The Genius of the Crowd:

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
OK guys, be warned: Here comes a ramble, a pretty long ramble.

I've recently become interested in Buk's poem "The Genius of the Crowd" (The Roominghouse Madrigals page 31). I used to think it was a bit pompous and over the top, so to speak, with the capital letters and all, but recently I've had a fresh look at it. In a way it's a sort of pastiche on the Bible. Buk sounds like an Old Testament prophet here, a kind of gutter-prophet, or even like Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount, only he's not describing virtues but vices. Its a sermon from the gutter.

Anyway my take on this poem is that it's about hatred and how hatred can fill you up with an intense, almost genius-like energy. (MJP know's a lot about this...;) )Sort of like Buk's "don't try" motto, if you catch my drift. Buk is here looking at hatred and trying to found out what it is, what makes it tick. And he ends up saying it's the unimaginative or average guy's replacement for ART or creativity:

Not Wanting Solitude
Not Understanding Solitude
They Will Attempt To Destroy
Anything
That Differs
From Their Own
Not Being Able​
To Create Art​
They Will Not​
Understand Art​

They Will Consider Their Failure
As Creators
Only s A Failure
Of The World

Not Being Able To Love Fully
They Will BELIEVE Your Love
Incomplete
AND THEN THEY WILL HATE
YOU

And Their Hatred Will Be Perfect
Like A Shining Diamond
Like A Knife
Like A Mountain
LIKE A TIGER
LIKE Hemlock
Their Finest​
ART​
(Couldn't get the indentations right on that quote.) (Looks fine to me. - ed) Hatred is one of the things we all have the ability to do pretty well, without trying. It gives you the feeling of being strong, creative and sure of yourself, but in the end it's a blind alley. Hatred is in a way a sort of talent that we all have. But it's a talent without any real creativity, or to be more precise: it has a sort of negative creativity that pulls things down instead of creating something new.

Hatred can only get you so far, this poem seems to say. The spirit of hatred needs to wane, before you can create something out of its energy...

What made me think about "The Hatred of the Crowd" again was something Buk says in the Bukowski tapes (I think it's in the tapes, I can't pinpoint the quote just now). He says something like "I don't hate anybody." I was quite impressed with that statement because it sort of goes against the popular wild-man-bad-guy image of Buk. And Buk definitely did have plenty of good reasons for hating, for example his father. Now it struck me that Buk needed to understand hatred in order to get over it, or survive it, or control it, or not go mad because of it. His drinking could also be part of this survival instinct. And his writing as well.

Buk sees creativity as a step out of the passive blind alley of pure hatred. Now being creative can be art, but it can also be something else, just as long as you're good at it and do it well (playing pool, plumbing). Like Chinaski says in Factotum:

"We sat here all day and evening yesterday. You told me about your parents. Your parents hated you. Right?"
"Right."
"So now you're a little crazy. No love. Everybody needs love. It's warped you."
"People don't need love. What they need is success in one form or another. It can be love
but it needn't be."
"The Bible says, "ËœLove thy neighbor.'"
"That could mean to leave him alone. I'm going out to get a paper."
(Factotum:64)
To get out of the clutches of blind hatred you need to be good at something creatively.

Yup.

So anyway, that was me trying to be creative. Any thoughts?
Does anyone remember where Buk says that he doesn't hate anyone?
 
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He says frequently that he feels "disgust" rather than hatred, I believe in the Schroeder interviews and elsewhere.
 
it could be applied in general, but I saw it more directed toward people close to him, like his friends (whom he distanced from as he was becoming more famous) and of course women he was usually hurt from. But that's just my opinion.
 

mjp

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...hatred can fill you up with an intense, almost genius-like energy. (MJP know's a lot about this...;) )
I don't know whether to be flattered or insulted.

In such cases, I always choose to be flattered. It makes things easier.

Oh, and fuck you all!

Thank you.
 
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Johannes

Founding member
I used to think it was a bit pompous and over the top, so to speak, with the capital letters and all
Funny that you mention that. I never liked the capitalization in this poem. I read it first somewhere on the net, where somebody had typed it up without all that jazz and absolutely loved it.

When I read the original version, I hated this kind of formatting. It does sound like some sort of preaching this way, which is okay, only what's worse; all this fancy spelling seems to say Here I Am Telling Something Of Major Importance And REALLY Nailing It Down Do You HEAR??!!!!!

Of course he is, but why all that shit? As far as I know, this is the only poem he ever used that kind of stuff.
 

Gerard K H Love

Appreciate your friends
I've liked this poem since I first saw the title, but your analysis makes it make sense on a higher level. I'm easy.
Thank you for your comments and mjp does have an intense, almost genius-like energy. In a good way.
 

nervas

more crickets than friends
For me, my own reading of the poem never made me think much of it. It wasn't until I heard Buk read it, that all of a sudden, I thought, WOW, why didn't I get that the first time I read it?
 
The poem never struck me as being about hatred so much as about trying to live a unencumbered, unconventional lifestyle in a very encumbered, conventional society. The artist's fate is sealed at the hands of the "norms" who enjoy nothing more than destroying the outsider--the closest they'll get to an act of creation.

or something like that.
 

cirerita

Founding member
I think that this poem is kind of unusual re. formatting because Bukowski probably wrote it with d.a. levy in mind. I haven't found all the Bukowski/d.a. levy correspondence, but that's the impression I got. If you take a look at d.a. levy's "mimeos," this poem fits perfectly.
I remember reading a letter to Judson Crews where B. told him that the poems enclosed had not been rejected before, that he felt that those poems were Crews' kind of thing.
And he intentionally sent his more "traditional" or "poetic" stuff to Epos, Descant and other conservative "littles".

Bukowski was no outsider. He was, as he said many a time, outside that definition.
 

Johannes

Founding member
Yes, I sometimes assumed that d.a. levy might be the reason for this. Wanted to ask, but forgot.

Thanks.
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
Even if Buk said that he didn't hate anyone, I am sure that he had experienced hatred with a passion, like most humans do, in order to be able to reflect on it as he does in "The Genius of the Crowd". It seems to me that he had experienced that emotion throughout his life and had come to a conclusion.
I always saw that poem like "excuse me while I kiss the sky", (cheap analogy)
a moment where you can sum up your experience and can say that you have paid your dues. Perhaps with a little too much conviction, without moderation, but who wants moderation in creation, unless you are working for the man.
But again, that's art, his privilege to convey powerful imagery, to touch the untouchable. Maybe he had to take a crap and had to punch us out of his way.
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
Yeah, of all the poems for levy to publish, this was the perfect one. I'd love to know if he wrote it with the idea of sending to levy or if it was written and then he decided that it was a good fit for what levy was doing. I love the poem. it is easily one of my favorites.

Oddly enough read it and read it again and tell me what is obscene that would cause them to be confiscated and destroyed? Jason can probably speak better to this, but my inderstanding was that the Cleveland police confiscated everything in the store for being "obscene". after the triel, Jim Lowell was told that he could have his books back, but he would need to submit a list to the police of what they took. This is from my memory as it was told to me by Tessa Lowell, Jim's widow, who is a very cool, classy lady.

Bill
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
For me, my own reading of the poem never made me think much of it. It wasn't until I heard Buk read it, that all of a sudden, I thought, WOW, why didn't I get that the first time I read it?
Interesting point. Now tell that to MJP (that mad hat(t)er :rolleyes:) and all the others who say poetry should be read, not heard (or sung).

Even if Buk said that he didn't hate anyone, I am sure that he had experienced hatred with a passion, like most humans do, in order to be able to reflect on it as he does in "The Genius of the Crowd". It seems to me that he had experienced that emotion throughout his life and had come to a conclusion.
Yeah, I agree. What allows Buk to write so lucidly about intense feelings is his first hand experience AND his ability to think through his experiences afterwards. Being both mad and sane at the same time, thats the trick... Many writers have one or the other, few have both. ;)

Interesting connection to Levy as well, and how the poem stands out as a special Buk-poem because of it.

Oh and I found that Buk quotes the first lines of this poem in one of his letters to Martinelli.
 

nervas

more crickets than friends
As long as the poem, or writing is being read by the person who wrote it, I've always been ok with it.

The hatred thing, I always smile when someone says, "Oh, I don't HATE anything. Hatred is too strong, I dislike things, but I don't HATE anything, or anyone..."

I always think to myself, well what's wrong with me, because, God I hate so many things in this life.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
The hatred thing, I always smile when someone says, "Oh, I don't HATE anything. Hatred is too strong, I dislike things, but I don't HATE anything, or anyone..."
Right! Hate is seen as a bad feeling so we use other words instead such as dislike or disgust. Somehow such words are more acceptable to people. Hatred can be a good thing in some cases. There's nothing wrong in hating bad things like dictators, greed, evil, etc. Hate is a part of our psychological make up so it must be there for a reason.
 
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Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
I think that this poem is kind of unusual re. formatting because Bukowski probably wrote it with d.a. levy in mind.
Cirerita (or anyone else): I came across a note I had made indicating that Jules Smith links this poem up to Robinson Jeffers in his dissertation (on page 183). Is this true? I don't have the Smith book around any more. Nor any Jeffers. Did Jeffers ever use this kind of layout?
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
I was thinking about the original dissertation, not the book, which came out later.
Oh well. Thanks for loking it up.
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
LIKE Hemlock...
Only today, I realized that hemlock is a poison, and that Socrates had been sentenced to drink it.
 

mjp

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I was looking at the original version of genius today and it seems that one of the "lazy typists" has struck again.
Not Wanting Solitude
Not Understanding Solitude
They Will Attempt To Destroy
Anything
That Differs
From Their Own
should be:
Not Wanting Solitude
Not Understanding Solitude
They Will Attempt To Destroy
Anything
That Differs
From Their Concepts
That comes from someone who has the original in-hand, and also A Bukowski Sampler.

You can hear Bukowski read the original/correct version himself, on a recording done in the same year the poem was written (in a 1993 recording, when he was probably reading from the Black Sparrow book version, he says "from their own," rather than "from their concepts.")

Unfortunately the error also made it into Essential Bukowski.

Funny detail: Bukowski pronounces "absurdity" as absurbity in 1966, and does the same thing on the 1993 recording (though in an outtake from the 1993 recording he does pronounce absurdity correctly).
 
Unfortunately the error also made it into Essential Bukowski.
But is it an error?
In Abel Debritto's opinion, which he stated about two years ago in some thread on this site, almost all of the lifetime changes in Bukowski's poetry were made by Bukowski himself. The Roominghouse Madrigals, for example, is loaded with changes and omissions. If we follow Abel, all of them, or most of them, were made by Bukowski - some 25 years after those poems first appeared.

John Martin heavily edited Bukowski's novels and short stories, but he never touched the poetry? How likely is that?
 

mjp

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How likely is that?
Not very.

As far as this particular change goes though, I guess you could go find your local poet and ask them if they would change "Anything That Differs From Their Concepts" to "Anything That Differs From Their Own." I wouldn't, but what do I know. I could see changing it to "Their Own Concepts," but not just "Their Own." It doesn't really make sense, and it doesn't fit with everything else around it.

But the time around Madrigals is interesting, because we don't have many any manuscripts from 1987 or '88 (there may be some that I haven't got to in Dora's stash, but many of those are undated). That's not to say there aren't any, I'm sure there are, but in 1987 he was doing press for Barfly, things were going badly at home, and less than a year before he was writing things like, "My energy is being mutilated for your simple profit motive. [...] This is murder. You are killing me." to Martin. So it seems like a stressful couple of years for him in general.

When the idea of publishing a collection of older poems came about, I'm sure he wanted to go over them and maybe even change parts of some of them. Just because he had changed as a writer. I'm not sure he took as much interest in the other collections. But even if he did, I look at the changes that we find and ask if they make sense artistically. This one doesn't. It doesn't even seem like a change Martin would make, which is why I characterized it as a "mistake."
 

the only good poet

One retreat after another without peace.
I will now eschew forum etiquette and reply to earlier posts. Please excuse me.
I used to think it was a bit pompous and over the top, so to speak, with the capital letters and all
Funny that you mention that. I never liked the capitalization in this poem.
As far as I know, this is the only poem he ever used that kind of stuff.
He did use capitalization in the poem, the seminar (dedicated to my betters), in Days (pg.163), a poem satirizing his contemporary poets. Oops.
 
When the idea of publishing a collection of older poems came about, I'm sure he wanted to go over them and maybe even change parts of some of them. Just because he had changed as a writer.
This is an interesting point. A point I don't get. Rewriting poems that you wrote 25 or 30 years ago doesn't make any sense. Those poems reflect different times, they reflect the past, and that's exactly what they should do. I don't want to read material which is somehow adjusted to the present. And that's why I dumped my copy of The Madrigals.
 

cirerita

Founding member
...Almost all of the lifetime changes in Bukowski's poetry were made by Bukowski himself.
Did I really say that? I doubt it very much. I probably said that Bukowski changed his poetry more often that is commonly thought or something along those lines. I could have said that since there's is no actual evidence of who changed what, some of the changes in the early BSP books could have been made by Bukowski himself, and I still think so.

I think mjp is right and Bukowski kind of paid special attention to the Roominghouse mss. It was all old stuff coming back to him, and I wouldn't be surprised if he changed a few minor things here and there to discard weak stuff.

Dismissing the Roominghouse version of "the genius of the crowd" because someone --maybe Bukowski himself-- changed "their concepts" to "their own" is a tad too radical, in my opinion. That's a relatively minor change, which does not ruin the entire poem at all. Plus, all the other lines remain untouched.

Again, the edits made to Bukowski's poetry when he was alive were, for the most part, minor. And he apparently didn't mind them because he never complained about those changes, did he? In a way, you could say he sanctioned them. And if he did, what is wrong with that?
 

mjp

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I wouldn't dismiss it, since that's the version the world knows. Just pointing out that the original version is available to listen to. Or to read if you have Sampler.

I probably wouldn't have said anything if it was another poem. But I think even a minor change to a major poem is worth looking at.
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
I think mjp is right and Bukowski kind of paid special attention to the Roominghouse mss. It was all old stuff coming back to him, and I wouldn't be surprised if he changed a few minor things here and there to discard weak stuff.
NO, NO, NO!!! Abel, I have incredible respect for the research you have done, but I think you are missing one of the most important artifacts we have that Martin did edit Buk's work.

Bukowski said many times in pride that he never read his poems after they were finished. You hear that same thing from a lot of musicians and novelists too -- and I believe it. (Although when they were rejected, I can also believe he did work on them again).

Buk had no access (no internet) to compare the original small press versions to the ones Martin F'd with in Roominghouse.

But he did read Martin's versions. And what strikes me as heartbreaking (and I'm sure Zobraks will help provide the thread) he inscribed a copy to Neeli that said something to the effect: "Sorry Neeli, the later poems were better."

Which makes me believe he read the published book (or advanced copy) and didn't realize they had been watered down. He just thought they were weak, like I did -- until I saw the originals.
 
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Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Buk had no access (no internet) to compare the original small press versions to the ones Martin F'd with in Roominghouse.
Unless he kept he kept the small press mags he was published in. I believe the mags sent one or more free copies to a poet they had published. Whether or not Buk kept those copies are anybody's guess.
 
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