Ben Pleasants in 3:AM magazine:
Charles Bukowski loved the idea of poetry wars. Even at the lowest level of mimeo magazines, when he was co-editing Laugh Literary & Man the Humping Guns with Neeli Cherry, he jumped in guns blazing ready to take on the world. “Poetry,” he always said, “is a poor country without any boundaries. It’s open to all kinds of fools. All the poet has is his shitty little poem and his point of view. It’s like being on a bar stool, but with a piece of paper in your hand instead of a drink. You shout and scream and you hope someone will notice you.”
He thought poets were the spoiled children of literature: they had to do very little work to get published. They could write whatever they felt. Poetry was about feeling. It was not the complex work of a novelist or a journalist or a historian.
“Poets dazzle,” he said, “but often their best stuff is written in bitchy essays about what art is! When people call me a poet, it makes me want to vomit. I’m a writer!”
That was in 1976, when I was Arts editor of the L.A. Vanguard. I was doing a piece about Bukowski for the newspaper. Lory Robbin and I had showed up at Bukowski’s place on Carlton Way when he was first entertaining the woman who would later become Linda Bukowski. Lory got a great series of shots of the three of us drinking, while Bukowski was his usual outrageous self on tape.
The Vanguard had a policy about major pieces; they had to be approved by consensus. When I handed in my piece on Bukowski, it was turned down by a three to two positive vote. Dorothy Thompson and Ron Ridenour turned it down because they viewed Bukowski as reactionary and anti-feminist. I’d had this problem before.