Annual Charles Bukowski tribute set for March 9 at Wesley’sWritten by John Dorsey | | email@example.com
Walk into any chain bookstore and you’re sure to find at least a few titles by Charles Bukowski. Since his death in 1994, the famed poet, novelist, screenwriter and self-proclaimed dirty old man has been the recipient of countless tributes and honors. Toledo’s own tribute reading/open mic, now in its fourth year, is set to return to Wesley’s Bar & Grill at 7:30 p.m. on March 9, the anniversary of Bukowski’s death.
It is not an overstatement to say the world seems to have Bukowski fever. Everywhere you look you see his face immortalized on T-shirts, fliers and film posters. In 2003, he was the subject of the documentary “Bukowski: Born Into This.”
Ask a struggling young writer or aspiring hipster about Bukowski’s days as a barroom brawler and they will probably share a tale or two. They will talk about how he lived on cheap booze and borrowed time, or his exploits bedding less than discriminate women, or his love for betting on long shots at Hollywood Park. All of these have a little truth, but they are really just chapters of a larger story, pieces of a romantic myth that serve as fuel for today’s anti-heroes in training. They are really missing the point.
Henry Charles Bukowski was born Heinrich Karl Bukowski in Andernach, Germany, to an American soldier father and a German mother. The family moved to the United States when Bukowski was 3 years old. As a youth, he suffered from painful acne and frequent outbursts of rage from his alcoholic father, whom he would later write about in books such as “Ham on Rye” and “Love is a Dog from Hell.” Bukowski began his career writing short stories in the hope of penning the next great American novel, turning to poetry at the age of 35 after nearly bleeding to death in a charity ward.
From that point on, Bukowski’s story has one very common thread — hard work. By his own account, he not only wrote every day, but he sent his work out to publishers almost as often, so much so that by the 1960s he had become known as “The King of the Little Magazines.”
Bukowski wrote the newspaper column “Notes of a Dirty Old Man,” first for John Bryan’s alternative paper Open City and later for the Los Angeles Free Press. He also fathered a daughter, Marina Louise Bukowski, with former live-in girlfriend Frances Dean Smith, known around the poetry community simply as FrancEyE. He did this all while struggling to get by, before signing with John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press, around the ripe young age of 50.
Why do I mention all this? Is it because I’m a cynic who wants to rain on your parade? Maybe, but that’s only a small part of it; really it’s so you know who it is you are celebrating. Bukowski wasn’t the Justin Bieber of his day; he was no overnight celebrity. He didn’t want you to write like him and worship him at some large corporate altar.
He probably wouldn’t have even shown up to the tribute at Wesley’s or any other celebration in his honor. But if you value hard work and a sense of brutal honesty in literature as much as I do, you should turn off your laptop and come on down to share a favorite stanza or discover a new one. The reading is free and open to the public.
This is the part of my column where I would normally suggest a few books by the author, but just Google the man’s name; he releases more books dead than I do alive. Better yet, actually just walk into a bookstore.
Bukowski is survived by his daughter, grandchildren and his widow Linda Lee Bukowski, as well as one hell of a literary legacy.
Wesley’s Bar & Grill is located at 1201 Adams St. For more information, contact Michael Kocinski at (419) 283-0493, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time … keep your pencil sharp.
John Dorsey resides in Toledo’s Old West End. His work is widely published and has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize.
Cover illustration by Eagle & Wolf: www.eagleandwolf.net.