In a 1985 interview in the #27 issue of New York Quarterly, Charles Bukowski — who gave few interviews — offered some revealing insights into his writing process. Excerpts from the interview are included below. Read the entire interview at this link.


I write right off the typer. I call it my “machinegun.” …The next day I retype the poem and automatically make a change or two…I seldom know what I’m going to write when I sit down….The writing’s easy, it’s the living that is sometimes difficult.

I don’t carry notebooks and I don’t consciously store ideas. I try not to think that I am a writer and I am pretty good at doing that. I don’t like writers, but then I don’t like insurance salesmen either.

I love solitude but I don’t need it to the exclusion of somebody I care for in order to get some words down. I figure if I can’t write under all circumstances, then I’m just not good enough to do it….I have written with children running about the room having at me with squirt guns….One thing does bother me, though: to overhear somebody’s loud tv, a comedy program with a laugh track.

[Writers I admire include] John Fante, Knut Hamsun, the Celine of Journey; Dostoesvsky, of course; Jeffers of the long poems only; Conrad Aiken, Catullus…not too many.

There’s too much bad poetry being written today…Bad poetry is caused by people who sit down and think, Now I am going to write a Poem…

[A poet starting out today] should realize that if he writes something and it bores him it’s going to bore many other people also. There is nothing wrong with a poetry that is entertaining and easy to understand. Genius could be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way. He should stay the hell out of writing classes and find out what’s happening around the corner. And bad luck for the young poet would be a rich father, an early marriage, an early success or the ability to do anything very well.

Illustration by Chris Adams (, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (Chris Adams’ portrait of Charles Bukowski will appear in the upcoming Silver Birch Press Bukowski Anthology.)