The Genius Of The Crowd (Charles Bukowski)


There is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art

Here, Bukowski speaks about the Genius in people. Maybe not in the classical sense, he means this Genius to be filled with the most disgusting hatred. Love is a average, seek the average. What does that means ? To seek balance ? I don’t think he meant that. What he could have mean is that a Crowd is something average, there are many different kind of people in a given crowd, he knew that deeply as a great observator of New York City life. From all ages, male, female, he knew that nobody was dismissed, and that everyone has a certain ratio of hatred in them. Everyone is a hater somewhere. But do everyone know how to love ? This is about the Love/Hate duality, it’s a kind of a yin-yang balance as he describe it but he focuses on the “average people”. And how someone as intellectually gifted as Bukowski could have felt everyday with his fellow average New Yorkers, who can’t understand his art, who can’t love fully, who can’t understand solitude and finally hate him as a person. What a depressing experience this must have been for someone with such a great intellect to be judged and hated by the “average people”… Finally, the great metaphoric list of the Diamond, the knife, the mountain, the tiger… What do these symbols have in common ? Their edge, they cut deeply with intensity. “Their finest art” is to cut your creativity, your solitude, your love because they can’t understand it, they are afraid of you because you are different. But psychologist will tell you that this hate is a kind of protection. A protection from their own failures, from the fact that they can’t love fully, a protection from their own fears.

I personally love this poem, I love how he puts words in contrast with the Love/Hate duality. Black&White images of NY could go well with it 🙂

Here is my sonic interpretation of the poem:

3 thoughts on “The Genius Of The Crowd (Charles Bukowski)

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