On my walk yesterday, I got thinking about this quote by Charles Bukowski.
If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start.
This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation.
Isolation is the gift.
All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it.
And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds.
And it will be better than anything else you can imagine.
If you’re going to try, go all the way.
There is no other feeling like that.
You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire.
You will ride life straight to perfect laughter.
This quote has always pulled at me. That… “go all the way” challenge. Simple to see the pull for me – I NEVER think I am working hard enough, doing well enough, going deep enough…
But I thought I might lay it out here and see what you all think about it.
See, sometimes Bukowski really BUGS me. He pisses me off, actually. He is one of those guys – y’know, the guys we were all reading when we were in our twenties. Bukowski blurs in, for me, with some of the Beats – Keroac and Burroughs -the swaggering boys of excess…drink and drugs and sex and beatitude – “be out there“, “be real”…
It appeals, of course – trying to find the way through to that … LINE. That perfect line of poetry, of wisdom, of truth. Trying to bash our way through to that perfect rhythm word groove – clickety-clack, tappety-tap, the burning wave of words falling tripping off the tongue. That line that we can almost taste but never quite reach.
Maybe we need to sneak up on it.
Anyhow – those swaggering guys with all their pronouncements and their certainty that their way was the not only the BEST way, but the only REAL way. Dismissing so many other ways in their friggin’… Holden Caufield stance of superiority where everyone else is just a big phony… ok, ok… stop throwing stuff… I know there is more to HOLDEN than that – but you get my drift, yah?
The only BEAT I dig is Ginsberg.
But Bukowski… he sticks with me. He haunts me and he BUGS me.
I turn his words over in my mind.
I think… “Really? Really? Did you TRY ALL THE WAY, mister drunkypants? Wouldn’t ALL the WAY mean stopping the drinking for a BIT and seeing what words came then? Did you really do this? Were you free? Were you honest? Maybe you were. I know you had some beautiful runs. Maybe I need to read you again and see what I think NOW. Maybe I will.”
I can see that this somewhat cranky response is defensive.
It’s quite the gauntlet he throws down for us.
And it rings true. Of course it does.
All the best writing is dangerous.
And it will cost us to put on the page and send it into the world.
Lordy don’t I know THAT.
And, he is right about the ecstasy too.
The moments when the words come out in a torrent riding a wave of rage or beauty. And the opposite. The slow words, hunched over, turned in our hands like stones used to make a level place to stand. Moved here and there. Bumping up against each other. Slipping into place. Slipping out of place.
Til we finally lean back and LOOK and say, “Yes. That’s it.” And we look at the clock and hours have gone by and we have made a thing we are proud of. And we are SPENT. In a good way.
Bukowski – if his own word can be believed, pumped out 3-4 stories per week. All while reeling from bar to bar. Now, I don’t really know if that is true. I need to find me a good biography of the man and find out.
However, whenever, he wrote the stories and the poems — the man had a VOICE that’s for sure.
What do you think?
Oh there is so much I would like to talk with you about.
Here’s to flaming nights and perfect laughter.
Thanks for stopping by.
go easy -p