Former San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman and poet Neeli Cherkovski remember life with the inimitable Charles Bukowski. The event took place at City Lights on the occasion of our publishing Portions From a Wine-Stained Notebook, a collection of unpublished essays and stories from the drunken bard, edited by David Calonne.
Charles Bukowski (1920-1994), one of the most outrageous and controversial figures of 20th-century American literature, was so prolific that many important pieces were never collected during his lifetime. Portions is a substantial selection of these wide-ranging works, most of which have been unavailable since their original appearance in underground newspapers, literary journals, even porno mags. Among the highlights are his first published short story, “Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip”; his last short story, “The Other”; his first and last essays; and the first installment of his famous “Notes of a Dirty Old Man” column. The book contains meditations on his familiar themes (drinking, horse-racing, etc.) as well as singular discussions of such figures as Artaud, Pound, and the Rolling Stones. Other significant works include the experimental title piece; a fictionalized account of meeting his hero, John Fante (“I Meet the Master”); an unflinching review of Hemingway (“An Old Drunk Who Ran Out of Luck”); the intense, autobiographical “Dirty Old Man Confesses”; and several discussions of his aesthetics (“A Rambling Essay on Poetics and the Bleeding Life Written While Drinking a Six-Pack (Tall),” “In Defense of a Certain Type of Poetry, a Certain Type of Life, a Certain Type of Blood-Filled Creature Who Will Someday Die,” and “Upon the Mathematics of the Breath and the Way”, revealing an unexpectedly learned mind behind his seemingly offhand productions.