Hemingway and Bukowski suck

I own more books of poetry by Bukowski than anyone else. The first, given to me by my sister, was The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills. I shouldn't say this, but she told me she used to read this book to lovers, affecting that low rasp of his that I also have recorded on CD. The book is stained and dog-eared and skin-soft. Later, I accumulated Love Is A Dog From Hell and Burning In Water Drowning In Flame. I read Ham on Rye and attempted Women but got too embarrassed reading it on the tube - I was fifteen; it felt inappropriate. But I felt that Bukowski spoke to me - as so many teenage girls and young women do. Something in that twisted misogynistic drink-sodden seedy seeping old man is incredibly relatable to us. In some ways, his strip-her-with-his-eyes way of writing women was a queer awakening, and my teen poetry from that time is all from the perspective of a towering, vulture-like male.

Last summer I made a conscious decision to stop reading men. I was in Paris (remember Paris? I want to create an indelible impression of my Paris Era for posterity. I want to be the modern Welsh Jean Rhys). And it was good. I read Chris Kraus, replaced Hemingway's descriptions of sixth and seventh arrondissements (where we lived) with Rhys', read the Handmaid's Tale in snippets at Shakespeare and Co, stole quotes from pages of Gravity and Grace in the basement of a Canadian bookshop, read Virginia Woolf for the first time. Read Anne Sexton, Louise Gluck, Anne Carson out loud to each other: lived in a flat with two other women and we all wrote poetry and read it to each other and one day I met a woman at the Sacre Coeur from Montreal and she stayed with us and it was a beautiful, idyllic summer delusion. It was incredibly bourgeois but I sunk into it as people sometimes do in strange hot cities. It was the most creative period of my life so far, and I don't think anything I've written since has topped what I wrote that summer. I grew a lot and I think that cutting men out of my life (literally, creatively, in all ways) was the main reason for that.

But since then, I've felt more and more caged in by women. I didn't want to read Katherine Mansfield. The Yellow Wallpaper bores and annoys me. I'm reading Kathy Acker now and starting to claw out of that but still, there is that difference: in women, there is fear. Sylvia Plath said it best:

"Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars--to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording--all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night...” - Sylvia Plath

I watched Paris, Texas a few months ago and sat transfixed, amazed by its broad expanses. The enormity of America. The extremes, from temperate rainforest to desert along a single stretch of highway. I read Sam Shepard's Motel Chronicles. (I love motels, I love their grainy stinking anonymity and cockroach-sink and spring-beds). I return, again, to my undying love of Kerouac, fucking misogynist. I'm still not reading Bukowski. But I want to because in these men (their words, their bodies) there is a sense of freedom, a lack of judgement that opens a horizon as wide as the American West. And these men are drug addicted, fucked up, locked in, but they can do whatever they want. They move hard and angular through a world that isn't a constant threat. They can drive from coast to coast and fight their way out of a situation and carry a knife without worrying about how easily someone will overpower them and point it back at them.




You know, I want more Road Movies about women. Like Thelma and Louise without the rape. It seems we can't tell a story about a woman or a girl on the open road without it turning tragic - like Hick, which I loved but couldn't watch to the end. Why can't women wander amnesic around the technicolour empty space of Texas? I suppose this goes even more so for LGBTQ+ people - is there a more tragic sort-of-road-movie in existence than Boys Don't Cry? All we want is a bit of Jack-Kerouac-Joy, a bit less death, a bit less fear.

So here I am. Aware that my narratives, that speak to my heart and validate my existence, are narratives of trauma and hurt. Jeanann Verlee, Warsan Shire, Mira Gonzalez, Clementine von Radics, Stacy Cassarino. I think of Lana del Rey in her music video for Ride (yeah, the one with the really bad cultural appropriation, I'm sorry) where she rides with this biker gang and like, how? Hunter S. Thompson couldn't even do that without getting beaten to a pulp. Sometimes I feel like a bad survivor for not going out there, travelling West and sleeping in open fields, PTSD and all. Where is my woman-friendly biker gang? I want to walk into a bar and order a whiskey double and sit by myself at the bar. Why is that so hard?

emptying my pills into my pill box is my favourite part of the week
a rose drop tin, from paris
i love these feminine rituals of self-destruction
a whiskey in a nightdress for breakfast is
a different sort of death than hunter s. thompson's chivas
the blood-stained sheet
the fur the rings the lip-liner 
welcome to female desire
emptiness is our terrain 

I play Lana del Rey on vinyl. I think excessively about Laura Palmer, Effy and Cassie from Skins, Blanche DuBois, Courtney Love, Drew Barrymore, Lindsey Lohan, Nicole Richie, Cat Marnell: my angels of death and destruction. Why can't Courtney join Kurt and the endless list of men who hated themselves, hurt themselves, maybe killed themselves? Why do we call these women shallow while their male counterparts are the founding fathers of Subculture?

"If male self-destruction is seen as opening up meaningful questions about great existential truths—Don’s alcohol binges in “Mad Men,” Walter White’s coming to terms with his own mortality in “Breaking Bad,” female self-destruction is still perceived as self-indulgent. The female depressive is seen as self-involved and attention seeking, empty-headed and silly. Seeking meaning in sex and drugs is seen as morally weighty when a man does it, but when a women grapples with nihilism, it’s still perceived as merely acting out for male attention." - Arielle Bernstein {x}

(I'm going for another cigarette.)