Communism wasn't a word that I thought of when I went to Cuba. The original Fidelistas were not Communists. They were graduate students at the university and law students. After the Fidelistas took over, they went to Washington and tried to get support from the U.S. government, which turned them down. They were in a desperate political and economic situation, so they took the offer from the Soviet Union. Communism was a matter of necessity.
You can publish a poem you think is a very important poem, and you don't hear a word from anyone. You can publish a book of poetry by dropping it off a cliff and waiting to hear an echo. Quite often, you'll never hear a thing. So doing that, using older work, puts it in a context, and that sort of forces the reader to realize what its importance is-if it has any. Everything needs a context. You're not going to recognize a poet unless you have a context.
See it was like this when we waltz into this place. A couple of papish cats is doing an Aztec two-step And I says Dad let's cut but then this dame comes up behind me see and says you and me could really exist Wow I says Only the next day she has bad teeth and really hates poetry.
I certainly was surprised to be named Poet Laureate of this far-out city on the left side of the world, and I gratefully accept, for as I told the Mayor, "How could I refuse?" I'd rather be Poet Laureate of San Francisco than anywhere because this city has always been a poetic center, a frontier for free poetic life, with perhaps more poets and more poetry readers than any city in the world.
I arrived in San Francisco in January 1951. After the Second World War, the population was so uprooted. Soldiers came back home for brief periods and took off again. So the population was very fluid, and suddenly it was as if the continent tilted west. The whole population slid west. It took 10 years for America to coalesce into a new culture. And the new culture happened in San Francisco, not New York.
If you're going to be a writer you should sit down and write in the morning, and keep it up all day, every day. Charles Bukowski, no matter how drunk he got the night before or no matter how hungover he was, the next morning he was at his typewriter. Every morning. Holidays, too. He'd have a bottle of whiskey with him to wake up with, and that's what he believed. That's the way you became a writer: by writing. When you weren't writing, you weren't a writer.
We'd like to just write nothing but lyric poetry. The trouble is, the individual is going along intent on his own personal gratifications and love affairs and financial affairs and everything else. But loping alongside him is this fascist lout who keeps trying to take over. And if you keep ignoring him, he gets bigger and bigger, so every once in a while the free individual has to turn away from his private pursuits and give this fascist lout a few clouts, and beat him down to size.