Charles Bukowski: Depression and Three Days in Bed Can Restore Your Creative Juices (NSFW)

Pico Iyer once called Charles Bukows­ki the “lau­re­ate of Amer­i­can lowlife,” and that’s because he wrote poems for and about ordi­nary Amer­i­cans — peo­ple who expe­ri­enced pover­ty, the tedi­um and grind of work, and some­times frayed rela­tion­ships, bouts of alco­holism, drug addic­tion and the rest. Bukows­ki could write so elo­quent­ly about this because he came from this world. He grew up in a poor immi­grant house­hold with an abu­sive father, took to the bot­tle at an ear­ly age, worked at a Los Ange­les post office for a decade plus, and had a long and tumul­tuous rela­tion­ship with Jane Cooney Bak­er, a wid­ow eleven years his senior, who drank to excess and died at 51, leav­ing Bukows­ki bro­ken.

And then there’s the depres­sion. Bukows­ki expe­ri­enced that too. But he knew how to chan­nel it, how to turn days of dark­ness into sources of per­son­al and cre­ative renew­al. He explains it in some char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly NSFW detail above.

To gain a more in-depth under­stand­ing of depres­sion and its bio­log­i­cal basis, we’d rec­om­mend watch­ing this lec­ture by Stan­ford’s Robert Sapolksy.

Here’s a tran­script of what Bukows­ki has to say:

I have peri­ods where, you know, when I feel a lit­tle weak or depressed. Fuck it! The Wheaties aren’t going down right. I just go to bed for three days and four nights, pull down all the shades and just go to bed. Get up. Shit. Piss. Drink a beer down and go back to bed. I come out of that com­plete­ly re-enlight­ened for 2 or 3 months. I get pow­er from that.

I think someday…they’ll say this psy­chot­ic guy knew some­thing that…you know in days ahead and med­i­cine, and how they fig­ure these things out. Every­body should go to bed now and then, when they’re down low and give it up for three or four days. Then they’ll come back good for a while.

But we’re so obsessed with, we have to get up and do it and go back to sleep. In fact there’s a woman I’m liv­ing with now, get’s around 12:30, 1pm, I say: “I’m sleepy. I want to go to sleep.” She says: “What? You want to go to sleep, it’s only 1pm!” We’re not even drink­ing, you know. Hell, there’s noth­ing else to do but sleep.

Peo­ple are nailed to the process­es. Up. Down. Do some­thing. Get up, do some­thing, go to sleep. Get up. They can’t get out of that cir­cle. You’ll see, some­day they’ll say: “Bukows­ki knew.” Lay down for 3 or 4 days till you get your juices back, then get up, look around and do it. But who the hell can do it cause you need a dol­lar. That’s all. That’s a long speech, isn’t it? But it means some­thing.

via Bib­liok­lept

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Relat­ed Bukows­ki:

Tom Waits Reads Charles Bukows­ki

The Last Faxed Poem of Charles Bukows­ki

Charles Bukows­ki Reads His Poem “The Secret of My Endurance”

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Comments (7)
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  • Paul says:

    It’s a thrill to live vic­ar­i­ous­ly through Bukowski’s ine­bri­at­ed and sor­did exploits in lowlife Los Ange­les. Where so many late 20th-cen­tu­ry scribes fell short, he got it just right – in an authen­tic and bad-ass way.

  • This comes from the inter­view based doc The Bukows­ki Tapes. Just for con­text, in case peo­ple are inter­est­ed in see­ing more.

  • ireadbukowski says:

    What is NSFW about this??

  • Mirella says:

    This is a poor­ly writ­ten sum­ma­ry : “poor immi­grant house­hold”; “wid­ow eleven years his senior”. This is sup­posed to illus­trate how low his life is? Being an immi­grant and hav­ing a wife old­er than you? Are you seri­ous?

  • Robert says:


  • James Sands says:

    This was such a dis­ap­point­ment. The gener­ic and com­plete­ly unre­mark­able trance‑y drone back­ground music com­plete­ly drowned out Bukows­ki, whom I much rather would have heard. It sound­ed like that might have been the point — to use Bukowski’s text as an orna­ment or an effect. If so, it should have been labeled as such(e.g., “[artist/totally deriv­a­tive unre­mark­able trance‑y drone music] ft. Bukows­ki”)

  • The V. says:

    I’m on Day One and already feel­ing worlds bet­ter for it. Two or three more to go. I love it. Occa­sion­al­ly read­ing “Hol­ly­wood” again, for the fourth time in 20 years. My soul is no longer puk­ing. Thank you x

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