Dead Cat - the work of Matthew Gaffen

9/02/2011

Non-Gender Specific Bukowski

It seems that my post a few days ago containing a certain Charles Bukowski poem was received with a modicum of criticism from people with feminist inclinations, citing the fact that it might be offensively sexist.

Whilst I agree, you can read that into the poem, and yes, Bukowski was almost certainly 'rubbed raw by experience' himself, I think the sentiment is perfectly valid, and affects both sexes. If you have brutally gone from partner to partner for the whole of you life, I wouldn't be surprised if you were attracted to innocence.

Therefore, I suggest an alternative reading of the same poem;

"I like people who haven’t lived with too many other people.
I don’t expect virginity but I simply prefer people
who haven’t been rubbed raw by experience.

there is a quality about people who choose
people sparingly;
it appears in their walk
in their eyes
in their laughter and in their
gentle hearts.

people who have had too many other people
seem to choose the next one
out of revenge rather than with
feeling.

when you play the field selfishly everything
works against you:
one can’t insist on love or
demand affection.
you’re finally left with whatever
you have been willing to give
which often is:
nothing.

some people are delicate things
some people are delicious and
wondrous.

if you want to piss on the sun
go ahead
but please leave them
alone."

Personally, I think the sentiment still holds true, and no matter what Bukowski's original intent was, I don't really see it as a sexist poem.



4 comments:

  1. This post is great. To me the poem wasn't about him being sexist at all, in fact the reason why I liked this poem a lot is because of the way he seems to appreciate and understand why *some* people choose not to be 'rubbed raw by experience'. It's more of a viewpoint than an opinion - I think some people have taken it a bit too much to heart than what the actual post intended!

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  2. Having read a bit around the subject, I realise my initial opinion was slightly misguided. I appreciate the emotion in his poetry, and if you want to read about a misanthropic man who's been, as he puts it, rubbed raw by experience, there's nobody else you should read. I can't dismiss his poetry, because I like a lot of it, and I think mostly he wrote in a gender non-specific way. But still, Burkowski wrote about rape and paedophilia with disturbing detail.

    My problem with it is that due to his own experience, he ties meaningless sex with emotional instability and anger. But it's possible for healthy people to have sex for, you know, just the fun of it. It doesn't always have to be a deeply emotional experience to be healthy, which is why judging people on how much sex they've had is problematic. That's all I'm saying, and it goes for both men and women.

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  3. Thank you, thank you. To write in a gendered way does not automatically equate with sexism. We all express universal sentiments in more specific ways, relative to our experience and outlook. To simplify a much broader and very important discussion for this particular example, Bukowksi was making a universal observation through a lens he knew - that is, sexual relationships with women, not men.

    Which is basically what you said here. So again, thanks for bringing the thoughtfulness.

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  4. Ben, sorry - it took a while to get back to you, but thanks for your comment. It was really awesome to know someone thought this point has merit.

    Unfortunately blogging has taken a bit of a backseat since uni ended and the cold wind of working life blew all my spare time out the window, well, that and my band, so I'm not sure I'll get the opportunity to return the favour and properly digest some of your writing, but I'll remember to come back to it when I can and have a little read.

    All the best,

    -Matt

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