Charles Bukowski and Whitman?

I am having real trouble narrowing down what I want my topic to be (there are so many things. Whitman is so big!). I can’t figure out if I should focus on a certain poet, or if I should concentrate on a specific topic or conflict that reoccurs in Whitman’s poetry. I am juggling in my head all these names and ideas and it’s gotten pretty overwhelming. So I decided to break from all of that for a second–take a breather–and see if anything would hit me. And I think maybe something did.

I have been a big Bukowski fan for a couple of years now, and the more I think about it the more impossible it becomes to deny Whitman’s influence and connection to Bukowski.

It is easy to see the difference between Whitman, the bearded grandfather, and Bukowski, the dirty old man poet. As we discussed in class Whitman portrays this grand and encompassing persona that both views and embodies the vastness of the masses. Bukowski however just depicts his own surrounding, in vivid and often excruciating detail, there is no separation between Bukowski and the speaker in his poems.

However they do have a good number of things in common. They both revolutionized the form and language of poetry. Bukowski claimed his “aim was to ‘humanize’ poetry, lowering the rhetorical tone by structurally simple language flavoured with slang and swear words, asides to the reader, and other humorous interjections.” I feel Whitman achieved this same sense of “humanizing” with his free verse and rejection of previous forms. Both have also been seen as being controversial and vulgar in their works, “He’s the equivalent in today’s world of Walt Whitman, who was accused in his own day of all the things that Bukowski was, of being a ruffian and uncouth.” His poetry mimics Whitman’s first person narrative, depicting images and scenes that were “disorderly, fleshy, and sensual“–sound familiar?

I don’t know, I am still looking for research on it and trying to narrow what it is I actually want to talk about, but I think it would be a really interesting connection to explore. What do you think?

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