Marjory Gilbert wrote a poem about Bukowski after attending one of his readings…
When Marjory Gilbert read a Times On Location story about the movie "Bukowski," produced and directed by James Franco, it brought back vivid memories of her long-ago encounter with the late poet.
Gilbert was working as a clerk in the history department at Cal State Los Angeles in the late 1970s when she joined a grad student friend to hear Charles Bukowski give a reading of his poetry at a campus bookstore.
"It was quite an evening," said Gilbert, who is 90 and lives in Claremont. "I didn't even know who Bukowski was, so I sat there not knowing what to expect. Here he was with a beer can in one hand and he's got these pages in the other hand and he's reading to us like he couldn't care less. He'd sip his beer then throw his page on the floor."
Gilbert said she was struck by the rawness of his poetry. "He sounded very honest, like he was telling it like it is," Gilbert said. "I knew he lived a life I would never know, so I was intrigued."
She was so enthralled by the man and his poetry, whom Time magazine called a "laureate of American lowlife," that she did what she has done for many other memorable experiences in her life: She wrote a poem, published here for the first time.
The Night Bukowski Read His Poems
His reputation preceded him
Campus police guarded the doors
The written word can be dangerous you know
Bukowski was going to read his poems
The only request from Charles
Bring plenty of beer
Everything would flow
What a show!
From the stairwell he stood
Never looking up
Beer can in one hand, poem in the other
The pock-marked face
Showed the ravages of the life he had known
And the seeds he had sown
He read matter-of-factly
Laughter permeated the air
He didn’t care!
He sipped his beer between sentences
As he finished the page he tossed it on the floor
Several pages were scattered about
The words lay in repose
He was loaded and so were we
But in a different way
Raunchy verse from a man who had lived in flop houses
With winos, prostitutes, drug addicts and other unsavory souls