Younger Bukowski vs. Older Bukowski

Discussion in 'Books, magazines, publications' started by vodka, May 9, 2008.

  1. vodka

    vodka Miss Take SAMCRO

    Do you find you prefer the writing of Bukowski from when he was younger vs. when he was older?

    Personally, I've found the writing he did when he was older, especially what I've read of posthumous publications, to be nothing short of brilliant.

    It's like lightly seasoned Bukowski aged to perfection. His wit seems sharper and his emotions fuller, for lack of a better word.

    I hope someone hasn't already started a thread like this.

    I'm really curious what the fans have to say in this regard.

  2. I'm sorry to say that many of the poems which appear in the posthumous publications were, in fact, written in the 60's and early 70's, meaning they were not written by the "older" Bukowski.
  3. I suppose it depends on where you draw the line of newer vs. older. As cirerita points out, a good number of the poems in the posthumous collections were written in the 60s and 70s. Of course, the 1970s could be considered by some to be part of the "newer" poems.

    To me, there seemed to be a style change sometime around the time BSP brought Buk in. Maybe that had something to do with writing his first novel. Certainly Buk's poems in the late 50s and through the 60s are different in many ways from a good deal of more recent poems. But, you can't really generalize too much, because much of the fresh originality found in his older poems is also in his more "recent" work.

    But to answer your question, my favorite books of poems are probabaly Burning in Water... (which collects a fair bit of old stuff), At Terror Street..., and The Days Run Away....

    Then again, Dangling... is great, as is The Last Night..., so, hell, what can I say?

    I will say that, from my opinion, his poems changed more over time than did his style of short story and novel writing. Of course, he wrote poetry for a much longer period of time. I suppose I have a slightly softer spot for the older stuff, but I can't say it's necessarily better the the more recent material.

    And that's my long-winded way of saying "no preference."
  4. I think B. style changed when he began fucking around the clock, and I mean it.
  5. Bukfan

    Bukfan "The law is wrong; I am right" Men of Mayhem Unholy Ones

    I think he made great poems when he was "young" as well as when he became "old". I can't say that I prefer a late collection like "Last Night of the Earth Poems" to that of, say, "Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame", which is a collection of early poems. I like both "periods" equally well.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 2, 2013
  6. Very true.

    The "younger" B. is more lyrical, mad, absurd, screaming and often kind of violently outbursting.

    The "older" B. seems calmer and more relaxed, but added with a kind of lived-through humor and wit. And somehow more concentrated on the "simple line". To me, that is.

    To choose would be difficult. If not impossible.
  7. Gerard K H Love

    Gerard K H Love Appreciate your friends Men of Mayhem

    I agree. Different but not better.
    I am reading The Days Runaway... And that was written when he was in his 40s. cirerita is right, he wasn't getting laid back then, which explains the mad, absurd, and screaming you mention.;)
  8. I think that there were three distinct periods in his poetry. You can certainly see them played out in the manuscripts (currently the only way to accurately date a lot of the work). See if you don't think this holds true:

    - 1955 - 1970, the early, more dense, "poetic," and sometimes abstract work.

    - 1970 to 1985 or so, during which time he was moving toward the spare style he used during the last decade of his life, but still spun out long, almost prose-like poems.

    - Mid 1980's - 1994, when he almost exclusively used the extremely short line style (that so many of his critics cite to say he couldn't write poetry, ignoring the previous 30 years of work).

    Like southwestern U.S. deserts, there is of course some overlapping, but generally, those are the periods as I see them.
  9. I would break it down this way (taking into account his prose as well):

    1) May 1940- April 1954

    2) April 1954 - Very early 1969

    3) Very early 1969 - 1977

    4) 1978 - 1982

    5) 1982-1986

    6) 1986-1994 (with a powerful surge in 1991).
  10. vodka

    vodka Miss Take SAMCRO

    i am aware of this, but am speaking more of what he held to be published posthumously which he wrote nearer to his death.

    i also find that i laugh more when reading the newer stuff and appreciate the spare style and short line. i think a lot of people who criticize poets for being minimalistic don't realize exactly how hard it is to do minimalism well.
  11. He didn't hold anything at all to be published posthumously. That was Martin's doing.

    You'd be surprised to learn how many early poems were short-lined and almost bare (despite the stronger "lyrical" voice).
  12. hank solo

    hank solo Just practicin' steps and keepin' outta the fights Vice President First 9 Reaper Crew ROAD CAPTAIN Unholy Ones

    I know what you mean, but it is hard to say one period is better than another. There are a lot of poems from the 60s and early 70s that I like, but also many of his later 70s and 80s and 90s stuff is great too. Obviously there are weaker ones in all periods of his writing life. But I'll take them along with the cream.
  13. vodka

    vodka Miss Take SAMCRO

    actually i'm pretty familiar with his line structure throughout his career, as i haven't only read the posthumous books. i actually started reading bukowski at age 15. love is a dog from hell was my first encounter. i'm 34 now.

    i think you might be wrong about that posthumous hold over... i mean, i could be wrong also... but there were i think three or four smaller books published and i could swear i remember reading in the intro that he had specifically asked that those particular pieces be held over for publication until after his death. i'll have to go dig in my library to be sure, though.

    anyhoo, don't get me wrong. i'm not saying there is no merit in the early work, i'm just saying i think he had developed a bigger range in his voice by the time he was closer to death and a larger sense of humor than when he was much younger.
  14. as a guideline to 'break down' the periods, i use his own forewords in 'Burning' (1974 - this one kinda shows to me, that he feels some change between the older ones, including 'Terror' and the next ones 'Days', 'Mockingbird' himself. - yes i am aware, that these contain lots of older ones too.) and in 'Roominghouse' (written 1987, referring to poems 1946-1966, showing how HE feels the difference between 'now' and 'then').

    then, there IS something to mjp's periods as well as to cire's.
    the 'break' around 1970 in obvious. (see cire's words: "B. style changed when he began fucking around the clock, and I mean it."

    only, i don't see such a big break in 1985/86, i'd date that 'break' somewhere around his moving to San Pedro, with some latency till he found his 'mature' style. (what cire has as 78-82. in other words: 'Dangling' to 'War')

    what i do find to be very underrated in his 'mature' work, is 'You get so Alone'.

    given all this, i'd period as follows:
    (all years are supposed to be seen as 'ca.'/'around' of course!)

    xx - 1955: very early work. classification nearly impossible.
    1955 - 1970: 'lyric' phase. deeply emotional and pessimistic.
    typical books: 'Burning in Water', 'Days run away'.

    1970 - 1973: latency from here to there.
    typical books: 'Burning in Water', 'Mockingbird'.

    1974 - 1977: the 'women'-era.
    typical books: 'Love is a Dog'.

    1978 - 1984: latency from here to there.
    typical books: 'Dangling', 'War all the time'.

    1985 - end: the mature period.
    typical books: 'You get so Alone', 'Last Night of the Earth'

    this would make 3 'typical' periods plus 2 'latency' periods.
    (not counting the early time before 1955, where he himself wouldn't call himself a 'poet' at all.)
  15. it's true that his later voice had some more, well, i like to call it 'maturity'. and from this comes, maybe, a bigger variety in a certain sense. and i don't think too many people here would question, his mature poems are sometimes great sources of wisdom. or conciliable statements to life. and maybe "his wit was sharper".

    but, i don't think his "emotions [were] fuller" in later years.

    - the EARLY poems (say, like in 'Roominghouse', 'Burning', 'Days' and 'Mockingbird') show a more DIRECT action, a more INVOLVED Emotion, than his mature work does. (of course! that's the natural way of developement.) but I'd MISS a lot, if i'd miss these old poems! these poems full of darkness and despair and desperation and suicide and hopelessness and depression and denial ...

    as well as i'd MISS his generous, sometimes even forgiving voice in later poems. his looking-back (sometimes with anger, sometimes with sentimentality). his grand overview over everything here ...

    i need both Bukowskis!
  16. It's All One Poem. Huh?
  17. Buk wrote everything from the beginning

    Not true that Buk "wrote poetry for a much longer period of time" than stories, essays and novels. His first published poem was "Hello" in the Summer 1946 issue of Matrix as well as the story "The Reason Behind Reason." In the Fall-Winter 1947 issue of Matrix he published both the poem "Voice in a New York Subway" and the story "Cacoethes Scribendi." He was ALWAYS writing BOTH poetry, fiction, and then later also essays. He himself of course is partially responsible for creating the myth of the "ten-year drunk" when he claims he wasn't writing ANYTHING. Of course, not true...:)
  18. He made no distinction when he sent his work to Martin - he sent everything. It's a common misconception that he indicated specific poems be held and published posthumously, but a misconception all the same. He didn't care.

    He knew he had a backlog of work with Martin, because Martin couldn't publish it as fast as he wrote it (and didn't publish all of it). He talked about that backlog being published after he died, and that may be where the idea that he "set aside" poems comes from.

    Smaller books? In comparison to what?! Ha.

    The collections got larger as time went on, and remained very large in the posthumous books. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a poet with as many really-god-damn-large collections as Bukowski. Most poets life's work could be contained in two or three of Bukowski's larger BSP editions.
  19. I like the stuff from the 70's on best.
    I think quitting working had a lot to do with the change in his style.
    And, as previously mentioned, getting laid more than regularly.
    The 50's and early to mid 60's stuff is a bit cluttered and too wordsy in places for me.
    You can see the same parallel in his letters too, between the Martinelli letters and say, the second half of Living On Luck.
    His writing seemed to calm down and mature quite a bit starting in the late 60's, and overall his batting average seemed to increase.
    Of course, he was also taking more swings.
  20. 1fsh2fsh

    1fsh2fsh I think that I think too much First 9 SAMCRO Unholy Ones

    Its defiantly a mood thing for me.I started reading somewhere in his middle years with "Love Is A Dog" in "78. when I'm feeling my age,slow and deliberate and being kind of civilized and retro/introspective (?!!) I like to read Buks later and posthumous stuff ("78 forward), easier to read and requires much less thought. it also kind of reflects my mental/social attitude now that I'm in my middle years :eek: but sometimes when the good juices flow, and I'm feeling wild(!!!) adventurous(!!) dangerous! young!!(er) I will pull out some of the early stuff. so ya, its a mood thing for me.
  21. vodka

    vodka Miss Take SAMCRO

    i agree with needing the older and the younger bukowski...

    ... the thing i remember reading... maybe it was written by his wife... i cannot remember. and yah, they were smaller posthumous books. i think there may have been three... titled 'New Poems 1, 2, etc...' I had all of them at one time but tend to loan them out dammit.

    does anyone know what i'm talking about??? is anyone familiar with this particular intro because now it's driving me crazy...
  22. hank solo

    hank solo Just practicin' steps and keepin' outta the fights Vice President First 9 Reaper Crew ROAD CAPTAIN Unholy Ones

    The 'New Poems 1, 2 etc' books were the posthumous Virgin Books editions from the UK. I don't have them though so I don't know what the intros may have said...
  23. For me the biggest difference between old and new poems is the heavy reliance on both metaphor and surrealism in the very early work. He later dropped both 'devices' and picked up concision and humour.

    Of course there is considerable overlap, so 'dropped' may be too strong a word.

    And I deliberately avoid the question, as I have no answer.
    I don't prefer one over the other.
  24. There was humour in the very early stuff -"a little atomic bomb" comes to mind now- and there were a lot of bare, metaphor-less poems as well. But B. was trying to find his voice and he was using different registers -even a few "rhymers".

    With a guy so prolific and rich (as a writer), it's almost useless to label him or the different periods he apparently went thru'.

  25. This breakdown perfectly defines my own feelings, always regarding what cirerita said in his last post:

    "There was humour in the very early stuff -"a little atomic bomb" comes to mind now- and there were a lot of bare, metaphor-less poems as well. But B. was trying to find his voice and he was using different registers -even a few "rhymers".

    --> And, another thought: Using this (mjp's) breakdown regarding the numerous infamous Bukowski-imitators, doesn't it seem like they are all or mainly somehow imitating the last period (80's-something til '94) ? In terms of style? And therefore ignoring the "previous 30 years of work" as well?

    I have never read anybody trying to imitate the sound or content of, let's say, Crucifix in a Deathhand (the poem).

    So, resumed: Would you say that the "older" B., the B. of the last period is somehow much more present in the, let's call it: general public, than the younger one?
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 2, 2013
  26. I didn't say there was no humour in the early collections.
    Nor did I say he did not have bare-boned stuff in there too.
    I used my words deliberately. I say 'heavy reliance' because he used these elements much more in the earlier works. He later cut back on them dramatically and we see a much lighter and humorous Bukowski later on. Less dense, less 'poetic' and more conversational.

    And, yes, while it may be almost useless to try to label Bukowskis periods, we are certainly doing no harm by shooting the shit about it.
  27. Gerard K H Love

    Gerard K H Love Appreciate your friends Men of Mayhem

    Yes, so true. This reminds me of what Father Luke wrote the other day about himself " I'm a genre." and I add, like Bukowski, a very broad genre.
  28. A couple things; it's easier to find the work of the later periods (especially at big chain bookstores, who gravitate toward the more recent and well known titles), and it's easier to imitate the later plain-language style than it is to imitate something like At the End of Feet the Blackbird Walks (from Crucifix...).

    The older stuff takes a little effort - or a few readings - to appreciate sometimes. But the later stuff is much more accessible. Everyone who reads it thinks, "This is poetry? I can do this!"

    I know I did. ;)
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2013
  29. Bugger. I have Vol's 2 and 3, but not 1. There are no intros to 2 and 3.

    Now that would make a great name for a band.:D
  30. I almost entirely disagree with that :D

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