Bukowski: Betting on the Muse

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  • Published : January 23, 2006
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The Language of Violence, Language of the Heart
Our world is not a pleasant one. Our everyday lives are punctured with graphic images of sex, violence and apathy. Unfortunately, people tend to ignore the holes in the social fabric all around them. As Bukowski wrote the poems that were compiled into Betting on the Muse, he realized this, and incorporated it into his poetry. In his narrative works he creates a living, breathing world. He tends to concentrate on the low points of life, though. The world is a dark one, where personal rotting begins with an all-too-early maturation. Bukowski's collection should be read by those who want to experience the lives of people in a decaying, violent world.

Being young in Bukowski's world is not a pleasant experience. Even youth is full of violence, sex and self-delusion. The simple concept of a playground friendship with another kid in school is turned into a materialistic affair in Bukowski's "those marvelous lunches". The speaker (Henry) talks of being poor and making a "friend" who gave him parts of his lunch every day. It seems that throughout the course of the poem, Henry manages to delude himself into thinking that he truly was friends with Richardson, when it slowly becomes quite obvious that it's the lunch he truly loves. There is a striking difference in the descriptions of Richardson himself and Richardson's lunch. "Richardson was/fat,/he had a big/belly/and fleshy/thighs" the speaker states of his "friend", as compared to "his potato chips looked/so good-/large and crisp as the/sun blazed upon/them". This difference lets us see where the preference really lies. At a certain point, Richardson is violently accosted in front of Henry, and Henry does nothing but pick up his lunch pail afterward and carry it home. Yet throughout the course of the poem, almost obsessively, the speaker repeats the phrase "he was the only/friend I had" in one form or another, seemingly trying to convince himself of it as much as...
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