Beer with Bukowski
Ballads from Stravinsky
(A DOC-LIT REVIEW FROM A SMALL ROOM)
Chris Joseph Stancato
Post Office, Ham on Rye, The Last Night of the Earth Poems by Charles Bukowski New York, Harper Collins § The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky (Ballroom of the St. George Hotel, Brooklyn, NY, Jan 5&6, 1960)
The ex libris depicted a Roman Augur with his right arm raised, holding a can of beer like a lituus. The Late Aquarian is written instead of my name on the bottom of this bookplate. Like many realizations in my life as a late bloomer, one of them is finding an appreciation for writers like Charles Bukowski, and the music from composer/conductor Igor Stravinsky. What do these artists have in common? One of them had an appreciate for classical music, the other, storytelling. And between beer and vodka, they shared a celebration of husking the norms of their livelihood to a layer of expressive poetry.
The Last Night of the Earth Poems, Post Office, and Ham on Rye are part of Bukowski’s oeuvre that provide easy cigarette lighting lines, casual drinking commentary, and narratives entailing his everyday job at the post office that, like his father, he hated. Bukowski, with all the sticky syllabi about his life, recalls situations that led with levity (sometimes lewd—sometimes lawless). The only way to drink with Hank is to throw a few punches, spar a few words, and hope a sweet baby walks into the scene for him to parlay a few sentimental poems like “Nirvana” or “The Bluebird.” I could easily account several poems where he expresses the score of time, society, music, drinking, days at the track. That score is more meticulous in Bukowski: Born into This—a 2004 documentary. After I finished the trilogy with Ham on Rye, I watched the story about his life with all the curiosity and hunger of a voracious reader. I enjoyed the film’s gyre as an insatiable reader who wondered and pondered the mechanics about Charles Bukowski—it encapsulated the trilogy and more, like his enjoyment of classical music. For me, I stepped out of his timeline, still ticking in mine, and cracked open a can of beer on my patio to let my eyes reach a Penny Arcade in a dirty cluster of stars—Fuck You Henry! I said with a libation to Bukowski.
After I washed my night down with some brown ale, I woke the next morning to work on a project of poetry, art, and music: The Literary Mule. The first book in this chapbook series is called, “Autumn Ballads from a Roman Augur.” Fourteen poems with the theme of change accompanied by La Sacre Du Printemps/ The Rite of Spring—Stravinsky’s ballet score. When I recite passages from my novels, like A to P, or poems from The Literary Mule, these are accompanied with vinyl played on record player. My avant-garde book performance on stage is a new style from your usual book reading. Like Stravinsky, I am presenting a story in an engaging style in a theatrical fashion. This engagement with The Rite of Spring parallels Stravinsky’s fourteen ballads. Like Bukowski, I enjoy classical music. And like Bukowski, it is in my writing. I have several classical composers who give me joy and respite when I drop the needle on an LP or 45. The connection I have with Stravinsky begins with this album placed on the Voyager I in 1977. As part of Earthly recordings for some planet in a galaxy far, far away to listen with an understanding about our global culture. This story about the Voyager I carrying a copper record is in my next paperback novel. In the documentary, Stravinsky: Once At A Border, a three-hour film about his life and music, we gain his oeuvre with an expansive social and personal timeline presentation—engaging footage from the director with one clip of Igor enjoying vodka and conversation his friend. The influence of Russian folklore, brilliant ballets, musical compositions, and his tenacious manner when conducting is not summarized with a trajectory of accomplishments, but rather a geography of tributes.
On this seventh day of April, with a virus spreading disease, fear, and unfortunate deaths, I sit in my small room, a space and place where I have produced pages of poetry, novels, short-stories, and documentary and literary reviews (Doc-Lit) like this one. I have days where I tackle an idea like Bukowski or conduct a set of collective notes like Stravinsky. Some days I feel Bukowski’s pain and write my pain out; other days, I shoulder the folklore of my past to change a raw narrative element of poetry that is too unpredictable like our present—and create a steady haiku.
Both men worked from a physical capacity, albeit a small room or space to recall, record, and write compositions that are part of the modern canon of great art. The commonality between them is thin, I know it, yet they expressed an original style of art.
Chris Joseph Stancato aka Orange Postman is a writer from Miami.