Charles Bukowski, “Hank” to his friends, was once called the “best poet in America” by kindred spirit Jean Genet. He was a writer who told the truth, when he wasn’t lying, and who could tell a great story, whether sober or drunk. Bukowski once told Sean Penn in a 1987 Interview magazine piece: “Alcohol is probably one of the greatest things to arrive upon the earth — alongside of me. Yes…these are two of the greatest arrivals upon the surface of the earth. So…we get along.” This statement encapsulates the qualities Bukowski is best known for—lifelong heavy drinking and bravado. They tend to go hand in hand, especially in novelists of his generation. But what made him a poet was another quality the booze helped him cope with, his tendency to be “a shy, withdrawn person,” an almost tender person, and humane in his own low-rent way. In the video above, he tells the story of his worst hangover ever. I’ll let him tell it. There’s no way a paraphrase could come close to Bukowski’s own voice.
Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.