Charles Bukowski and the Japanese Garden

Share Button


Charles BukowskiWhen you run a Charles Bukowski fan site you end up finding out all kinds of things about the old guy you never knew.

Like, for instance, that Bukowski used to go hang out in the recently reopened Japanese Garden at The Huntington Library, in San Marino.

The Huntington, fans may recall, recently exhibited Bukowski manuscripts, and various ephemera (such as his typewriter and the radio on which he listened to classical music while he worked), in an exhibition called Charles Bukowski: Poet on the Edge.

This comes from an article in the Glendale News-Press:

The tranquil garden was a favorite stop for tough-guy poet Charles Bukowski after a day at Santa Anita. The ability to soothe that savage beast is proof positive of the site’s calming and restorative powers.

Here we see the well worn portrayal of Bukowski as tough old bastard, raging through life, which, while it holds some truth, is only a fraction of the true story of his personality.

Bukowski could be quite soft spoken and tranquil, as witnessed in numerous interviews. Still, if you asked most people to close their eyes and picture Charles Bukowski, they wouldn’t place him in the setting of a Japanese Garden.

Charles Bukowski & Buddhism

This revelation is made less surprising, however, by recalling that he took a real interest in Buddhism later in life. His funeral was even presided over by Buddhist Monks.

The influence was strong enough to show up in his work, as well, such as in his poem “As Buddha Smiles”:

as Buddha smiles

the ladies in blue and green and red,
the ladies in all their colors,
circle about.

there is nothing quite like
the arrogance of a
beginning writer
unless it is the conceit
of
a successful
one.

anger
is but a mask
that covers
nothing.

looking at her
sitting at the bar

she’s the best thing
in sight:

silent, blazing,
nowhere.

the same sun
mixed and grinding
dancing toward what’s left of your
mind.

I keep pondering the
imponderable.
Adam and Eve without belly buttons?
and if so, why?

at times
small children
wake up screaming
as something
leaps toward them
that they have never
seen
before.

if we can laugh, fine.
if we’ve got to cry, we’ve
got to cry.

summer followed summer
flea fucked flea
as my parents
prepared themselves for an
early grave.

the 3 a.m.
radio sings
as a
squadron
of diminutive
flying bugs now
rush in to
keep me
company.

as the swans circle
the truly damned are the
truly talented
as the swans circle
the truly talented are the
truly damned
as the swans circle.

it’s easier
to write a symphony
than it is to love
and respect
your neighbor.

head down
sitting by the
fireplace
staring at my
shoes
as the wife tells me
how well I’m
doing.

anybody can be a genius
at 25. at 50, it takes
some
doing.

I think of Li Po
so
many centuries ago
drinking his wine
writing his poems
then
setting them
on fire
and sailing them
down the river
as the emperor
wept.

I light another cigarette
and wait patiently for lady
luck to
arrive.

we’ve just got to get rid of
all those poor souls
who eat pizza and go to
baseball games.

I shot the cat
stole a webster’s dictionary
and ate a green apple.

the same sun
mixed and grinding
dancing toward what’s left of your
mind.

O my God
all that blue sky
senseless

I take my prickly heart and
throw it away
as far into the dark as possible and
laugh.

I am
like a bug
a dog
a flower.

the knife cuts into the
sun.
the plate
breaks.
the cat yawns.

the once young
hero has grown
old
as Buddha
smiles.

Whether Bukowski felt any spiritual desire to spend time in The Huntington Library’s Japanese Garden, or if he simply liked the calm and quiet after experiencing the loud, swirling mass of humanity of the track, is anyone’s guess.

But if nothing else, true devotees now have another stop to make on their Bukowski pilgrimages. Now that it is once again open to the public after a year long renovation project, fans can go check it out and picture the old man strolling along the pebble path, celebrating a victorious day, or soothing the wounds of failure.

Leave a Reply

Google+