From the first listen, one can hear why Bukowski’s home recordings are superior to his other recorded work. Bukowski is known for reading at college
campuses where the sound of heckling is mixed with the sound of him cracking open beers from the fridge at his side. His recorded works include interviews and questions between poems, which, although enlightening, also detract from the cadence of the poetry. In these new recordings, with no spectacle, no expectation of a drunken show, no Q and A, Bukowski is able to read his work the way it was supposed to be read.
Ignore for a moment the hisses and pops. Ignore the sounds of the mic shifts or the Pause button being pushed. Clearly the sound quality leaves much to be desired. What is important here is the voice. To hear Bukowski read the poems he wants, in the style he desires, the voices and inflections he heard in his head as he wrote them, is more important than the way in which these sounds were recorded. The dirty sound, in fact, only adds to the attraction of Bukowski. Here is a poet who made his name living the dirty, poor, eked-out life of the street. To expect superior sound or recording quality is to ignore what Bukowski stood for — what he represented. A Bukowski poem needs
to be read into a tape player sitting on his desk, not in an expensive studio with multiple takes and re-mastering. The men he fought in the bars, the
women he slept with and then disentangled himself from never stepped into a studio . . . why should Bukowski?
Having said all that, these recordings are more than a sample of poems Bukowski chose (or was told) to read. After three or four poems, the listener gets a glimpse into Bukowski’s world at the moment he was recording. He finishes a poem and tells the listener the weather out his window. He finishes a poem to take a smoke break and describes the tobacco he’s using. This snapshot into Bukowski’s life is as important to a Bukowski fan as any interview to be read, or any movie to be watched, because said fan can
see a side of Bukowski only imagined before. And this snapshot is as important to any dilettante or periodic reader as any poem read, because the listener can discover the man behind the infrequent poem.
Free from the pressure of a professional interview or paid reading at a college campus, Bukowski is able to let the listener (one can only imagine he didn’t
expect too many of those) hear him read in a way never available before. One hears the sighs, the inflections, the lilting voice in which he reads, and a poet working in his trade. Sometimes, he’s just trying to get through the reading; sometimes he’s enjoying a joke between him and himself to which
the listener will never be privy. Always, he’s reading what he wants, when he wants, with no one to tell him otherwise. The only thing missing is a collection of the poems he reads to go with the CD, so that the listener can read along . . . and take a smoke break between poems with Bukowski.