On Bukowski

Nina Adel

Middle-aged divorced writer ladies

don’t love Bukowski.

We don’t love your cats.

Our souls don’t mate.

We assume you love to laugh.

We only laugh when it’s funny,

and it’s not that easy to be funny.

It’s an art.


Middle-aged divorced writer ladies

don’t love Bukowski.

When we hear of your love of Bukowski,

and you only mention Bukowski –

right after you hear of our love of

Hybrid Poetics, but only because you asked –

we think, “Likely he doesn’t have a very big

literary palate,

though at least he knows better than to say

Stephen King.”


Middle-aged divorced writer ladies

really don’t love Bukowski.

What we love is hounds.

hounds and specific kinds of pens

and notebooks with paper

of a certain weight and texture.

we love watching seedlings unfold,

crushing fresh cardamom pods.

we love dusty bookstores

and really, all bookstores

and vinyl and spotify and apple music

and whatever way we can hear music and

read books that expand far beyond

(and don’t include) Bukowski.


When I say “we,” what I mean is “I.”

I really don’t love Bukowski, and

it doesn’t matter to me

if you don’t know the names

of all the people who write great books –

I don’t either, just because I’m a writer lady.


When we say, “middle-aged divorced writer ladies

don’t love Bukowski,”

what we mean is we don’t love dating

middle-aged guys who have cats and

say they love Bukowski because

they feel they have to say something cool

instead of just saying something about writers

because they have something to say

about writers.


Given some adjustments in tailoring,

middle-aged divorced writer ladies

are comfortable in both little black dresses

and the right pair of jeans,

but mostly our clothing does not intentionally conform

to the requirements of those middle-aged men

who love Bukowski and have cats.


Middle-aged divorced writer ladies

have probably never even liked Bukowski.

And like everyone else, we love to travel –

there’s no need to request it of us especially.

What do you think we’re going to say? –

“Oh, no, we don’t want to see the world.”


We leave the gold-digging to Jack London.

We don’t think grilling is a substitute for cooking,

or that proving is a substitute for being,

or that ‘real’ is synonymous with ‘authentic,’

‘authentic’ synonymous with ‘honest,’

‘honest’ synonymous with ‘safe,’

or “safe” synonymous with ‘appealing.’


Still you ask, have we even read Bukowski?

and we have.

We haven’t basked or luxuriated in his words,

but we are able to assess Bukowski

as a sort of rapey Leonard Cohen

who doesn’t sing.


Yes, we know. That’s a bit reductive,

but what do you expect

from the people you lump together

with all other middle-aged divorced writer ladies?

What do you expect?

Nina Adel [she, her] holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Hamline University. Winner of the Bellevue Literary Review’s 2020 Buckvar Prize for her lyric essay Refugere, Nina’s work has been published in Flash Fiction Magazine, Moria, Breath and Shadow, matchbook, and many other publications. She is the recipient of a 2023 Yaddo artist residency. She has received recognition in such diverse corners of the arts world as Glimmer Train, The Kerrville Music Festival, and Wolf Trap, among others. She is a Berklee-trained musician, craftsperson (owner of Blue Salamander Arts and Letters), and English professor, and is the editor of the recent anthology A Lighthouse, a collection of immigrant voices from the Nashville-based Immigrants Write program which she directs. She lives in Nashville with her family.