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POETRYETC  2005

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Subject:

Re: "so you want to become a writer?"

From:

Patrick McManus <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Poetryetc provides a venue for a dialogue relating to poetry and poetics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 24 Jul 2005 19:10:38 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Ken you cheered me up here ta old codger P

-----Original Message-----
From: Poetryetc provides a venue for a dialogue relating to poetry and
poetics [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kenneth Wolman
Sent: 10 July 2005 16:00
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: "so you want to become a writer?"

In principio...but tied to "If it don't holler..."

judy prince wrote:

>so you want to become a writer?
>  by Charles Bukowski
>  
>
There's the grain of common sense here, the grain of commitment, if fire 
in the belly.  But whether or not it was intended, "Buk" made the 
writing process sound like Allen Ginsburg's bullshit about "First 
thought, best thought."  Yes, it comes out unbidden, you don't want it, 
but there it is.  Well, Ginsburg's comment may have not been bullshit if 
it also accounts for what happens after the draft--the Snapshot, if you 
like--is on paper or onscreen.  After reading about Ginsburg's behavior 
at Naropa some years ago, I am about as likely to trust a word he says 
as I am to let a guy with C-4 strapped to him get a ride in my car.

>if you have to sit for hours
>staring at your computer screen
>or hunched over your
>typewriter
>searching for words,
>don't do it.
>  
>
Oh please.  Spare me this school of thought.  Undergraduate creative 
writing in 1971.  The idea of rewrite, of looking for THE word, was 
anathema.  "I gotta do what I feel, maaaaaan"  I can't help wondering 
whether Bukowski wasn't a hypocrite who probably revised his work until 
the ink bled off the page.

>if you're doing it for money or 
>fame, 
>don't do it.
>if you're doing it because you want
>women in your bed,
>don't do it.
>  
>
He's not wrong.  Then again, what do you set yourself up for but 
disappointment in the former case and self-disgust in the second: "What 
am I doing with this person??"  I don't know Bukowski's bio but I would 
not be surprised if he made some modest amount of money from his work 
and had his share of groupies.  Even ugly rock singers get laid a lot.

>if you have to sit there and
>rewrite it again and again,
>don't do it.
>  
>
A lie.  Revision, not "inspiration," is writing.  You may get lucky once 
in awhile on a first draft but not often.

>if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
>don't do it.
>if you're trying to write like somebody 
>else,
>forget about it.
>  
>
But EVERYONE writes like someone else.  That's how people learn.  By 
deliberate rip-offs.  Besides, there is a mental and spiritual line to 
cross, and once you've crossed it and you try to write like X, you will 
still sound like U.  It's too late to be anyone else.

>if you have to wait for it to roar out of you,
>then wait patiently.
>if it never does roar out of you,
>do something else.
>  
>
Yeah, ball one of the groupies in the next room.

>if you first have to read it to your wife
>or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
>or your parents or to anybody at all,
>you're not ready.
>  
>
Read them to who, then, Charles?  Go out on the hill in the dark, wave 
them at the Heavens, and say "Behold, the only thing greater than myself"?

>don't be like so many writers,
>don't be like so many thousands of
>people who call themselves writers,
>don't be dull and boring and
>pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
>love.
>  
>
Why would anyone else do this work except they are consumed with 
self-love, Charles?  To be of great service to tsunami or terror 
victims?  That's why I write poetry?  Maybe there is some positive 
effect down the line.  But if when I'm writing I'm not thinking about 
what I am doing, if I am not self-absorbed, THEN I am wasting my time.

>the libraries of the world have
>yawned themselves to 
>sleep
>over your kind.
>don't add to that.
>don't do it.
>unless it comes out of
>your soul like a rocket,
>unless being still would
>drive you to madness or
>suicide or murder,
>don't do it.
>unless the sun inside you is
>burning your gut,
>don't do it.
>  
>
How many different equally invalid ways can this man find to say the 
same thing?

If they don't holler, it ain't workin'....  He's right, actually.  I 
need the feeling of YEAH when something is going.  But the feeling of 
YEAH can come in a revision when I've hit the right words.  It could 
elude me before.  But Bukowski seems to be describing the entire 
creative act, start to finish.  First thought, best thought again.

Ken

-- 
Kenneth Wolman     http://kenwolman.com    http://kenwolman.blogspot.com
--------------------------------------
             "Only silence is shame."--Bartolomeo Vanzetti 

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