They say behind every genius lies a tragic story. Sometimes these tragic stories become science discoveries, inventions that change lives and sometimes, they transform into the most beautiful poetry the world has ever seen; that my friends, is the poetry of the great Charles Bukowski, one of America’s most prolific poets of all time.
Born Heinrich Karl Bukowksi on August 16, 1920, Charles had a very rough childhood. He was born in Germany and was brought to America when he was only two years old. His father is a firm believer of straight discipline and he would often beat Charles and his mother, even for the simplest offense. Charles’ school life wasn’t so good either because he was bullied by bigger kids his age. He also had a hard time with girls because no one would even look at him because he had a very bad complexion.
It was in 1939 when Bukowski decided to leave his Los Angeles hometown and drop out of college to move to New York City. It was in the beginning of World War II and he tried to make it as writer in a new city. He spent so many years writing, travelling and receiving a lot of rejection slips from various magazines and newspaper companies. Because of his series of failures, young Bukowski gave up on writing and just decided to do something else; by something else he meant almost destroying his life completely by drinking too much.
After coming back to Los Angeles, Charles began writing again. He was thirty five years old when his writing career actually began and unlike all the other writers of his time, he started publishing in underground newspapers. His works became popular through word of mouth because the main character of his stories which he named Henry Chinaski, is so relatable. There was so much rawness and truth in this character that people are beginning to see themselves in this semi-autobiographical character that Bukowski has created. In 1955, Bukowski was treated from near-fatal bleeding ulcer and after his release from the hospital, he began writing poetry and his alcohol addiction became worse.
Charles Bukowski wrote more than 40 books of poetry, novels and prose. His most popular novel is entitled “Women” which tells the story of a man’s crazy and unusual love and sex life. His books of poetry are widely popular since they all have a taste of satirized machismo with stories that dwell in alcoholism, poverty and bad experiences. He is known to make himself the hero of his stories without trying to look good and no sugar coating of anything whatsoever. He used his bad experiences and made them sound as bad they really are, and in turn, readers and critics alike found his work honest and straight to the heart. It was as if his hands popped out of his book and ripped your heart out into pieces.
I haven’t read all of Bukowski’s works, especially his novels because I’ve been captivated by his poetry for some time now. His writings are so different from all the other poets I’ve read and his words will really stick to you no matter how unremarkable the words he used are. He’s not even trying to impress you with big words. It’s just conversational and it feels real. And that’s the reason why he is one of the best poets because he knows how to word out emotions without pretense. My most favorite Bukowski poems are “So You Want To Be A Writer” -the poem I read to myself every time I feel like quitting and “Roll The Dice”- the poem I read to myself before I start to do anything.
Charles Bukowski died of pneumonia on March 1994, but his works continue to inspire and affect readers of young and old with stories as real as the scars on our skin. He may be gone but Bukowski’s words and poetry will live on forever.