Teaching Bukowski

Hi all, new member.

I teach A level English Literature in England and have used some of Bukowski's poetry in lessons. Always gets a good response, with some students coming to be the day after and saying they did some research, read more of his poems, so mission accomplished.

Specifically, I teach a selection of 21 poems (starting with Style as an intro with video, then compare 20 of his poems to the 20 poems set for exams, my own pairings).

I loved some feedback, notes/opinions/criticism etc on any of the poems, ideas for other pairings (if you're interested in reading the set ones from Faber's Poems of the Decade), anything really.

All files and poems can be found here:
 

Black Swan

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My son has been teaching English and Anthropology in Seoul for 8 years. He is back in Canada now. He has also used Bukowski’s poems and said that the videos helped a lot in his classes. The response was quite good. I’ll show him your post and see if he’d like to say something about it.
 

esart

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So weird. I once practically got kicked out of my creative writing class in college for even referring to Bukowski at all. I was told that he was a disgrace to the English language. Ha. The fact that colleges and universities "teach" him is a pretty wild concept to me. I'm sure it would have been to him as well.
 

roni

Billions served
Thanks PoetryPreach for your work in class.

The fact that colleges and universities "teach" him is a pretty wild concept to me.
In 2007 I taught about him in a 12th grade class of my old school. Was a huge success.
Last year, a school-teacher in Germany even won a prize from the state of Bavaria for having his students make a film-adaption of their favorite Buk-poem. (The prize-winning film was made by 3 girls in 9th grade!)

Gerald Locklin taught Bukowski in university from 1970 on. And Corrington may not have taught him, but being a professor of English literature, he wrote scholarly essays about Bukowski in the early 1960s.

But this whole discussion of the conservatives about Bukowski's literary quality or importance (or supposed lack of it) is obsolete since The Huntington Library took his legacy to their shelves next to Shakespeare and Chaucer.

Sue Hodson (curator of manuscripts at The Huntington):
“He is one of the most important and original writers in American literature [...] We collect authors that we think have a lasting legacy as writers, whose works will stand the test of time, and who are worthy of research and study and appreciation by the public. Bukowski fits all of those, so I’m not concerned if people disagree with us.”
 
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esart

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I'm just saying it's a wild concept to me because I have always been put down for thinking (knowing) he was a genius. It might have been different in the states. He always seemed to have been well received in Germany. I am not an expert on him as most of you are. I just love his work and he's been a major and formidable influence in my life.

I don't know the exact timeline as to when he got super popular and accepted here, but in my mind, it wasn't until a bit before he died. Before that, if anyone I knew even heard of him, they didn't consider him a "proper" writer, most likely because they didn't read his work as they should have to make that judgment.

In fact, I still have been put down on certain writer's forums for liking him. I know not to gush about him too much because I'm tired of hearing anyone speak badly of him or be put into a position where I need to defend his work because it doesn't need defending.

I also don't know anything about how one teaches famous writers exactly. So I'm ignorant there. I have had a required reading before, and the class would discuss novels, but that's about all. I get how one could teach story writing, but how does one "teach" free form poetry? I'm interested.
 

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
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Sue Hodson (curator of manuscripts at The Huntington):
“He is one of the most important and original writers in American literature [...] We collect authors that we think have a lasting legacy as writers, whose works will stand the test of time, and who are worthy of research and study and appreciation by the public. Bukowski fits all of those, so I’m not concerned if people disagree with us.”
wow! a woman actually said that??? 🙄
 

roni

Billions served
just saying it's a wild concept to me because I have always been put down for thinking (knowing) he was a genius.
Yes, that's how I understood your statement. Not as if you yourself would find him unworthy, but others do. And they do.

In Germany too it's not always easy to convince people about his quality. Even though his reputation at universities has risen a lot compared to the 80s. Among scholarly experts you seldom have to argue much about his importance any more, while the public most often still reduces him to sex & booze.

My few examples I've mentioned are exactly that: few. They don't represent any sort of mainstream. But they ARE examples, and this shows, that Bukowski always had his admirers even in teaching contexts as universities (obviously not so much in schools, but even back in 1990, I was able to convince my English-teacher to do exactly, what this girl in the other thread is doing now: Presenting Bukowski in the class to my fellow students).

So, yes, teaching Bukowski was (and still is) rare. But not impossible.


I also don't know anything about how one teaches famous writers exactly. [...] how does one "teach" free form poetry? I'm interested.
It's not as hard as you might think. There are a lot of things to talk about, not only meter and rhyme. The teacher in "Dead Poets Society" didn't give a shit for meter and rhyme, but he tought a lot, right? That's how it's done. Just as simple.

Btw, I strongly reccomend EVERYONE to watch that movie every now and then. It is enriching.

This summer, the university in Bamberg will have a seminar about english postwar-poetry. In June I will be there for one double-hour to "teach" Bukowski in this context. (It's part of the Bukowski-Festival and the week after my own appearence there, the students will be able to meet David and Abel exclusively in their class to get informed about things as scholarly research on Buk etc.)


a woman actually said that??
Sue is one hell of a woman. And she not only said this, but wrote it down in an official statement of The Huntington Library to defend the acceptance of the donation.
 

Black Swan

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My son said that he would give his students a poem to analyse and would show a video such as the man with the beautiful eyes for example. They would have to write about what they thought he meant and their understanding of it. The Koreans are very tough workers and their bosses almost cruel at times because the competition in Asia is insane. They drink a lot too. You will often see drunk people in suits in the metro at night or puking on the street. It is common for people to come home at two in the morning and get up at 8. Some really got Bukowski and when they did, they appreciated to read about someone like him in America . The spoiled ones could not, as anywhere else.
 
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I'm so jealous you're teaching the kids Bukowski. We never read anything from him in English class and that was a decade ago in a British school.
 
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