Sunday, September 25, 2011

Commentary on Charles Bukowski's "Be Angry at San Pedro"

Charles Bukowski [ source --]

Be Angry at San Pedro

I say to my woman, "Jeffers was
a great poet. think of a title
like Be Angry At The Sun. don't you
realize how great that is?

"you like that negative stuff." she

"positively," I agree, finishing my
drink and pouring another.
"in one of Jeffers' poems, not the sun poem,
this woman f---s a stallion because her
husband is such a gross spirit. and it's
believable. then the husband goes out
to kill the stallion and the stallion
kills him."

"I never heard of Jeffers," she

"you never heard of Big Sur? Jeffers
made Big Sur famous just like D. H. Lawrence
made Taos famous. when a
great writer writes about where he
lives the mob comes in and takes

"well you write about San Pedro," she

"yeah," I say, "and have you read the
papers lately? they are going to construct
a marina here, one of the largest in the
world, millions and billions of dollars,
there is going to be a huge shopping
center, yachts and condominiums every-

"and to think," my woman says smiling, "that you've only
lived here for three years!"

"I still think," I say,
changing the subject,
"you ought to read Jeffers."

The inevitable corrupting influence of poetry on the landscape.

Jeffers’ poem, Be Angry At The Sun, he acknowledges the inevitable, though corrupting, cosmic decay of the world. Empires come and go, they reach a peak of excellence, then they descend into oblivion.
In this poem, Bukowski laments the commercialization of San Pedro.

According to him, poets describe places, make them famous. But, when a poet makes a place famous, then “the mob” comes in a takes over.

What does “mob” mean? It implies crime, destruction, dilapidation. It applies the trampling of fair grounds by the crude, uneducated masses.
Follow the scenario:
1. A poet writes a poem, or many poems, about his home town.
2. People, the mob, read these poems.
3. The poetry makes the place famous.
4. People want to visit this place, live in it.
5. They then commercialize it by building homes and bringing their boats. How else could it be, since commerce is inevitable when people come together.
6. This commerce ruins the poetic (sic) beauty of the region.
7. So, it would seem, when a poet praises his home town, he spreads news of its beauty around the world. Then the community arrives and makes it less pristine, more pedestrian.
8. One could argue, then, that poets inevitably deflower the places that inspire them so much.
9. Worst of all, it would seem that this process of decay is inevitable, anyway, based on the resigned cynicism of Jeffers’ poem.
10. This poem is an indict of the commercial, read bourgeois, spirit that animates and creates communities.
11. Irony: Bukowski decries the development of cities, yet these places would not exist, and therefore there would have been no poems written, if commerce, “the mob”, did not make this place come about by Spontaneous order.
12. Poets should stop talking about the corrupting influence of commerce. Poets forget that the language they use is a product of commerce, of tradition. When “the masses” move it, it makes culture possible.
13. Bukowski is one more arrogant intellectual/artist. He needs the masses in order of his work to be published and read.
14. This is one codependent relationship: Poets despise the masses, despise commerce, despise population growth, but at the same time they need to reach out the community in order to survive, persist, and have any fame.
15. Besides, I do not thin that Big Sur or Taos were given over to the mob. A lot of people have not even heard of Big Sur of Taos!
16. Moreover, the Taos and Big Sur described by the poets is far less than the Taos and Big Sur of everyday reality and nature. Poets need to understand that their one view of a locale is limited at best in capturing the full scope of a region.
17. These modern poets have forgotten how limited, and ultimately unique, is their point of view on anything. Unique is a good thing, certainly, but not by any means final, or imposing. And thus we have the politicization of poetry, an insistence by some that their poetry, their view of the world is not only accurate, but more appropriate than other people's say.
18. They want to be heard, but at the same time they want to avoid being understood, for fear of becoming property of the masses.
19. They have forgotten the old adage of Alexander Pope: ”Shakespeare wrote for gold, and not for fun.” Shakespeare, with or without question, is the greatest playwright in the English language. His work spoke to many people at many levels, for that was the surest way to ensure that all sorts of people would come to his plays. His appeal, his reach, therefore, had to be universal. He spoke to the deepest humanity which exists in all of us, and yearns to be free. Nowadays, it seems that instead of speaking this deep rooted impulse, wild and eternal, poets want to dictate to the world how it should feel, what is should do, how it should act, and certainly how it should think.
20. Another problem with Bukowski's shabby elitism. He crudely summarizes Jeffers' poem about the Indian and the Stallion as “She f---s a stallion.” His appraisal of Jeffers is itself very vulgar, yet he has the audacity to condemn the masses, the mob for degrading entire cities.
21. How interesting, Bukowski's poetry conveys a cohesive genius by betraying his own short-sighted conceit. These poets want to seem smarter, wittier, more in tune with reality, but they are just as trapped as the rest of us. Oh, how I relish reading Pope's Essay on Man. He had a sense of humility, channelled into taut couplets and an epigrammatic wit which writers to this day still can not emulate to any great effect.
22. And now we can descant against the wild free verse which plagues modern poetry. This sophomoric insistence on charting one's own course merely undermines the very freedom they are trying to assert for themselves. By restricting oneself to a rhyme scheme and a rhtyhm, a poet stands a better chance of conveying himself and the truth around him.
23. The blight of modern poetry, as inferred from Bukowski's poem, and the crux of San Pedro's problem, and of all modernity for that matter, is this preachy, preening self-awareness, this self-imposed expectation to better than one's peers, one's ancestors, and one's previous examples. This notion of what “should be” versus what is, and the tension which catches up and contradicts poets, people, and populations.

No comments:

Post a Comment