“On Shakespeare’s Curiously Befouling and Pardoned Agnosticism”

In case anyone was wondering or doesn’t know already, Bukowski was wrong about Shakespeare, he was a genius of spellbinding moxie. Of course, Bukowski was more like a machine than he was a man — he was like some fan that shoots out wind and beer and makes funny noises. I mean, one time apparently he slept in a park in Atlanta and nearly froze and starved to death, just having nothing to do. One of my favorite stories of his is the one in Tales of Ordinary Madness where he’s somewhere around New Orleans and he sees an employment opportunity. It’s for working on a railroad, and riding along the railroad. He thinks he’s just going to apply, and the guy’s like, Well, you wanna sign on? Bukowski goes, Huh? And the guy goes, Well sh**, it ain’t a spot as a chorus girl! Then Bukowski gets on the car, and one of the guys already on is like, Look at this new guy, he thinks he’s better than us! We’ll make him suck di**! They finally get to LA and Bukowski just quits there, gets off, tries to sneak into some hut or something to get a drink of water, and gets beaten by this kid and his dad with a baseball bat. Bukowski’s just lying there then all bruised, and the story ends with the line, I closed my eyes.

Then Bukowski would always write at night, apparently, drunk, so you can never really take him too seriously, his prose is just incredibly entertaining and refreshing. It’s the polar opposite, you might say, of metered verse. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is an interesting play by Shakespeare because, as well as being the grandest statement on the most rudimentary and universal, spiny traits of life itself [1], irrespective of not only religion [2], but politics and even behavior, for the most part, it does feature breaks in meter, courtesy of a guy named “Bottom” who is sort of an overzealous, though maybe under-zealous in the eyes of king Theseus, dramatizer and player. In the internal play that he, Snout and others act out, suicides abound at the culmination, yet the cold eye of king Theseus calls for an even more tragic resolution. There’s a strong overtone in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” of suicide being preferable to life in a convent, materialized early on by the character Hermia.

I used to live out in Boulder, Co., and they’d have a Shakespeare Fest every summer. Obviously, pot is legal there. Back home, here, I feel an incredible connection with Shakespeare, particularly “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” [3]. I also inhale marijuana smoke back here, second-hand, of course, and write hip-hop music heavily influenced by Tricky, and perform it. When I lived in Colorado, for three years, I never smoked pot, and I never read Shakespeare. I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and To Kill a Mockingbird, and enjoyed them idyllically. There is no Shakespeare Fest back here, and when I think of ways of perfecting how to be an English teacher, I’m heavily inspired by Jane’s Addiction and The Doors [4].


[1] Shakespeare makes ingenious use of “fairies” in this play who are benevolent but imperfect, attempting to right the human maelstrom in the department of romance.

[2] Interestingly, Shakespeare chose Julius Caesar, whose death predated Christ’s birth by all of 44 years, human being time, as subject matter.

[3] And not because of Dead Poet’s Society, though I do like that movie.

[4] The Doors – “Been Down So Long”; Jane’s Addiction – “Jane Says”

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