How many admirers does Charles Bukowski have? It has exactly as many as he deserves.
Bukowski’s poetry is not for the faint of heart, because even when he is at his most delicate his lines hit you as if they were sledgehammers. They are the truths that most of us don’t want to see, the truths of the petrol and of the neglect, the truths of the suicidal and of the whores. His lines speak about the land of the seedy taverns and of the lucidity required to live in such a place.
Charles Bukowski is the poet of the absurd, because he sees where he lives and he accepts it. It is pointless from this perspective to try and see how he grew as a poet, because from one end to another he is just the same.
There is no clear straight line to be followed, just many back and forth movements, all of them speaking about the same America. And it isn’t a hidden country at all. We can see it – but, unlike the poet, we cannot accept it.
From this point of view, Charles Bukowski can be seen as repetitive and rather bland, so not just plain offensive. From this point of view, Charles Bukowski seems to be chained to the same topics and themes in each and every of his poems. It is as if, for example, he is an alcoholic trying each day to quit the bad habit, failing miserably each time.
But then again he has the freedom of trying again and again, in a different way than all of us: he has the lack of inhibitions that only alcohol can instill in a man. From this point of view, he is more authentic in his feelings/expressions/being than most of us, because he isn’t afraid to express again and again, in a different way each time, the same experiences.
In this way, the poet’s poems are the author’s life. We can see him in every line he wrote. And in every line, whether he is drunk, or fornicating, or in any other decadent state, he is much closer to a truth than any of us.
So, returning to the question with which I began this article, Charles Bukowski has as many admirers as he deserves. Those that are narrow-minded wouldn’t be welcomed anyway. We can accept that he spoke about America, or we can go and search for our own.