Friends With Charles Bukowski

New York City, 1999

Upon learning the news that his book would not be coming out after all, the poet proceeds to inundate his editor with letters. In them he boasts how famous he is, that he was ‘friends with Charles Bukowski’, and how he is going to end the editor’s career. He goes as far as including a photocopy of ‘Calvin’ of, ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ fame, with the added headline ‘The Most Annoying People In The World’, in which he writes the editor’s name underneath and includes it with a letter expressing his intense dissatisfaction.

The editor reads it and laughs but is stunned that a man of his years would stoop to such a thing. He doesn’t care. In fact, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass how ‘famous’ the poet says he is. He doesn’t care if he was ‘friends with Charles Bukowski’.

The editor knows the poet’s work well, has been a fan for quite a few years. He isn’t as well known as most poets but he’s well known among the underground poetry scene, been kicking around for longer than the editor has been alive. The editor loves the power of his poetry, which mostly concerns the plight of the common man, much like his ‘friend Charles Bukowski’.

The editor previously explained to him that he simply didn’t have the money to put out his book. His poetry press is run on a shoe string — hand made, photocopied affairs which he finances himself, without ever asking writers for a dime. Like most small press operations, they are a labor of love. There is no financial award. The money simply isn’t there. The editor has rent and bills to pay, which leaves him with only a pittance for food and other luxuries. The poet has been around the scene long enough to know this but he doesn’t care. He demands that his book be published, calls the editor ‘classless’ and all other kinds of names. Again he, for the third time in the same letter, tells the editor that he was ‘friends with Charles Bukowski’. Exclamation point.

The poet doesn’t need the editor. The poet has a new book published virtually every other month by a whole score of small presses who are more than willing to publish them. The editor knows that any other editor would jump at the chance to release one of his poetry collections.

Annoyed, the editor decides to write the poet back, sends a revised version of the drawing the poet sent him, like any editor would do, mocking him for acting like an infant, needling him about how his ‘concern for the common man’ ended at the doorstep of his personal literary ambitions. He chides him for his boasts of ‘fame’ and name dropping Bukowski three times throughout his diatribe. ‘If you’re so ‘famous’, the editor writes, ‘why bother with a nickel and dime operation like me?’ He concludes the letter with a suggestion that the poet go fuck himself.

Needless to say, the editor burns that bridge, not that he cares.

It turns out that his ‘friend Bukowski’ had once written a scathing poem about him for all the world to see.

More than a decade and a half later, the poet is still doing his thing, still writing, still trying to make his way through the labyrinth of the literary world. The editor no longer edits, turned his attention to his writing, continues to navigate the very same labyrinth as the poet.

Neither one of them are known to the world at large, which is the comedy of the whole affair.

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