Listen to Charles Bukowski Poems Being Read by Bukowski Himself & the Great Tom Waits

The out­spo­ken, ragged-edged poet and nov­el­ist Charles Bukows­ki entered our world 93 years ago this Fri­day, and pre­sum­ably began mak­ing trou­ble imme­di­ate­ly. Harper­Collins marks the occa­sion a bit ear­ly this year by releas­ing today eight Bukows­ki audio­books, the first of their kind. (Sign up for a Free Tri­al with and you can get one for free.) Alas, Bukows­ki did­n’t live quite long enough to com­mit Post Office, South of No North, Fac­to­tum, Women, Ham on Rye, Hot Water Music, Hol­ly­wood, and Pulp to tape him­self. ”

It would be Bukows­ki him­self read­ing here, if the tech­nol­o­gy had advanced quick­ly enough,” Gal­l­ey­cat quotes pub­lish­er Daniel Halpern as say­ing, “but his voice rings clear and deep in these ren­di­tions – and from them, the genius of Bukows­ki flows forth.” Whether or not you plan to pur­chase these new audio­books, we offer you here a dose of Bukows­ki out loud.

At the top you’ll find one of Bukowski’s own read­ings, “The Secret of My Endurance,” a poem that appeared in Dan­gling In The Tourne­for­tia (1982). Down below you can hear Bukowski’s “Nir­vana” as read by Tom Waits, who pos­sess­es a voice famous­ly evoca­tive of unfor­giv­ing Amer­i­can life, one that per­haps sounds more like that of a Bukows­ki poem than Bukowski’s own. And if you missed our ear­li­er post fea­tur­ing Waits’ inter­pre­ta­tion of “The Laugh­ing Heart (mid­dle),” what more suit­able occa­sion could you have to cir­cle back and heed its bat­tered yet opti­mistic guid­ance: “Your life is your life. Don’t let it be clubbed into dank sub­mis­sion.”

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Charles Bukows­ki Sets His Amus­ing Con­di­tions for Giv­ing a Poet­ry Read­ing (1971)

“Don’t Try”: Charles Bukowski’s Con­cise Phi­los­o­phy of Art and Life

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

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.