Charles Bukowski

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RAR accepted my poem “Call in the Ents”, and shortlisted it for their Charles Bukowski Poetry Prize!

Unlike most, I came to Bukoswki not via Ham on Rye (that followed soon enough) but rather Hollywood, recommended by a film professor I admired.  She was Chinese, with a soothing accent and a down-to-earth glamour that included casual name drops (“I was talking to Wim on the phone the other night…..  Bianca was over, we were sharing a pizza…”).

In high school I’d stumbled upon the Warhol Diaries and was instantly hooked.  The combo of catty gossip, weird details about daily food intake, and high art was somehow irresistible.   Marty and Liza appearing on his doorstep all coked up after he’d arrived home via taxi ($5.70) and was ready for bed…  too delicious.

Warhol died his existentially sickening hospital accident death the same year the film “Barfly” came out.  I was a big Faye Dunaway* fan and especially loved her in this one for being “old,” drunk in a way that women weren’t really supposed to be, and not always pretty.   Hollywood came into my life soon after, contextualizing the film and a perfect fit to fill the lonely gap left by the Diaries.

It took me down the Bukowski rabbit hole; eventually I plowed through most of his fiction (those satisfyingly thick paper covers, a bit expensive, but worth saving for or seeking out second hand) and landed on his poetry.

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This is one of the pages I’d at some point dog-eared from  Love is a Dog From Hell.  The circumstances long escape me, and the book itself was hard to locate on my shelf.

It was stacked rather randomly between Kafka/Calvino and a three-channel video installation I’d made in the early 90’s called There’s a Last Time for Everything, title taken from a series of cautionary billboards along the highway between Vegas and the Hoover Dam.  Further complicating things, that part of the shelf was hidden behind this framed 8×10 photo of my parents (unmarried at the time but enmeshed  in a longterm , Mad Men-style secretary-boss affair) at Coney Island in 1959, ten years before I was born.

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By coincidence, “there’s a last time for everything” reappears in my “Ents” poem, though not by accident.  I think about those billboards quite a lot.

      *Mickey Rourke, not so much, though he was inarguably great in Barfly.  I met him once at a club in NYC; he was shifty and sketchy.  I was hanging out with a friend/potential boyfriend; a rich, socially plugged-in black kid — a film school connection?  He was taking a meeting with Mickey in a green room and brought me along (via limo with champagne), trying to impress each of us, I imagine.  I was having none of it. 

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