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

Discussion in 'All things Bukowski' started by Angus, Feb 28, 2006.

  1. 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
    FanteFreak and sugartorch like this.
  2. That's great. Which Carver collection is it from?
  3. Jesus, that's fucking fantastic.
  4. Mark,

    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.
  5. This poem also appeared in the Drinking with Bukowski book.
  6. Erik

    Erik If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski First 9 Redwood Original Unholy Ones

    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...
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 2, 2013
    FanteFreak and growing beard like this.
  7. 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.
  8. who is the girl who is talking about?
    linda king?
    someone know anything else about this great poem.
  9. That is so fuckin awesome I am even more speechless than usual.
    growing beard likes this.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. what happened to Olaf?
  14. I have assumed Olaf's identity. Bow to me.
  15. Gerard K H Love

    Gerard K H Love Appreciate your friends Men of Mayhem

    I saw evidence of Olaf at Literary Mary when I was checking that out. He's on the forum so vodka and a few others would know.

    Unless they killed him. He is a real life postman, you know.;)
  16. vodka

    vodka Miss Take SAMCRO

    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.
  17. Ambreen

    Ambreen Sordide Sentimental SAMCRO

    Thanks Angus!

    I was looking for it and was sure that someone would have posted it here :)
  18. 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."
  19. Erik

    Erik If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski First 9 Redwood Original Unholy Ones

    Song with the same title
  20. That's a classic. I have the version by Chet Baker. A bit too 'sweet' even for me.
  21. Ponder

    Ponder "So fuck Doubleday Doran" Live to Ride ROAD CAPTAIN

    "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."
    james, Erik and Bukfan like this.

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