“So You Want To Be A Writer?” by Charles Bukowski

Thanks for finding this one, John!

I love that Tom O’Bedlam’s (well, that’s what he calls himself) incredible voice is getting more publicity. And if a Charles Bukowski poem in an advert is what it takes for others to get excited about poetry, so be it. I’ve been following his work for some time, and if you haven’t been, you are missing out on the rock star of poetry readings. You can find more of his work at YouTube.com/SpokenVerse.

I’m sad that one look at the comments section shows that far too few of his viewers take the time to read the “About” section (formerly called the description before Google bought the Tube and started fiddling with it). Sad because Tom’s commentary is always interesting. Whether you agree with him or not, his words are worth considering, even when they are satire, maybe especially then. In this video’s original description from August of 2009, he chides the reader (and future writers) to not take Bukowski’s words too far. Natural talent does not preclude the benefit of learning and practice. Read Tom’s words in the About section below the video on this link: Right Here.

And I agree with him. There is a flip side, a caveat. There is something to be said for inspiration, genius and the muse, whatever those things are. But raw talent on the football field “bursts forth” more powerfully and productively when backed by the guidance and teaching of a quality coach, not to mention when it’s followed by a tailored workout regimen and hours upon hours of practice.

None the less, an excellent and popular poem by Bukowski, beautifully read and interpreted. I’m hope Tom is making a few bucks on this. He certainly deserves it, and I do not begrudge him for it being an advert for scotch. In fact, considering this is a Bukowski poem, the appropriateness is indisputable.  I include below in the related articles a couple of critics of the add and of O’Bedlam merely because I know that Tom enjoys a little controversy. And in light of the sort of commentary mentioned above that accompanies many of his readings, I think he’ll get a kick out of the irony of it.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Colin says:

    When I got this writing bug, I sounded a lot like JK Rowling on the paper. Or Suzanne Collins. Or any of the writers that fired me up with their books. I was a mimic, a chameleon on the page, and I think that was good.

    There is this concept of ‘voice’, and I don’t think you can ever find it until you try out what you like and what you don’t like. I don’t think you can find it if you don’t see what works and what doesn’t work. You have to go through that copying and pasting phase.

    Soon enough, you’ll start to make your own choices, and you’ll think of your own way to do things, and I guess that is when you find that elusive ‘voice’. Then anyone can pick up a book you’ve written and see it; like you can pick up a book without covers and title pages and recognize Rowling, or Collins, or Stephen King.

    So, long-winded ‘me too’ to O’Bedlam. And I agree with you, it’s a good thing that he is getting more publicity. He’s a wonderful reader. Although I chuckle at the irony of Bukowski selling stuff and life-style-choices. Unless it involved hard liquor, hookers and living under a bridge, it seems a bit fake.


    1. What you describe is pretty much exactly the way the Billy Collins instructs young writers to do. You find poets, story tellers that you like, that resonate with you, and nearly naturally you will borrow their tone, their style for a time. Then you may borrow more from another, and another, until the combination of voices brings about something new that is uniquely your voice.

      And as for the Bukowski poem, what better product than Scotch whiskey for it to promote? 🙂 I think the old man would have laughed, despite himself.


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