Even more surprising in this large collection are the number of poems characterized by fragility and delicacy; I’ve been reading Bukowski occasionally for 50 years and had not noted this before, which means I was most likely listening too closely to his critics. Our perceptions of Bukowski, like our perceptions of Kerouac, are muddied by the fact that many of his most ardent fans are nitwits who love him to the exclusion of any of his contemporaries. I would suggest you can appreciate Bukowski with the same brain that loves Wallace Stegner and Gary Snyder.
I've always avoided Bukowski. Don't know why really—some part just not getting around to it and some part about "perceptions...muddied by the fact that many of his most ardent fans are nitwits." Maybe, too, that I grew up around bars and drunks and houses falling down the hills of West Duluth and joined the Marine Corps and went to the University of Minnesota to get away from all that. Still, you are who you are: I remember, as a very little kid visiting my dad's father's place in Hammond, Indiana and seeing—and falling in love with—a gigantic bottle of Jim Beam or Jack Daniels (you could fit an Eisenhower half dollar through the mouth and it must have been two or three feet tall & it was all we could do to turn the thing over an empty all the coins out onto the cold, hard floors in our search for Indianhead and wheat and steel pennies, buffalo nickels and mercury dimes...): anyway, this gigantic bottle that went some ways toward pickling the old man had a life-size set of rubber tits molded around it. For some reason, whenever I think of Bukowski, I think of those rubber tits and booze and scrounging for pennies & their place in that haunted little 800 square foot house in Hammond on a sweltering July day.
So, yes: maybe it's time to go and read some Bukowski. Maybe even pour a couple of shots of Bourbon, too... it's hard to know what is necessary and what isn't—what's still working and what's fucked up beyond recognition—when you're playing in the Theater of the Soul. You shouldn't, really, be playing there—and it shouldn't be theater—but you do and it is. But isn't that part of Bukowski's thing? Or Mailer's or Hemingway's or Hunter S. Thompson's? To make the play inseparable from reality, each a back-door into the other. Of course, in each of those cases the door became locked and contained some pretty bad shit, but maybe that's just another part of the play... and the reality.