Friday, March 7, 2008

Sifting through the madness for the Word, the line, the way

The following poem by Charles Bukowski is probably the most accurate and articulate commentary on Art - and Life for that matter -
that I have heard in a very long time. Enjoy.

So you want to be a writer?

If it doesn't come bursting out of you

in spite of everything,

don't do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your

heart and your mind and your mouth

and your gut,

don't do it.

if you have to sit for hours

staring at your computer screen

or hunched over your


searching for words,

don't do it.

if you're doing it for money or


don't do it.

if you're doing it because you want

women in your bed,

don't do it.

if you have to sit there and

rewrite it again and again,

don't do it.

if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,

don't do it.

if you're trying to write like somebody


forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of


then wait patiently.

if it never does roar out of you,

do something else.

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.

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.

the libraries of the world have

yawned themselves to


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.

when it is truly time,

and if you have been chosen,

it will do it by

itself and it will keep on doing it

until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

1 comment:

Dale Hobson said...

Hi James--re your question on my blog post "Until Telepathy," I can't find the Edward O. Wilson quote except as repeated by Hass in other coverage. Hass is new to me as well, and I plan to start with "Time and Materials."

As for Bukowski's poem on writing, some of my best and worst work is of the "bursting out" variety, and some of my best and worst work comes after long deliberation, rewrite, and prolonged dry spells. So there is no reliable rule that I can see. Bukowski's view does conform to many writers' sense of themselves as being possessed by their art, transported beyond mundanity. It reflects the high of writing, but much good came also come from the Chinese water torture, trench warfare grind of endless effort. Toward that view I submit Editing Old Poems Is Like a Cuban Taxi.