Steven McCabe at Poemimage has created a brilliant series of images based on an imaginary investigation by the poet, William Blake and the novelist/poet, Charles Bukowski.
Bukowski is a favourite with me. His work is extreme. He wants to take my face and rub it in the vomit of existence as his father does in the autobiography of his alter-ego, Henry Chinaski, and so there is an exaggeration, a falseness that he gets. But his work communicates itself with extraordinary power and vitality nevertheless. I admire his ruthlessness as an artist, and no-one ever wrote about the tedium of jobs like he does.
I also admire him for his novel, Post Office, based on the 10 years he spent sorting and delivering mail for the US Postal Service, because I too once worked for the Post Office, in fact, the Post Office of all Post Offices, in Old Street in the city of London. Here the walls are lined with portraits of the famous who have worked either delivering mail or associated with it, including Anthony Trollope, the novelist and inventor of the pillar box, and many writers and philosophers. People here spend their lunchtimes watching the film, Night Mail, based on Auden’s poem, and write erudite articles for the London Review of Books on the venerable tradition of mail delivery.
When I think of Bukowski’s book I also think of the people I met working in hangars with toy conveyor belts carrying letters, and young men in Sunderland sitting in their cars at night on their break, playing the radio, getting away from workmates.
Here is a passage from Post Office that excites me: essence of hangover on hot day.
I was hungover again, another heat spell was on – a week of 100 degree days. The drinking went on each night, and in the early mornings and days there was The Stone and the impossibility of everything.
Some of the boys wore African sun helmets and shades, but me, I was about the same, rain or shine – ragged clothing, and the shoes so old that the nails were always driving into my feet. I put pieces of cardboard in the shoes. But it only helped temporarily – soon the nails would be eating into my heels again.
The whiskey and beer ran out of me, fountained from the armpits, and I drove along with this load on my back like a cross, pulling out magazines, delivering thousands of letters, staggering, welded to the side of the sun.
Some woman screamed at me:
“MAILMAN! MAILMAN! THIS DOESN’T GO HERE!”
I looked. She was a block back down the hill and I was already behind schedule.
“Look, lady, put the letter outside your mailbox! We’ll pick it up tomorrow!”
“NO! NO! I WANT YOU TO TAKE IT NOW!”
She waved the thing around in the sky.
“COME GET IT! IT DOESN’T BELONG HERE!”
Oh my god.
I dropped the sack. Then I took my cap and threw it on the grass. It rolled out into the street. I left it and walked down toward the woman. One half block.
I walked down and snatched the thing from her hand, turned, walked back.
It was an advertisement! 4th class mail. Something about a 1/2 off clothing sale.
I picked my cap up out of the steet, put it on my head. Put the sack back onto the left side of my spine, started out again. 100 degrees.
Image: Steven McCabe at Poemimage; many thanks to Steven for permission to feature his brilliant work.