''“Theres a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out but Im too tough for him, I say, stay in there, Im not going to let anybody see you.” ''All quotations
Henry Charles Bukowski was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles. It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over sixty books. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a "laureate of American lowlife". Regarding Bukowski's enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, "the secret of Bukowski’s appeal. . . [is that] he combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero."
Charles Bukowski was born as Heinrich Karl Bukowski in Andernach, Germany, to Heinrich Bukowski and Katharina (née Fett). Charles' mother was a native German and his father was an American serviceman. Charles' paternal grandfather Leonard had emigrated to America from Germany in the 1880s. In Cleveland, Leonard met Emilie Krausse who had emigrated from Danzig, then part of Germany. They married and settled in Pasadena. He worked as a carpenter, setting up his own very successful construction company. The couple had four children, including Henry, Charles Bukowski's father.
Charles Bukowski's parents met in Andernach, in Western Germany following World War I, the poet's father posted as a sergeant in the American army of occupation following Germany's defeat in 1918. He had an affair with Katherina, the German sister of a friend, and she quickly became pregnant. Charles Bukowski repeatedly claimed to be born out of wedlock, but Andernach marital records indicate that his parents married one month prior to his birth.His father set himself up as a building contractor, set to make great financial gains in the aftermath of the war. After two years that family moved to Pfaffendorf. Given the crippling reparations being required of Germany and high levels of inflation Henry was unable to make a living, and so he decided to move the family back to America. On April 23, 1923 they sailed from Bremerhaven to Baltimore, Maryland, where they settled. Wanting a more Anglophone name, Bukowski's parents began calling their son 'Henry', which the poet would later change to Charles. They altered the pronunciation of the family name from /bu?'k?fski/ boo-kof-skee to /bu?'ka?ski/ boo-kow-ski, Bukowski's parents were Roman Catholic.
The family settled in South Central Los Angeles in 1930, the city where Charles Bukowski's father and grandfather had previously worked and lived. In the '30s the poet's father was often unemployed. In the autobiographical Ham on Rye Charles Bukowski says that, with his mother's acquiescence, his father was frequently abusive, both physically and mentally, beating his son for the smallest imagined offence.During his youth Bukowski was shy and socially withdrawn, a condition exacerbated during his teens by an extreme case of acne. Neighborhood children ridiculed his German accent and the clothing his parents made him wear. Although he seemed to suffer from Dyslexia, he was highly praised at school for his art work.
In his early teens, Henry had an epiphany when he was introduced to alcohol by his loyal friend William "Baldy" Mullinax, depicted as "Eli Lacross" in Ham on Rye, son of an alcoholic surgeon. "This [alcohol] is going to help me for a very long time", he later wrote, describing the genesis of his chronic alcoholism; or, as he saw it, the genesis of a method he could utilize to come to more amicable terms with his own life. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, Bukowski attended Los Angeles City College for two years, taking courses in art, journalism, and literature, before quitting at the start of World War II. He then moved to New York to begin a career as a writer.
On July 22, 1944, with World War II ongoing, Bukowski was arrested by FBI agents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was living at the time, on suspicion of draft evasion. He was held for 17 days in Philadelphia's Moyamensing Prison. Sixteen days later he failed a psychological exam that was part of his mandatory military entrance "physical" and was given a Selective Service Classification of 4-F (unfit for military service).
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