Memorial reading honors BukowskiWritten by John Dorsey | | email@example.com
Some of the Glass City’s finest wordsmiths will once again pay tribute to the bard of the barstool on March 10 at The Attic on Adams for the aptly titled “Don’t Try: The Charles Bukowski Memorial Reading,” which is being hosted by Toledoan Ashley Eichner.
I have covered this event in the past and am happy to do so, but this year I want to take a different approach. I want to really examine the parting words Charles Bukowski left behind for future generations of readers. “Don’t try.”
What was he trying to say? Was he just being cryptic? Was he trying to be funny? While most people today tend to buy into literary folklore that often presents Bukowski as the uneducated and undisciplined poet laureate of skid row, the truth is he was anything but.
Sure, he didn’t finish college and he did roam around the country on a decade-long drinking binge that nearly resulted in his death in a hospital charity ward. That’s all on the surface.
Those who choose to look deeper know that beyond that there was also Bukowski the disciplined craftsman, a man so afraid of not writing every day that he just couldn’t stop, right up until those two little words on his tombstone. He did try, harder than most. Working full time at the post office by day, in his off hours he wrote thousands of poems that could be understood and appreciated by the working class and that in time came to be regarded as literary classics by some of the world’s most accomplished scholars.
I’ve always though that Bukowski was seen by some as undisciplined merely because he didn’t use big words; he didn’t write about Greek gods or flowers — unless they were dying. He chose to write with a common tongue. One of the main reasons I wanted to write about the memorial reading this year is so young readers who are just now coming to Bukowski’s work don’t get the wrong idea.
Bukowski wasn’t saying to put out sloppy work, he wasn’t saying you should care less about what you put your heart into — what I’ve always believed he was trying to say was to merely be yourself. You may have influences, including Bukowski, but just say it like you; tell your story in your own words. Be as honest as you can with your readers, if you’re fortunate enough to have a few, and be honest with yourself.
While I do think that Bukowski came to really embrace, enjoy and maybe even help craft the image of the mad drunk poet placed upon him by the reading public, he was well-read and I’m sure he would be the first to tell you to read more than just Bukowski. Anyone who has ever read books like “Ham on Rye” “Post Office” or “Love is a Dog from Hell” will tell you that Charles Bukowski cared about words — love him or hate him, the man had passion. That was his true legacy. He was a man of few words, the ones he felt mattered most.
The fun begins at 6 p.m. March 10 and is free and open to the public. The Attic is located at 1701 Adams St. above Manos Greek Restaurant.