Thursday, January 6, 2011

Quote du Jour: A Poet's Confession

I was just sitting here, reading Charles Bukowski’s introduction to Notes of a Dirty Old Man, the 1969 collection of his pieces for the Los Angeles underground newspaper, Open City. Bukowski was waxing enthusiastic about the freedom given him to write and publish absolutely anything he wanted to as a columnist for Open City. During the course of this he writes something that brought to mind a slightly controversial exchange I had with members of my online writers group. In that exchange I had voiced my reasons for being content to share my poems only on my blog, or on Facebook, where I have pretty much total control over them. I explained that the effort necessary to be successful in “getting published” was not worth the frustrations involved. Nor was the payoff for that success great enough to change one’s life.

It therefore amused to me to read Bukowski saying the following about writing his column for Open City:

For action, it has poetry beat all to hell. Get a poem accepted and chances are it will come out 2 to 5 years later, and a 50-50 shot it will never appear, or exact lines of it will later appear, word for word, in some famous poet’s work, and then you know the world ain’t much. Of course, this isn’t the fault of poetry; it is only that so many shits attempt to print and write it.

Btw, this introduction also contains the following paragraph:

It’s all very strange. Just think, if they hadn’t airbrushed the cock and balls off the Christ child, you wouldn’t be reading this. So, be happy.

Dig it. What Charles said.


Inspired by Chinua said...

At the end of the day I think it all boils down to why to write. Lots of politics behind publishing and as you pointed out in the end, your work is no longer yours.

Rodak said...

True. In fact, it's no longer in your control once you have submitted it. That's why I prefer to just post it.

Katley said...

I wonder how many great poets get discovered and published after they die. This was food for thought.

Mad said...

I feel you on the total control thing, Rodak. This is a glorious time to self-publish (until this Administration starts feeling its neo-Cheneyesque oats in the name of "securing the country" and doing a Chinese-like registration to have an Internet account; but hey, I warned you about black politicians and preachers and their propensity for fascism on that other guy's blog, many moons ago).

The Net has made it possible for any poet, great or small, "talented" or "untalented" to (in the words of Fleetwood Mac) "go their own way."

With blogs, personal domains, print-to-demand services like, etc. a person subjects herself to publishing politics only because she wants to. I've helped numerous self-publishing poets and novelists put out their own work since the advent of personal laser printing and "Desktop Publishing" in the late 1980s, through the PC and service bureau price revolution of the 1990s, and up to today's ubiquitous Net resources.

Of course, that means that there are tens of thousands more voices clamoring for reading public eyeballs than was the case in the age of literary and editorial cock-blocking from Big Media and Big Publishing; but such is the nature of freedom, democracy and competition.

Today's writers need to learn the fine art of self-promotion (not just or only in a commercial sense, but even in a strictly non-commercial, Web 2.0, social-networking sense). The Big Publishing conglomerates are going to die off anyway, like the useless mainstream press, and they will feel the effects of greater individual publishing freedom (and the disappearing audience for their haughty wares).

irenic cannon said...

i got a story published and won a cash prize last year but the editor gave it a new title without asking me which kind of bothered me - he also edited my bio

like many of his era, i feel an alternating "i told you so" about bukowski since i introduced him to people 30 or 30 years ago who said he sucked and a dislike of his work since he's become "popular"

how many movies made about him now? 3 i guess, i can think of...

i know the article to which you refer, but doesn't he call that mag "open p@#$%" somewhere?

Rodak said...

I'm not a major Bukowski aficionado. I like him in small doses.

Rodak said...

Blogger had sent your comment to the spam folder... I guess you need to change your moniker! >:o}

The thing is, self-promotion is precisely the thing for which I have zero appetite. If I self-publish online, as you say, I'd have to do that, or nobody would be reading it.
By just posting, I'm assured that a small number of people at least will see it, read it, comment on it, and share their writings with me.
This is enough to stoke my ego. Or fits my energy level. Or succcumbs to my fear of rejection--however you want to look at it...