Did Bukowski have periods?

No, not the womanly kind.

By 'periods' I mean different artistic or thematic periods, like Picasso. I'm hoping to get some feedback from people with more understanding of his output as a whole. Bukowski was so prolific I can't adequately answer this question based on my limited readings. (3 novels, a few short stories, two collections of letters, and some poems)

From my reading, there are certain works that I definitely lump together. Factotum, "Fire Station"(?), "Shot of red eye"... Bukowski's unique voice is very recognizable here. Other works are more ambiguous to me. Post Office is similar enough but the irony and absurdity lighten the mood quite a bit. In 'Ham on Rye' Bukowski seems to let his character be more open. The narrator is less detached from the character. Hell, now I'm just rambling. And I've got concrete that needs pouring.

final note: this has nothing to do with writing an essay or thesis. I just need ideas to think about while I'm at work tonight.
 
I don't think he was that kind of artsy fartsy artist to have periods for the sake of periods because they're always restless and trying to 'explore' some 'new' idea or fashion. In fact, he seems to have gone the opposite way. He did employ a wider range of poetic forms in his earlier work before settling into his signature form as he moved into his 60s. My impression from my VERY limited perspective is that he had moods, for sure, but not periods. On the other hand, huge life events [like quitting the day job and signing on with Martin (in what, 69?) and getting wound up for keeps with the neo-buddhist blonde (they met in 74ish?)] are bound to seep into the work in a lasting way no matter how much personal style a person has. But when it comes down to it Bukowski (unlike Picasso who seems to have used styles the same way he used women) had more personal style than the pope has altar boys. If anyone he could be compared to Cezanne or van Gogh I guess. Off the subject but van Gogh used to say that his goal was to paint sunflowers that would make the fisherman in iceland feel warm when they hung the painting in their boats and looked at it with their morning coffee or evening snifter before or after long winter days pulling nets in 20 hours of cold wet darkness. Bukowski mentions van Gogh a couple of times - not sure he ever mentions Picasso, though?

Fuck me sorry guys another long post. I try to be economical but as my lady will attest it's a constant struggle.
 
At my point of view, Bukowski have four"periods" for novels.

The beginnings - when he searched his style : all works until "Post Office".

The "Factotum" era - when he finaly reached his own style and build the Chinaski mythology : from "Factotum" to "Women".

The "Maturity" : "Ham On Rye"

The final years - a more calmed and soft Bukowski : from "Hollywood" to "Pulp"
 
There is a thread buried somewhere here that I've looked for and I've been unable to find. Cirerita posted six or seven distinct periods in Buk's style of poetry.

It's easy enough to see at least three periods as an over-simplification:

1. Early; through The Days Run Away... and including portions of Burning in Water..., which is a compilation - although his honest, sometimes brutal style is present, many of the earlier poems are characterized by comparatively complex language and imagery.
2. Middle; starting more or less with Mockingbird..., the style moves away from more complex imagery into more straightforward, narrative style.
3. Late; starting more or less with You Get So Alone..., the style is more terse.

These are gross generalizations that no doubt could be ripped apart by numerous examples of each style across all three periods, but as a first cut, it's not completely off-base.
 
I'm still wondering if Bukowski had periods.

Speaking of periods, or lack of, my daughter won a can of cooling spray for women going through the menopause in a raffle yesterday. Apparently all the prizes were donated. My four year old was very confused;

"what is it daddy?"
"Ask your mother."

Mother was not amused.
 
To me Buks work was less about "periods" and more about personas. The immigrant, unloved son becomes the acne-scarred outsider becomes the young drunk drifting and trying to publish to the wanderer of post war America...and on and on. Some of his personas were to me more meaningful than others, but his style seemed to shift slightly in each new guise. I'm not qualified to discuss his work on an academic level, that's for others to hash out. What's gotten me is the pure guts and viscera of it all. How this kid who in so many ways was set up too fail became the most influential poet of the 20th century is truly an incredible thing. And to be able to follow the journey so intimately through his words is a gift. He means many different things to many different people, some of whom are even on this site.
 
To me Buks work was less about "periods" and more about personas.
This statement is probably most relevant to his novels,

became the most influential poet of the 20th century
while this statement, although subjective, is interesting in that you consider him primarily a poet. As do I. Despite writing a number of very good novels and short stories, he was, first and foremost, a poet. And as such, his poetry can be viewed as having progressed through a number of stages.
 
Well said. Though poets like Frost, Cummings and Sandburg (and others) are much more lionized than Buk (could he be less lionized?) his influence on the direction of and output of poetry in the last 30 years cannot be overstated. His poetry is so far beyond genre status that his legacy is still in its infancy.


Not sure why but the device I use sets my posts in a non-linear way. Thanks to the monitors
for corrections.
 
In terms of Buk I wouldn't make up periods depending on his work/writing-style.
I think in his case it makes sense to go for his biography/Life to make up periods. (this would roughly make 3: start till 1970 / 1970 till ca 1978/80 / From there to the end.)

my 2 dollars
 
@mjp - Thanks, that is an excellent resource.

A summary of what we have so far:
1. Creation/growth of the Chinaski mythology (good phrase.)
2. Honing of writing into a more direct, narrative style
3. A shift between moods and personas.
4. "Cooling spray." :confused:

This is very good. I'm going to re-read Ham on Rye and think about this.

EDIT: I had originally thought about this like roni. A problem is that Bukowski blurred the lines between his personal experience and his fictional character. Hard to disentangle.
 

mjp

Founding member
How this kid who in so many ways was set up too fail became the most influential poet of the 20th century is truly an incredible thing.
Many of the most successful, driven people in the world became that way in order to "prove themselves" to disapproving, distant or abusive parents (most often the father). So in that way it isn't such a surprise that Bukowski became who he became. Rather than setting him up to fail, his father unwittingly set him up to succeed.

his influence on the direction of and output of poetry in the last 30 years cannot be overstated.
You might double that number.
 
A problem is that Bukowski blurred the lines between his personal experience and his fictional character. Hard to disentangle.
Less so in the poems, I would think. They were his existence for the most part. The novels need to be taken with a grain of salt. The short stories are very often completely out there, with the notable exceptions of Life and Death in the Charity Ward, All the Assholes in the World and Mine, and Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live With Beasts, and a few others.
 
I'm with Growing Beard. Buk hadn't much time for literary labels, periods or schools. He hated that academic shit. Like most great poets he went through a formative phase where his style borrowed from the greats that went before, where he wasn't quite confident enough to shake off all formality. Then in the early to mid '60s he found his voice, and the prosaic raw style we came to know and love. Certainly by the time he'd hooked up with John Martin at Black Sparrow in '69 he'd hit his 'mature' style, that didn't change much till his death. The content might reflect what was going down in his life at any given time, but his preoccupations with sex, booze, work, the track, classical music, cheap rooms, cheap bars and cheap whores, and of course writers and writing, runs through all his work like an inexhaustible seam of gold. Like most prolific writers, he had barren spells, but most of the shit that got published and came down to us over the next 25 years speaks with his unmistakable voice. If I had to pin any labels on him (which he'd hate), I'd go pre-69 as formative, and 69-94 as the real deal. As a footnote, I'd say that Pulp, the last novel he wrote when he was dying of cancer, forms a little genre of its own. Nobody seems to have picked up on it much. All his work up until then had been auto-biographical, or thinly disguised auto-biography. But with this final cameo, done in the spoof style of a 50's noir hard-boiled detective novel, the narrator and plot are more fictional than in anything Hank had written before. Sure you don't have to be Einstein to get the references to his life, but there's a playfulness and inventiveness we hadn't seen in his work before. Maybe because he knew he was dying, that freed him up. Pity papa death got him, I think he was breaking through to something new. For that reason Pulp stands apart for me, motherfuckers.
 
To me Buks work was less about "periods" and more about personas.
Maybe I haven't read enough Bukowski Bios, but this seems to me like an unjust characterization, if you're saying that Bukowski himself altered his persona over the course of his career. It seems to me (again, based on my very limited perspective) that while he was certainly conscious of his professional development, talking about personas makes it seem more contrived. Would it not be more apt to say that he wrote personas, moreso than that he had personas? Sorry if I misread your comment, that was just how it came across to me.

his father unwittingly set him up to succeed.

One of the video interviews I watched recently (shit I can't recall which one), I seem to recall Bukowski mentioning that his father gave him poetry. If I'm mangling the way he expressed it, sorry in advance, hopefully somebody can correct me on it.

...you consider him primarily a poet...

Does anybody not?

MJP linked (http://bukowski.net/database/ListAllMags.php) to about 1773 reasons why it would be hard to see him as primarily anything else - not to mention all the submissions he made that were not accepted.

Side trivia question: anybody have a guess as to how many unaccepted submissions bukowski sent out in his career?
 

mjp

Founding member
in '69 he'd hit his 'mature' style, that didn't change much till his death.
Well that's one way to look at it. You're likely be the only person in the world with that view, but it's good to be unique.

I think he was breaking through to something new.
Or he was just typing easy bullshit that didn't take much effort.

anybody have a guess as to how many unaccepted submissions bukowski sent out in his career?
Pre-1969, maybe a lot. Post 1969, not as many. He didn't get rejected very often after he became BUKOWSKI.

But then he wasn't exactly submitting to The Paris Review most of the time, so rejection was less likely in general, wasn't it.
 
I think by '77 or so it had gotten to the point where an editor considered it an honor to receive a Buk submission. I've read somewhere, that an editor thought it was 'cute' that Buk included an SASE with his submissions.
 
Does anybody not?
There are some people who primarily read the novels and short stories and just don't care for poetry. My guess is that these folks wouldn't consider him to be primarily a poet. I only made that point in the context of:
To me Buks work was less about "periods" and more about personas.

My contention is that the personas come to the fore more in the novels and short stories while the poems generally represent "the true Buk," if I could say such a trite thing.
 

mjp

Founding member
Some people only read the novels (and erroneous Internet quotes), then they formulate an opinion and come here to tell us about it.

Which is cute, but it's a little bit like forming an opinion on Robert De Niro's acting career when all you've seen is Analyze This and Meet the Parents.
 
My contention is that the personas come to the fore more in the novels and short stories while the poems generally represent "the true Buk," if I could say such a trite thing.

This is an interesting point. Looking at the manuscripts, many of the poems seem to be based upon events that are described as happening in the present. I will ponder this...
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
I suppose looking for periods and style changes/shifts is a necessary academic exercise, but reading Bukowski's thoughts in The Captain Is Out To Lunch and The Sailor's Have Taken Over The Ship, (which I love due to the mellow, contemplative mood of it) two things struck me about his lack of pretense: "I write the same way I did 50 yrs ago, maybe a little better but not much"

I also agree with the poetry being nearer to the real him whereas the novels are quasi- autobiographical, but he certainly seemed to have a dim view of Poets in general, as opposed to writers:
4/16/92 12:39 AM
Maybe there’s a hell, what? If there is I’ll be there and you know what? All the poets will be there reading their works and I will have to listen. I will be drowned in their preening vanity, their overflowing self-esteem. If there is a hell, that will be my hell: poet after poet reading on and on….

Bukowski, Charles (2009-03-17). The Captain is Out to Lunch (Kindle Locations 966-968). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
 

mjp

Founding member
looking for periods and style changes/shifts is a necessary academic exercise...
No academic exercise is ever necessary.

But it makes people who wasted a lot of their parents money on a college humanities or literature education feel good, so who am I to get in their way.
 

mjp

Founding member
I don't know about jogging, but academic research and academic exercise are two very different things, aren't they. One is work, one is masturbation.

But like I said, who am I to get in their way.
 

hoochmonkey9

Art should be its own hammer.
Reaper Crew
Moderator
Founding member
I'm doing some academic research on jogging. I've done enough research on masturbation.
 

Skygazer

And in the end...
No academic exercise is ever necessary.

But it makes people who wasted a lot of their parents money on a college humanities or literature education feel good, so who am I to get in their way.
It's dirty, dangerous work, but someone's got to do it.
 
But it makes people who wasted a lot of their parents money on a college humanities or literature education feel good, so who am I to get in their way.

If people enjoy learning about that stuff, great. But the sad truth is that the American education system has become yet another racket. University presidents issue statements declaring how their tight budgets demand increases in tuition while they pay million dollar salaries to football coaches. Higher education is now a daycare for tomorrow's service economy employees rather than a place where adults can go to learn.

/rant
 
Some people only read the novels (and erroneous Internet quotes), then they formulate an opinion and come here to tell us about it.
So what are you doing on here then champ? (except having a pop at everyone.) It's a forum, that's what people do, come on and give their opinions. If you're such a Bukowski scholar and we're all so misguided, why don't you write us a nice long post about it. Peace out man, and give people a break.
 

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