Bukowski’s Letter to an Old Poet: “Don’t Try”


Here’s one for the rabid Charles Bukowski fans — we know you’re out there. Letters of Note has posted a 20-year-old missive from the poet to his friend and colleague William Packard. He begins the message in high Bukowski form, telling Packard, “sometimes I feel like my skivvies are down around my ankles and my butt is a target for hyena turds” and progresses into a serious discussion of poetry. “When everything works best it’s not because you chose writing but because writing chose you. It’s when you’re mad with it, it’s when it’s stuffed in your ears, your nostrils, under your fingernails,” Bukowski writes, going on to advise, “Don’t try. Don’t work. It’s there. It’s been looking right at us, aching to kick out of the closed womb.” As Letters of Note points out, the “Don’t try” directive later appeared as Bukowski’s epitaph. See the letter (complete with Bukowski’s doodling) after the jump, and click over to LoN for a full transcription.