To celebrate this month’s release of Essential Bukowski: Poetry by Charles Bukowski, we’ve rounded up the gang to share their favourite lyrics from this compact yet comprehensive collection. Some of us are first time Bukowski readers, some are longtime devotees. Wherever you are in your Bukowski journey, these four poems will ease you in (or shock you to the core) to the brilliance of a Los Angelino legend.
he came to the door one night wet boney beaten and
a white cross-eyed tailless cat
I took him in and fed him and he stayed
got to trust until a friend drove up the driveway
and ran him over
I took what was left to a vet who said, “not much
chance . . . give him these pills and wait . . . his backbone
is crushed, it was crushed once before but somehow
melded, if he lives he’ll never walk again, look at
these x- rays, he’s been shot, look here, the pellets
are still in him . . . also, he once had a tail, somebody
cut it off . . .”
‘As a half-Scot who grew up in darkest Argyll, I have a certain fondness for Burns Night, and over the years I’ve seen celebrations of the birthday of Scotland’s best-loved poet take many different forms: rowdy gatherings of hungry friends roasting enormous trays of foil-wrapped haggises (to be solemnly addressed before eating); energetic thrashing around the dance floor at a ceilidh (though you can do this any time of year, of course); and I’ll always remember the time my dad made us all listen to his version of Tam O’Shanter for weeks on end in preparation for his own upcoming Burns Night recital. Read more…
‘I hope that it adds up to a new way of thinking about who we have been, and who we are now’
Andrew Marr’s new book, We British: The Poetry of a People is out now, published by 4th Estate Books. The British have never had a musical tradition to rival that of Russia or Germany; or the gloriously exuberant architecture of Paris or Rome; or the coherent worldview of classical China. What they have had is the richest and most remarkable tradition of poetry of any major culture. This book is an attempt to use British poetry as the framework for a kind of alternative epic, the story of what it was like to be British, told through poetry, and sometimes through the stories of the poets.
Yesterday we published Erik Didriksen’s fantastic anthology of Shakespearean spins on pop songs, Pop Sonnets. Last night Erik’s sonnets were featured on Simon Mayo’s BBC Radio 2 Drivetime show, to celebrate National Poetry Day. Five hilarious sonnets were read out by actors, accompanied by atmospheric lute playing. You can listen to them here.
As part of our music-themed month on the blog, we’ve been asking our authors to talk us through four songs that have in some way shaped their writing. Erik Didriksen, whose Pop Sonnets blog sent the Internet into throes of mirth, is publishing a collection of his musical verse with 4th Estate this autumn. Here he talks us through four songs that just begged for an Elizabethan makeover…