You Don't Know What Love Is (an evening with Charles Bukowski) by Raymond Carver (1 Viewer)


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You Don't Know What Love Is
(an evening with Charles Bukowski) by Ramond Carver

You don't know what love is Bukowski said
I'm 51 years old look at me
I'm in love with this young broad
I got it bad but she's hung up too
so it's all right man that's the way it should be
I get in their blood and they can't get me out
They try everything to get away from me
but they all come back in the end
They all came back to me except
the one I planted
I cried over that one
but I cried easy in those days
Don't let me get onto the hard stuff man
I get mean then
I could sit here and drink beer
with you hippies all night
I could drink ten quarts of this beer
and nothing it's like water
But let me get onto the hard stuff
and I'll start throwing people out windows
I'll throw anybody out the window
I've done it
But you don't know what love is
You don't know because you've never
been in love it's that simple
I got this young broad see she's beautiful
She calls me Bukowski
Bukowski she says in this little voice
and I say What
But you don't know what love is
I'm telling you what it is
but you aren't listening
There isn't one of you in this room
would recognize love if it stepped up
and buggered you in the ass
I used to think poetry readings were a copout
Look I'm 51 years old and I've been around
I know they're a copout
but I said to myself Bukowski
starving is even more of a copout
So there you are and nothing is like it should be
That fellow what's his name Galway Kinnell
I saw his picture in a magazine
He has a handsome mug on him
but he's a teacher
Christ can you imagine
But then you're teachers too
here I am insulting you already
No I haven't heard of him
or him either
They're all termites
Maybe it's ego I don't read much anymore
but these people w! ho build
reputations on five or six books
Bukowski she says
Why do you listen to classical music all day
Can't you hear her saying that
Bukowski why do you listen to classical music all day
That surprises you doesn't it
You wouldn't think a crude bastard like me
could listen to classical music all day
Brahms Rachmaninoff Bartok Telemann
Shit I couldn't write up here
Too quiet up here too many trees
I like the city that's the place for me
I put on my classical music each morning
and sit down in front of my typewriter
I light a cigar and I smoke it like this see
and I say Bukowski you're a lucky man
Bukowski you've gone through it all
and you're a lucky man
and the blue smoke drifts across the table
and I look out the window onto Delongpre Avenue
and I see people walking up and down the sidewalk
and I puff on the cigar like this
and then I lay the cigar in the ashtray like this and take a deep breath
and I begin to write
Bukowski this is the life I say
it's good to be poor it's good to have hemorrhoids
it's good to be in love
But you don't know what it's like
You don't know what it's like to be in love
If you could see her you'd know what I mean
She thought I'd come up here and get laid
She just knew it
She told me she knew it
Shit I'm 51 years old and she's 25
and we're in love and she's jealous
Jesus it's beautiful
she said she'd claw my eyes out if I came up here
and got laid
Now that's love for you
What do any of you know about it
Let me tell you something
I've met men in jail who had more style
than the people who hang around colleges
and go to poetry readings
They're bloodsuckers who come to see
if the poet's socks are dirty
or if he smells under the arms
Believe me I won't disappoint em
But I want you to remember this
there's only one poet in this room tonight
only one poet in this town tonight
maybe only one real poet in this country tonight
and that's me
What do any of you know about life
What do any of you know about anything
Which of you here has been fired from a job
or else has beaten up your broad
or else has been beaten up by your broad
I was fired from Sears and Roebuck five times
They'd fire me then hire me back again
I was a stockboy for them when I was 35
and then got canned for stealing cookies
I know what's it like I've been there
I'm 51 years old now and I'm in love
This little broad she says
and I say What and she says
I think you're full of shit
and I say baby you understand me
She's the only broad in the world
man or woman
I'd take that from
But you don't know what love is
They all came back to me in the end too
every one of em came back
except that one I told you about
the one I planted We were together seven years
We used to drink a lot
I see a couple of typers in this room but
I don't see any poets
I'm not surprised
You have to have been in love to write poetry
and you don't know what it is to be in love
that's your trouble
Give me some of that stuff
That's right no ice good
That's good that's just fine
So let's get this show on the road
I know what I said but I'll have just one
That tastes good
Okay then let's go let's get this over with
only afterwards don't anyone stand close
to an open window

this poem is from the poetry collection "All of Us" by Ray Carver.

I found it very interesting that they met, and hung out together, in the 70's.

I think Ray Carver's short stories are incredible, but his poetry is also excellent.
But Bukowski was the master og this type of poem:

we've got to communicate

"he was a very sensitive man," she told me, "and after
he split with Andrea he kept her panties under his
pillow and each night he kissed them and cried.
look at you! look at that expression on your face!
you don't like what I just said and do you want to
know why?
it's because you're afraid; it takes a man to admit
his feelings.
I see you watching women getting in and out of their
cars, hoping their skirts will climb up so you can
see their legs.
you're like a schoolboy, a peep-freak!
and worse than that, you just like to think about
sex, you don't really want to do it, it's only
work to you, you'd rather stare and imagine.
you don't even like to suck my breasts!
and you don't like to see a woman doing things in the
is there something wrong with bodily functions?
don't you have bodily functions?
Jesus, Christ, my sisters warned me about you!
they told me what you were like!
I didn't believe them, hell, you looked like a
all your books, thousands of poems, and what do you
you're afraid to look at a woman's pussy!
all you can do is drink!
do you think it takes any guts to drink?
here I've given you 5 years of my life and what do you
do?: you won't even discuss things with me!
you're charming enough when we have a party, that is,
if you're in the mood
you can really talk your shit
but look at you now, not a sound out of you, you just
sit in that chair over there and pour drink after
well, I've had it, I'm going to get myself somebody
real, somebody who can discuss things with me,
somebody who can say, 'well, look Paula, I realize
that we are having some problems and maybe
if we talk about them we can understand each other better
and make thinks work.'
not you! look at you! why don't you say something?
sure: DRINK IT DOWN! that's all you know how to do!
tell me, what's wrong with a woman's pussy?
my mother left my father because he was like you,
all he did was drink and play the horses!
well, he almost went crazy after she left him.
he pleaded and pleaded and pleaded for her to come
back, he even pretended he was dying of cancer just
to get her to come see him.
that didn't fool her"”she went and got herself a decent
man, she's with him now, you've met him:Lance. but no,
you don't like Lance, do you?
he wears a necktie and he's into real estate. . .
well, he doesn't like you either. but mother loves him.
and what do you know about love?
it's a dirty word to you! love. you don't even like!
you don't like your country, you don't like movies, you
don't like to dance, you don't like to drive on freeways,
you don't like children, you don't look at people,
all you do is sit in a chair and drink and figure systems
to beat the horses and if there's anything duller and
dumber than horses, you let me know, you just tell
all you know how to do is wake up sick each morning,
you can't get out of bed until noon; you drink whiskey,
you drink scotch, you drink beer, you drink wine, you
drink vodka, you drink gin, and what does it mean?
your health gets worse and worse, your left thumb is
dead, your liver is shot, you have high blood pressure,
hemorrhoids, ulcers, and Christ knows what else,
and when I try to talk to you, you can't take it
and you run to your place and take the phone off
the hook and put on your symphony records and drink
yourself to sleep, and then you wake up sick at noon
and phone and say that you're dying and that you're
sorry and that you want to see me, and then I come over
and you're so contrite you're not even human"”
oh, you can be charming when you're sick and in trouble,
you can be humorous, you can make me laugh, you win me back
again and again. . .
but look at you now! all you want is one more drink and then
one more drink and you won't talk to me, you just keep
lighting cigarettes and looking around the room. . .
don't you want to work at making our relationship better?
tell me, why are you afraid of a woman's pussy?"

I compared these poems once, in something I wrote (academic).
Carver's is from 83, Buk's from 81. Go figure.
Carver commented it thus:

In Fires, I even dedicated a poem to him. It's titled "You Don't Know What Love Is." It's kind of the story of an evening that he spent at my house, and many lines are nothing more than phrases taken directly from what he said [...] Well, Bukowski is a really strange guy; it's almost impossible to agree with him. I was in my early twenties and I told him that I liked his poems. He answered that I must have a terrible taste.

Buk said the following:

Man, that night he wrote about me I was drunk, naturally, and screaming at all those professors and college kids "” 'babies, I look around the room and I see plenty of typers but I see no writers for you guys don't know what love is'"” oh boy, I was singing that night and Carver caught that.

I think one big difference is that Buk uses punctuation marks etc. very actively, while Carver doesn't. This gives Buk's piece more flow and rhythm than Carver's. Carver is a more "readerly" kind of writer. Buk's piece is more "talkable" spoken word or some such...
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the carver thing is interesting. can't recall first seeing it?

didn't think it to be flattering. sort of a polaroid, but in a way that says, this is what i see, but don't turn the camera back at me. which is still far more honest than most of carver's stature in literature said.

or should this be another bukowski myth? that 'establishment' writers don't give him due?

that is, even the new yorker review last year (posted hereabouts) maintained the picture of bukowski as a sort rod mckuen for the drinking set. maybe buk will transcend this one day to a level of maybe omar khayyam. who academics still do not much like but they understand he still captures people's hearts after 1000 years.
Great read!

So often when I mention Bukowski others mention Carver...
what did they make of each other?

I've not read anything by Carver.
Nothing memorable...
I hear he is good.
This poem also appeared in the Drinking with Bukowski book.
Let me toss my two cents' worth in ... I first read this in a really, really hilarious parody poetry collection called The Brand-X Anthology of Poetry. I would recommend it to anyone. My first edition was published by Apple-Wood Books in 1981 and several booksellers still have it on Amazon. The Carver parody of Bukowski, which literally had me crying with laughter when I first read it, is on page 304.
Interesting. Carver -- who I'm every bit as fond of as Bukowski, the Tess Gallagher/Gordon Lish controversy notwithstanding -- appears to be treating Bukowski here with equal measures of kindness and contempt. Also, the piece is just downright hilarious, as Harry notes, somewhat reminiscent of the annual Bad Hemingway contest.
olaf is indeed, alive and kicking and participating pretty regularly on LiteraryMary.

y'all are more than welcome to join if you want to use the private message feature there. ;)

good god, i'm pimping out olaf.
I was reading Bukowski's Reach for the Sun this morning and coincidentally came across his judgment of Carver:

"I never got much out of Carver and still can't quite see what the fuss is all about."

"Bukowski, drinking everything in sight, muttered, bragged, cursed, and, getting drunker by the minute, grabbed the girls and mashed his whiskery ace against theirs, or shot his hand to the crotch of their jeans or down their blouses. . . girls screamed and ran from the house. . . more cerebral students sat back and stared straing ahead, probably stoned. . . Ray started drinking."

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