an unkind poem

they go on writing
pumping out poems–
young boys and college professors
wives who drink wine all afternoon
while their husbands work,
they go on writing
the same names in the same magazines
everybody writing a little worse each year,
getting out a poetry collection
and pumping out more poems
it’s like a contest
it is a contest
but the prize is invisible.
they won’t write short stories or articles
or novels
they just go on
pumping out poems
each sounding more and more like each other
and less and less like themselves,
and some of the young boys weary and quit
but the professors never quit
and the wives who drink wine in the afternoons
never ever ever quit
and new young boys arrive with new magazines
and there is some correspondence with lady (or men) poets
and some fucking
and everything is exaggerated and dull,
when the poems come back
they retype them
and send them off to the next magazine on the list,
and they give readings
all the readings they can
for free most of the time
hoping that somebody will finally know
finally applaud them
finally congratulate and recognize their
they are all so sure of their genius
there is so little self-doubt,
and most of them live in North Beach or New York City,
and their faces are like poems:
and they know each other and
gather and hate and admire and choose and discard
and keep pumping out more poems
more poems
more poems
the contest of the dullards:
tap tap tap, tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap…

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript