Art is Art and Art should be its own hammer

I finished Charles Bukoswki's "On Writing" recently and here are some quotes from that book that I liked. Maybe you will also! I put a few of them in bold because those are ones we need to print out and post all around our typewriters, laptops, notebooks, etc.

For my money, everything went to hell with World War 2. And not only the Arts. Even cigarettes don’t taste the same. Tamales. Chili. Coffee. Everything’s made of plastic. A radish doesn’t taste sharp anymore. You peel an egg and, invariably, the egg comes off with the shell. Pork chops are all fat and pink. People buy new cars and nothing else. That’s their life: four wheels.

I’m not one to look back on wanton waste as complete loss—there’s music in everything, even defeat.

It’s either a poem or a piece of cheese.

A man’s soul or lack of it will be evident with what he can carve upon a white sheet of paper.

What have they done but camouflage themselves behind the fa├žade of Art, think up the name of a magazine, get it listed and wait for submissions from the same 2 or 3 hundred tired names that seem to think they are the poets of America because some 22 year-old jackass with a bongo drum and a loose 50 dollar bill accepts their worst poetry.

There are false poets in all schools, people who simply do not belong. But they eventually disappear because the forces of life absorb them with something else. Most poets are young simply because they have not been caught up. Show me an old poet and I’ll show you, more often than not, either a madman or a master.

There we were, a shipping clerk and a janitor discussing theories in aesthetics while all about us men drawing 10 times our salaries were lost out on the limb reaching for rotten fruit. What does this say for the American way of life?

I am a dangerous man when turned loose with a typewriter.

It’s when you begin to lie to yourself in a poem in order to simply make a poem, that you fail. That is why I do not rework poems but let them go at first sitting, because if I have lied originally there’s no use driving the spikes home, and if I haven’t lied, well hell, there’s nothing to worry about.

Art is Art and Art should be its own hammer.

The politicians and newspapers talk a lot about freedom but the moment you begin to apply any, either in Life or in the Art-form, you are in for a cell, ridicule or misunderstanding.

They want to hear what they have always heard. But they forget that it takes 5 or 6 good men every century to push the thing ahead out of staleness and death.

It appears that certain people think that poetry should be a certain way. For these, there will be nothing but troubled years. More and more people will come along to break their concepts.

Life gets realer, for me, but it seems most poetry remains the same.

The Americans always want an IMAGE to catch to, something to label, to cage. I can’t give them that.

Most of my poems are about me simply walking across a room and being glad/sad (no proper words here) that both the room + I are here at the moment.

We work with all hands . . . everything counts.

The joke is ours; we pass through in high style; there’s nothing that they can do with us.

My idea of a writer is somebody who writes. Who sits at a typewriter and puts the words down. That would appear to be the essence. Not to teach others how, not to sit in seminars, not to read to the madding crowd.

When you’re hanging with writers you’re not hearing or seeing anything but that. Or maybe my nature is just to grub it out alone. I feel good without anybody around.

I feel good most of the time, especially when I’m at this machine, and the words feel more and more as if they are coming out better and better. True or not, right or wrong, I go with it.

I don’t want to make rules but if there is one it is: the only writers who write well are those who must write in order not to go mad.

A writer is not a writer because he has written some books. A writer is not a writer because he teaches literature. A writer is only a writer if he can write now, tonight, this minute.

(My apologies to Ken for this one! Charles' words, not mine!)
What Bukowski despised the most was the gregariousness and egotism of popular groups such as the Beats, who seemed to believe that being in the limelight was more important than doing the actual work.