Drunk before noon

hemmingway edited

The Hemingway photograph which hung above Bukowski’s desk

In May this year, Anthony Wilson published a post entitled ‘Which artists do you admire most?’. I’m a big fan of Charles Bukowski. I love his work, but more than this, I love his approach to life. One of the artists Bukowski admired was Hemingway (see his poem Hemingway, drunk before noon, below). The picture, above, is the one he refers to in the poem, ‘hardly looking/ macho/ at all’.

Hemingway, drunk before noon

she knew Hemingway in Cuba
and she took this photo of him one day
drunk before noon–
he was stretched on the floor
face puffed with drink
gut hanging out over his
belt, hardly looking
at all.he heard the click of the camera,
lifted his head a bit from the
floor and
said, “Sister, don’t you ever publish that
photo.”I have the photo framed now
on the south wall
facing the door.

the lady gifted me this

now her book has just been
issued by Rusconi (Italy) and is

there are photos:
Hemingway with the lady and a

Hemingway’s work

Hemingway’s library with bull’s

Hemingway feeding a

Hemingway’s bed.

Mary Hemingway with the

Hemingway and Mary, Venezia, 31
ottobre 1948.

Hemingway and the

Hemingway and
Ettore Sottsass jr.

Hemingway, Venezia, marzo

no photo
of Hemingway
soused before

from a man who was very good
with the word

the lady had kept


by Charles Bukowski

Very recently, I admitted to myself that I was writing a novel. I find the idea daunting, not least because of the scale of the undertaking. A poem can be written in a few minutes (although I know often it takes months to get a poem right). Still, when you write a poem the end is never very far away. With a novel, the end is incredibly distant (well, it is at the stage I’m at). You need to grab whatever you can to keep you going. I’ve started keeping a few postcards in the back of my notebook as a sort of mood board I can glance at when I need a push.
As for artists, at the moment it’s the image of the artist that seems important to me (as it was for Bukowski). I’m a big fan of Nick Cave and I’ve liked the photo of him writing in his garret (below) for a long time. It turns out it’s quite contrived. The photographer, Bleddyn Butcher, says this of the shoot: ‘We line the bower with trophies and treasures, keepsakes and souvenirs. We haul up Nick’s library, pile it to the ceiling, shuffle the spines. We lay on the comforts, the vodka, the tin cup, the spurious uke. We plant clues, we post fetishes. We do a splendid job. The roost looks cosy and lived in. It looks plausible.’  (Bleddyn Butcher). 

nick cave berlin

Nick Cave, Berlin, 1985

So, the photograph is not all it seems. Somehow though, this doesn’t matter. The point is, it reflects the mood of the book (The Ass Saw the Angel). Inspiration works in different ways. There are so many poets and writers I admire it would be ridiculous to list them. However, what I need at the moment is not so much the influence of their work, but the influence of their way of living whilst writing. It’s a very long time indeed since I was drunk before noon and I don’t think the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle would help my writing one bit, but I do feel I need to make some changes to the way I balance life and writing in order to see the novel through to completion. Fortunately, the summer holidays are almost here, and I’m looking forward to having some time to ‘plant clues, post fetishes’ and create the conditions for interesting writing to occur.

A Little History: Nick Cave and Cohorts, 1981 – 2013 by Bleddyn Butcher (Allen and Unwin, 2014)



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