One of my favourite poems is written by Charles Bukowski and it’s titled The Genius of the Crowd.
Bukowski had a remarkable gift for saying profound things in a simple way. If you’ve never heard of him, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
Okay, let me tell you a little something about him: Bukowski, known to many as Buk or Hank, didn’t become published until he was forty-nine after spending twenty-five years writing. Think about that for a second, twenty-five years of banging typewriter keys before being published!
He wrote about the lower levels of society and the working class. Most of his writing is based on his own life, changing the names and minor details to call it ‘fiction’ and working the low paid jobs to fund his need for booze and women and horse racing, just so he could get through another day of working the low pay job. He finally ditched that life-loop when George Martin offered him an advance to write a book.
Taking the money, he quit his job at the post office and began writing for hours on end while listening to classical music and drinking himself into a drunken creative beast. He finished that book in just nineteen days. You may not think he sounds like the kind of guy who would know much about anything, only women and drinking, but you’d be more wrong than a fat lass in hot pants!
Buk looked sternly into the stark reality of life, never flinching, never turning, just wrote it all down. Some people say poetry is for girls, but they’ve obviously never read a Bukowski poem. He wrote about the human condition with such brute honesty that it punches you in the belly every time you read him. He wrote about things that many people turn away from and are frightened to acknowledge exist.
This poem: The Genius of the Crowd, is one from many in his collection: ‘The Pleasures of the Damned: Selected Poems 1951-1993’. It’s a worthwhile investment for every man’s shelf. As are his novels, and my personal favourite, his collection of letters: On Writing.
The Genius of the Crowd
there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day
and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace
those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love
beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect
like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
their finest art