"it's difficult to be a god when bananas eat monkeys"/cf. as the spirit wanes the form appears

I'm not sure if this has been discussed but there's a poem in the January 10, 1975 "Notes of A Dirty Old Man" column entitled "it's difficult to be a god when bananas eat monkeys" which ends with the famous lines "as the spirit wanes the form appears." Which appears as a separate poem entitled "art" on the last page of Play the Piano Drunk...which raises the question....

notes1.png
 

mjp

Founding member
And from Open All Night:

it's difficult when bananas eat monkeys
it's partly the burning and it's partly the muddy
water and partly the voices"”
(the faces I've adjusted to; the years have given
me something)
but when the faces
speak
it makes no pleasure to linger in the crowd.​
maybe the truly original man doesn't exist. I
have never met him.​
sometimes I think it will be the parking lot attendant. he
walks toward me. he smiles. ah, here it comes, I
think.​
then he says, "hi sport," or something else equally flat and
dumb.​
I reply with a sentence that sails over his
left shoulder and flames out
on a green balcony across the
street.​
I give him my keys
I give him my car​
he drives off and I walk into the
place.​
the hostess walks
up. "yes?" she
says.​
yes, what? I've got to eat so I can
live. I follow her buttocks
(they have a certain minor charm) but I keep
thinking
I've got to tip that son-of-a-bitch out there
when he should be
guillotined.​
 
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A real puzzle, then, this one....How did it get to be called "art"--the four lines that were chopped off? Martin came up with the idea of cutting the lines out and making a new poem and I assume Buk signed off on it, since it was in Play the Piano?And what does it mean in the context of THIS--i.e. the original poem? Nothing to do with art at all as far as I can tell....The poem is about the fact that "the truly original man doesn't exist" which might mean when the "spirit wanes" in humans, all you end up with is an empty shell--the "form"--as with the parking lot man and the hostess...Perhaps the best line of the poem is also ripped up: in original "then I hit him with a sentence and it goes over his/right ear and burns to death on a brazier/sitting on a green balcony across the street" ....
 
Here again, the most striking line cut out, presumably to "clean the poem up"..."I'm glad you don't like women who/wear pantyhouse...it de-cunts a woman,/plugs it up like a vat of goat's milk."

notes2.png


notes3.png
 
interesting find!
The poem 'art' as we know it would never have passed Hank's attention. So he must have agreed to it.
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
David, maybe its the other way around: maybe Buk just tossed in the art-poem to fill out the weeks DOM-column. It feels like it might have been inserted. He often struggled with closing his poems...

On the two scans of "the silver mirror": where are they from? Both have the reference to the de-cunting....

Great finds anyway. Your research into the "notes" is turning out to be a gold mine.
 
For "the silver mirror", the first is from the LAFP, December 12 1975 and the second is from What Matters Most. It's interesting that he dedicated it to "Georgia K" which is left off the What Matters version.
And that's an interesting idea--that he had written the "art" poem before and then added it. It's certainly possible.
 

mjp

Founding member
I don't think the likelihood of Bukowski tacking an existing small poem onto the end of a longer poem is very high.

ART was either taken from it's difficult to be a god, or the Free Press fucked that up, adding it to the end of a completely different poem.

I tend to believe the latter. It seems much more likely.

The problem is we have a lot of examples of Martin pulling stanzas and using them elsewhere (chapter headings, etc.), so we can never be sure it wasn't his doing.
 
Yes indeed, you are the man Digney. I got all the Freeps from UM library, but you are the guy who put all the poems from the Freep together in one spot.
It seems Martin must have detached those last lines. "Art" was published in 1976 by Black Sparrow as a New Year's greeting and then three years later in Play the Piano. It seems to me the lines follow naturally in the LAFP--the encounter with the hostess and parking lot guy leading to the observation that humans are worth much--it's impossible to talk with them--and they are hollow, so "as the spirit wanes the form appears." Once their souls disappear, all you have left is the shell of their nothingness....Martin must have just detached the six lines and renamed it "art"?
 
[...] "Art" was published in 1976 by Black Sparrow as a New Year's greeting [...] Martin must have just detached the six lines and renamed it "art"?

still, Hank must have been okay with this. He wouldn't let him do such a thing if he wasn't. Never.
 

cirerita

Founding member
Not exactly the same, BUT:
the poem "if I suffer at this" (1975) appeared as part of "the meek have inherited" in Love Is a Dog in 1977.

The unpublished twenty part poem "tonalities upon distances of frustration and exhilaration" was published under several different titles, some of them during B's lifetime. For instance, seven parts were used in "ah" (Bartleby's Review, 1973) which, in turn, were used in part in "tonalities" in Burning.

As roni pointed out, Bukowski surely knew what was going on at the time. In fact, I'm almost sure he did all the editing in these cases.
 
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