Daylight

I can’t write poetry in daylight. It can’t be done unless you know most people are asleep.

I was prompted into this by another blogger, here Concrete eyelashes and she is so right. It sent me scurrying off to find a comment by Bukowski I remembered in an interview.

“I never write in the daytime. It’s like running through the shopping mall with your clothes off. Everybody can see you. At night…that’s when you pull the tricks…magic.”

Personally, I write best when I’m half-asleep. In bed. I then have to get up and put it down or by morning all the energy gets sucked out of it.

I used to solve physics problems the same way. I could spend all day staring at it with no joy (and no point), but then would have a bolt of clarity when I was mostly unconscious. I remember one particularly intractable puzzle that no-one could make any headway with that resolved itself this way. The next day, as I set out the solution my tutor slowly crumpled up his notes with his other hand while I talked. It was fun to point up they’d been telling people wrong for years.

Finding that Bukowski interview drew me back to something else he said in it:

“I’ve never been lonely. I’ve been in a room — I’ve felt suicidal. I’ve been depressed. I’ve felt awful — awful beyond all — but I never felt that one other person could enter that room and cure what was bothering me…or that any number of people could enter that room.”

…which in turn reminded me of an interview I read with Lucie Brock-Broido where she starts by quoting Denis Johnson…

“Greetings. You will recover
or die. The simple cure
for everything is to destroy
all the stethoscopes that will transmit
silence occasionally. The remedy for loneliness
is in learning to admit
solitude as one admits
the bayonet: gracefully
now that already
it pierces the heart.”

…and then goes on to say…

“Of course we all admit the bayonet every day. Johnson makes vast presumptions: that people do admit the bayonet because most of us would spend most days of our lives attempting, precisely, to avoid such a piercing. But then he adds “gracefully.” Could there be a tearing less graceful? Here Johnson is saying that the impossible, the unavoidable, already pierces the hearts of all of us. I would venture to say most of us would not admit to trafficking in that trade or in that image of how we must lead our lives. It’s too painful.”

Of course, it is precisely that trade that all poets traffic in.

Especially, in the dark, in the night, while the world sleeps unawares.

Having said all that as a counterpoint I should report Bukowski’s closure to his interview, his thoughts on the process of interviewing itself.

“It’s almost like being caught in the corner. It’s embarrassing. So, I don’t always tell the total truth. I like to play around and jest a bit, so I do give out some misinformation just for the sake of entertainment and bullshit. So if you want to know about me, never read an interview. Ignore this one.”

Perhaps his best known poem is this one. I guess most of you will know it already.

Bluebird

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

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