So you want to be a writer?: Recommended
Poet: Charles Bukowski
“unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.”
Poets and fiction writers gain their fame and fortune by making stuff up. They lie, they cheat, the words they use are perfidious, mendacious, folly. However, this is also a gift. To be able to manipulate the reader into reading, is to an author what saving lives is to a doctor. Second nature. This poem is different. It tells the cold, hard, undeviating truth of so many things – do what you love and love what you do. If what you’re doing doesn’t make you excited, if you’re not passionate about doing it, don’t do it. Even if you believe that this is what the world needs, whether that be more writers, doctors, etc., do not do it unless you love it. This is the main message in the poem, in which the author accurately portrays easily.
I personally believe that the truth this poem explains is so relatable to people of many ages, especially young adults. This may be because we are still ignited by a passionate, frenetic energy that hasn’t yet been substituted for broken dreams and too many debts, or maybe it’s because we can still be whoever we want to be – trying to figure that out is the problem. Charles Bukowski has managed to guide us with his ideas on only following your passions, which is a critical lesson teenagers must learn before making any future choices or decisions. He has written this poem exactly as we would organise our own thoughts on the matter, in a repetitive and structured manner that manages to make as much and as little sense as possible, all at the same time. I personally felt that this poem was relatable because of this repetitive mantra shown in excerpts like “if you’re doing it for money or/fame,/don’t do it.”, where the author explains the real reasons for doing something. Young adults and teenagers can relate to this well because we are all in situations where we need to start deciding on careers, on our future goals, on our lives, and this poem teaches us an important lesson of never do something for its rewards, always follow your passions because the rewards you’d reap from that would be far more valuable than any amount of money or fame could be to you. My response to this is that these ideas the poet can portray have been written so angrily and seriously that it makes you want to listen. I like that a poet can draw your attention and make you try and understand the deeper meanings of their poems because it makes the piece of writing more influential on you and your life, and makes you really consider exactly what the poem conveys, and exactly why it was written. This is why it would be an excellent piece of writing for a year 12 book club to read.
This idea was developed well throughout the poem, with the use of vivid imagery like “if it never does roar out of you,/do something else.” Which makes the reader see what the poet tries to convey. It’s describing the act of discovering your passions – when you find exactly what you love to do more than anything else, it won’t let you know quietly, or softly, or simply appear, when you finally find it, it will “roar out of you” and you’ll never be the person you were again. I personally found that this part of the poem was important because it shows people that you will know exactly when you need to do something, you just have to wait, be patient, and it will show itself. Other people may interpret this message of only following your passions as laziness of lack of ambition because before you discover what you love, you may not put all of your efforts towards it because you don’t understand why you’re doing it. I think that people could perceive this poem to be promoting not becoming a writer because of the way it’s worded and laid out. However, I believe that this poem explains that writing, and any other career, should not be something you need to force, it shouldn’t be difficult or cause stress, and it shouldn’t be something you tell yourself you should do because it’s what other people are doing. Do not follow other people’s passions. Follow your own. What he means is while writing, it should just happen, it should flow from you and should be your natural way of expressing yourself. He also explains that just because writing may not be your passion, it doesn’t mean that you’re passionless, it simply means you haven’t found yours yet. And that’s okay. This poem shows how passionate Charles was in his writing and how many others bother him because they’re not following their own passions.
The other side to this is that it’s also important to get involved, to try and provoke your passions and to try and discover them yourself. This can be done by simply getting involved, doing more of what you already enjoy, or even talking to other people about their passions and how they got discovered. This is a really important lesson for young adults to learn because it not only broadens their understanding of themselves, but also increases the spectrum of people they’d normally socialise or talk to. If they wanted to understand, truly understand, what this poem means by not doing something unless you love it, you have to see both sides of the story. You must put all of your effort into things you like but aren’t necessarily passionate about to understand how it feels when you are passionate. The poem manages to describe this in an easy to understand way that’s been written into the text obviously rather than shown as an underlying meaning. “if you have to wait for it to roar out of/you,/then wait patiently./if it never does roar out of you,/do something else.” This quote explains how if you think you’re passionate about something, but aren’t, it’s okay to leave and try something new. It tells the reader how sometimes things change and you don’t love things like you used to and that’s okay – you just need to go out and find your new passions and embark on new adventures. As this is a really important lesson for younger readers to learn, this poem would be a really good recommendation for a year 12 book club.
Possibly one of the parts I enjoyed most about the poem was the way the author wrote it. He managed to write such a complicated truth so simply, in a way that’s not only easy to read, but allows you to really think about what the poem is trying to explain. To me, this is an important quality of any piece of text, and has been developed well in this poem. When I researched other poems by this author, they had very similar themes and styles but changes in topic, meaning I would also recommend other pieces by this poet as well. This poem is a good recommendation for a year 12 book club, and is important because it shows Charles Bukowski writing as if he were reflecting his own poem – passionate.
By Dharma Bratley