SECTION SEVENTEEN 

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COLUMN EIGHTY-FOUR, FEBRUARY 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

BOOK REVIEWS


 (Copyright " 2003 Joyce Metzger)

THE HOLY GRAIL: CHARLES BUKOWSKI and the SECOND COMING REVOLUTION by A.D. Winans; Dustbooks, 2002 (P/B Trade 190pp) PaperBack Ed. Photos from the collection of A.D. Winans

A.D. Winans is one of those rare individuals who can honestly make a claim of being a true son of San Francisco.  He was born in S.F., and except for a tour of duty with the Air Force in Panama, has lived there all his life. He has walked the streets, seen the conditions, talked to the people, and lived the life. Winans felt the energy pulse of the Beat consciousness in the '50s in San Francisco's North Beach. His friends and poetic acquaintances are like reading the who's who of small press poetic endeavor...among them, the legendary Charles Bukowski, Bob Kaufman, Jack Micheline, Kell Robertson, Doug Blazek, William Wantling and many, many others.

Winans began publishing via Second Coming Press in 1972. He has remained a key figure in American literary life and the small press movement up to this date. He has written more than thirty books.  A.D. edited, and published, books for many other voices, along with an on-going literary magazine, Second Coming, under his Second Coming imprint, for seventeen years, until he finally closed the publishing in order to actively pursue his own writing. His poetry and prose has appeared worldwide in over 500 literary magazines and anthologies. Explosions happen. What does one get when two volatile substances are brought together, head-on, both pushed through space, or a room, from behind, at high speed? One might imagine a dangerous catastrophe of epic proportion, amidst shouts of pained outrage, kicks in the ribs and to the head.  Add, crackling, twisted, searing voices shouting at the top of full lung capacity. Instead, when the irresistible force met the immoveable object, we discover a friendship that developed, bloomed, then lasted between Charles Bukowski and A.D. Winans for over seventeen years.

"In letters, telephone conversations, and in personal meetings, Bukowski and I discussed the small press world and the role the poet has played in its development and history," writes A.D. Winans, in his introduction message within the pages of THE HOLY GRAIl: CHARLES BUKOWSKI and the SECOND COMING PRESS.

"(Bukowski) He was a man who shot straight from the hip, the same way I have tried to do my entire life, the same way I have done in this book. I believe this is what drew Bukowski and me together. There weren't any games between us. No need to wear masks. We accepted each other for what we were, warts and all."

These written words from A.D. Winans speak loudly above the kick in the ribs, the long lonely solitary hours of beating the keys, the time spent saddled with bores, bastards and phonies, the readings, coffee shops, bars, lights, and love of music, which created a temporary vision that all might still be right within the world. There are similarities. These two poetic giants were both hard drinkers, womanizers, worked for the postal service, were unable to make and keep an ongoing female relationship and both experienced episodes in their formative years that left them emotionally scarred. But, there were many differences. 

A.D. Winans threw himself into local community efforts via the San Francisco Arts Commission, neighborhood Arts Program and the Federal CETA program, plus worked with the national literary organizations, COSMEP and the NEA, and tried to bring poetry into local schools and state prisons. To my knowledge, Charles Bukowski was never involved in any outreaching, community minded, endeavors. THE HOLY GRAIL: CHARLES BUKOWSKI and the SECOND COMING REVOLUTION will answer any questions you might have about the long lasting friendship between Charles Bukowski and A.D. Winans. You might even discover why they danced on ice cubes tinkling inside a glass of whiskey, why over the years, churlish indignation, back-biting rumors, and poisoned barbs from jealous wannabes  could not, did not, faze either of these poets.

If one has a tendency to read between lines, the reader's mind will catch tiny clues. You might feel the tension of the precarious equilibrium experienced by artistic minds; the tightening in the gut,


'. . .Alcohol gave
Bukowski the bravado
he displayed onstage. . .'


the twisted urgency that determinedly marches onward, armed with relentless honesty, feeling openly vulnerable, as if inwardly crumbling, before a reading, or, while waiting acceptance of the next book, as one battles insomnia, solitude, intruders and fatigue.

"I watched him survey the crowd for several seconds before tilting back his head and drinking half the beer. Bukowski raised his hand to quiet the crowd. Bukowski slowly took his place at the table. He began the reading with a poem filled with the kind of language the audience had come to hear. The only language Bukowski knew---street language. Bukowski finished the poem to loud applause, crushing the empty beer can in one of his hammock hands and tossing it to the side of the stage.

"Bukowski appeared to be enjoying the attention he was receiving, but this may have partly been attributed to his drinking. I say this only because he (despite his reputation) was a shy man in those early days, especially when it came to giving public readings. It was the alcohol that provided him with the bravado he displayed onstage. There were a lot of shit-and-fuck poems and some cute and clever ones. After each poem, he grinned at the audience like a leprechaun."

A.D. Winans doesn't mince words as he tries to describe the ups and downs of his friendship with Charles Bukowski, who was never an easy person, with whom, to have a lasting relationship.

A.D. also tells us about his friendship with William Wantling, Bob Kaufman, and Jack Micheline, all coinciding with the Bukowski years. Winans also relates portions of his involvement with COSMEP, and some of the main players on that very volatile stage.

"Hank told me he was busy working on a second novel and said: 'Whenever I don't answer a letter to you right off, understand that I am fucked up in one way or another, but when and if I pull though you'll hear from me.'

"He went on to say it was easier to just drink and listen to symphony music: 'I just need the horses and the booze. The women always want to do something. Well they can do it with someone else.""  (Bukowski).

--Poem For All The Kids Who Couldn't Get Enough Of Bukowski--

He would be the first
To tell you that
He was an asshole and
He was
And so are you and
Sometimes more and
Sometimes less
Depending on
The
Circumstances  

He would be the first
To admit that
He was a hustler and
A con man and
He was both
But he did it with style
Which is more
Than you can say
For most of us  

Amen
Rest in Peace            

              A.D. Winans

Order this book. If you are a devoted fan, a avid follower, a reader, collector or critic, buy a copy and read it. Then read it again.  You will discover a somewhat tragic, though optimistic and sweeping vision, of what it means to have an artistic soul and mind-set. For those who imagine the solitary life is just a piece of cake, try picking up those crumbs. Mind bending and excellent. From one who walked, talked and lived the events. Highly recommended.

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