound
a war chant
and there is the sun
and the sun says, good, I know you
and the steering wheel is humorous
and the dashboard laughs
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Who did all of this counting? This is amazing that someone took the time to do this.

I have a PDF version of the books so I just searched for the word "sun" and it came up 1446 times in 37 of the books. Had I included all the books the count would have been higher.

I've got one more 'Sun' for you. This is from "Mocking Bird Wish Me Luck" from page 67, the golfers

All "suns" from Mocking Bird are included in the 1446 count, but thanks anyway.
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
I once looked up how many times Bukowski had used words describing colours in his poetry and novels ( about 40 of those books). Different colours were mentioned at least 10,oo0 times. Red alone, over 6,000 times. That was just searching the primary colours, plus white and black.
That is not counting the small publications. He was quite a colourist.
 
I even taught my kids to say "Hello sunlight, here I am!" every time they see it.
They look at me kinda strange, the oldest one, not the youngest. He loves it.

I´m so stealing that idea from you.
Just seconds before reading this, I was outside, there was a beautiful sunshine, and I pondered on the idea that were is no plural to the word "sun", that it was the same very sun that looked over our ancestors, over dinosaurs, and so on. It's a bit weird when you think of that *off-topic off*

I also have difficulties catching up on the sun thread because I just moved out and have no internet at home. Meanwhile we're still waiting for Roni to show up. He's got some news as well.
 
My favourite approximate quote, from "burning in Water Drowning in Flame": Pink sun,pink sun/ I hate your holiness

To go with what Winston said:there seems to be indeed a constant personnification of the sun. Even from a mere grammatical point of view, it is often the subject of a sentence, being "tired", "doing" things... That's very interesting.

Black Swan: your colour search makes so much sense! I did notice an obsession for the colour red. I can't remember if which novel (maybe Pulp) this colour pops out so many times, it's like having a text with spots of blood all over it...

Not sure one can write a whole thesis on the sun alone, but an essay, definitely. There was another thread on this forum where Erik wondered why all the essays on Bukowski in school must revolve around women. Or sometimes, the father figure. We wondered what other essay topics there could be.
Because there ARE recurring words and images in Bukowski's poetry that you end up noticing. As BS said, primary colours. Danny Mac on another thread: windows. Now the sun.

On top of my head, one could also write on: flowers, roses, cats, blood, blank and/or dead faces, anal functions (yes indeed) psychic cannibalism, rooms etc. Stuff that are very present but are not as obvious (well, ok, cats are obvious...)
Mind you, I could even give you a pompous title to work with: "Flowers, sun and moon: the subversion of romantic tropes in Charles Bukowski's poetry". Now I need to find victims students to do the job for me :)
 
I even taught my kids to say "Hello sunlight, here I am!" every time they see it.
They look at me kinda strange, the oldest one, not the youngest. He loves it.
Mind, you it doesn't happen all that often this time of year. Especially this year.
Maybe we should start saying "Hello darkness. here I am."
And as I recall from my adolescence, Simon and Garfunkel said "Hello darkness my old friend..."
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
One could also write an essay about the color yellow, his favorite color, which appears 460 times in 37 of his books. He only mentions the "yellow sun" 6 times, but maybe writing about a yellow sun would often be redundant since we all know the sun is yellow. :hmh:
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
Just seconds before reading this, I was outside, there was a beautiful sunshine, and I pondered on the idea that were is no plural to the word "sun", that it was the same very sun that looked over our ancestors, over dinosaurs, and so on. It's a bit weird when you think of that *off-topic off*
That Lucky Old Sun:

Up in the mornin', out on the job
Work like the devil for my pay
But that lucky old sun has nothin' to do
But roll around Heaven all day

Fuss with my woman, toil for my kids
Sweat till I'm wrinkled and gray
While that lucky old sun has nothin' to do
But roll around Heaven all day

Good Lord, up above, can't you know I'm pinin'
Tears all in my eyes?
Send down that cloud with a silver linin'
Lift me to Paradise

Show me that river, take me across
And wash all my troubles away
Like that lucky old sun, give me nothin' to do
But roll around Heaven all day

Songwriters
GILLESPIE, HAVEN/SMITH, BEASLEY
 
Last edited:

Ponder

"So fuck Doubleday Doran"
RIP
yellow & sun

In the bio on Buk, written by Gay Brewer, I found in the chapter Early Poems, page 101

From All-Yellow Flowers:

she went on singing but I wanted to die
I wanted yellow flowers like her golden hair
I wanted yellow-singing and the sun.
this is true, and that is what makes it so strange:
I wanted to be opened and untangled, and
tossed away. (Days, 49)

http://bukowski.net/database/detail.php?WorkNumber=524
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top