It is said that you cannot be a poet and drink Coca-Cola. Charles Bukowski knew this lesson, so that is why many legends started circulating about his love for alcohol – and, without a doubt, many of them are true.
But was it necessarily a vice that would have brought any other man’s downfall? Or did Charles Bukowski used alcohol deliberately, as a means of acceding to a higher understanding of things and, ultimately, of life itself? It appears so, because in many of his texts the poet doesn’t see alcohol as something that is by definition harmful.
On the contrary, many of times he said that alcohol is a means of escaping (don’t all alcoholics say so?) For example, he did say that drinking was a form of suicide, although a suicide from which you can come back after a night’s sleep. In a way, alcohol helps a man live a thousand lives – not literally, but in the way that it can make an experience seem like something new every day.
In other words, as Charles Bukowski said, alcohol shuts down obviousness and replaces it with something else. Yet again the same idea is stated, that monotony can be fought with a different kind of weapon, a weapon which will bring back mystery in our lives.
So, in a way, being a drunkard was Charles Bukowski’s defense mechanism (isn’t it the same for all the alcoholics?)
When drunk, the world was a kinder, friendlier place, and nothing could have made it appear this way. Ultimately, the fight will be lost. However, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be a beautiful fight – yet another reason why alcohol is a poet’s best friend.
Several times I have said that all alcoholics feel the same way and that Charles Bukowski wasn’t at all unique in his feelings. However, if some poets are alcoholics it doesn’t mean at all that all alcoholics are poets – but it sure does help. Ultimately, in his defense, I can say that he wasn’t addicted to alcohol, but to the new world he discovered.
I can add only one thing. This idea that spirits or other substances can open new doors of perception wasn’t new at all when Charles Bukowski wrote about it. However, the idea isn’t as important as how it is expressed, as the form it takes.
In the end, I can say that there was a time when a nut-case was taken to the nut-house. When asked by the orderly whether or not he will act crazy on the way, the nut said, it will be a beautiful kind of crazy.
We just need to be open-minded about everything.