Also Rans #3: Charles Bukowski

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

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Charles Bukowski has inspired more bad writing than anyone on the planet, ever.

He could be called the most ANTI-charismatic American writer of all time. His appeal is the sheer ugliness of his person, poems, and prose. Call it gutter realism.

Bukowski appeals to many of us at times in our lives when we feel the sudden attraction of life’s underside. (Or when we accidentally end up on that underside.) Especially if that attraction is strengthened by whiskey or wine. Then the prose magically shines. We “get” it. To our numbed minds, Bukowski’s writing becomes the most glamorous art we’ve ever experienced.

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Back on our feet, however, alcoholic filters removed, the poetry and prose become once again crude and ordinary. We perceive that Charles Bukowski is hardly a fit model for anybody. Particularly an ambitious writer.

GIVEN that, enough of a mythos has developed around this quintessentially American literary character that he almost made the M.C.A.W. list– despite his writing.

NEXT: Most Charismatic American Writer #8.
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Most Charismatic #10: Maya Angelou

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

Angelou_at_Clinton_inauguration

Poets have long played the role of official or unofficial voice of the psyche of the American nation– calmer or critic, healer or scold– from Walt Whitman up to T.S. Eliot, Carl Sandberg, Robert Frost, maybe even Allen Ginsberg. In recent times that role was filled by Maya Angelou, exemplified by the reading of her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at the 1993 Inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton as U.S. President.

Long a public figure, unafraid of controversy, Angelou carried a powerful presence matched with a compelling voice. In an era of unexciting literary figures, Maya Angelou stood out– why she’s been chosen as #10 on the Most Charismatic American Writers list.

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NEXT: Most Charismatic Writer #9.
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Also Rans #2: Edgar Allan Poe

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

Edgar Allan Poe almost made the Most Charismatic list for two reasons.

1.)  His fiction remains powerful, recognizable, unique. A few of his poems (“El Dorado”; “The Raven”) are standards.

2.)  His image has become iconic.

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Almost made the list, but didn’t.

NEXT: Most Charismatic American Writer #11
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Most Charismatic #14: Walt Whitman

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

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Walt Whitman created a persona and his poems were performative (he famously titled one of them “Song of Myself”) to the extent that they were more personal, more about himself– drawing attention to himself– than those of any poet or writer before him. A forerunner of, and inspiration for, the Beats, Whitman was a famous and public figure, whether writing eulogies for Presidents, being one of the first (supposedly) to read a poem for a phonograph recording, and having a public funeral attended by thousands of mourners. The first American literary rock star? Possibly so.

1231668(Photo of Walt Whitman’s funeral procession.)

NEXT: Charismatic Writer #13
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Writers Tournament: #7 Seeds

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

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(Stephen Crane.)
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Our latest entrants into the big event:

A.)  Stephen Crane.

For pure writing talent, few American writers match the author of The Red Badge of Courage, “The Open Boat,” and other classics. Decades before Hemingway, Crane saw writing visually, like a painting. His works are expressionist explosions of color and emotion.

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(Art: “Evening Sun” by Otto Dix.)

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B.)  Carl Sandburg.

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Sandburg’s poetry reflected his home base of Chicago: rough-hewn, proletarian, and real. A voice of the Great Depression of the Thirties. An American cultural giant in the Fifties. Thoroughly populist, his clear-but-strong poems were accessible to everyone.

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C.)  J.D. Salinger.

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He’s most widely known for his assigned-in-high school study of adolescence, Catcher in the Rye. But his best work is Nine Stories— nine well-crafted modernist gems of fiction synthesizing those twin pillars of American literature, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. One of the jewels contains the best short story title ever: “For Esme with Love and Squalor.”

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D.)  Kenneth Rexroth.

A forerunner of, and large influence on, the Beats, this San Francisco poet’s uncompromising work was more accomplished. Would Ginsberg’s “Howl” have been possible without the example of Rexroth’s powerful masterpiece, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”?

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T.S. Eliot Question RESOLVED

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

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(T.S. Eliot drawing by Simon Fieldhouse.)

AFTER much research, discussion, and introspection, we’ve come to a resolution regarding the question of whether T.S. Eliot is a British or American citizen– and whether, or not, he can be accepted into the brackets of the Tournament.

The first fact to consider is that Eliot is in the Academy of American Poets.

The second fact is that the British Library (www.bl.uk) lists T.S. Eliot as an American poet.

The third fact is that the Encyclopedia Britannica calls Eliot an American-English poet– which is fence straddling.

Finally there’s a quote on the matter from T.S. Eliot himself, which appears in a number of places online, including at wikipedia:

“I’d say that my poetry has obviously more in common with my distinguished contemporaries in America than with anything written in my generation in England. That I’m sure of. …  in its sources, in its emotional springs, it comes from America.”

The preponderance of evidence says that– though he became a British citizen, T.S. Eliot considered himself an American poet.

Therefore he will be in the Tournament.
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