Analysis of “Moon and the Stars and the World” by Charles Bukowski
With only six lines and 23 words, Charles Bukowski’s “And the Moon, and the Stars, and the World,” (which was originally published in the collection, Mockingbird Wish Me Luck ) is possibly one his shortest -- and most uncharacteristic -- poem. It’s sparse and doesn’t mince words, and its title doesn’t appear to fit the content.
Still, it's essentially Bukowski at his finest. Many fans will recognize the bawdy humor, diction, and commentary of those on the fringes of life.
“And the Moon, and Stars, and the World” is the world of Bukowski summed up in a few lines. Dubbed the “drunken bard of low-life” or the “first punk poet” this polarizing writer wrote about the stark reality of living a downtrodden and beer-soaked life on the mean streets of Los Angeles.
And the Moon…” is no exception, in terms of its subject matter and theme. It’s an observational poem about people’s hidden persona.
His thinly-veiled autobiographical stories and poems were gritty. They touched upon ideas and themes many writers would stay away from. Also, many of his poems followed a narrative format, consisting of a short word-count per line (sometimes two or three words per line). He rarely, if ever, incorporated any distinctive rhymes or rhythms.
Many of his poems are lengthy, too. It's not uncommon for his poem to be three to four pages long. "And the Moon..." barely fills a quarter of a page. This, in part, makes this particular poem unique among his collection.
“And the Moon…” is no exception, in terms of its subject matter and theme. It’s an observational poem about people’s hidden persona. In this case, he observes what really happens between married couples he observed through though open windows-- possibly left open, unintentionally.
Bukowski as the observer (after all, he lived the life he wrote about) seems to revel in this role. For him, he can observe people from afar. Possibly, the scenes are humorous, or they reveal something unsettling about the way people really act when they believe they are in the privacy of their own home.
Brutal honesty is a big thing in Bukowski’s writing. His works are full of critiques against pretentious people who try to act more sophisticated than they really are. As previously mentioned, they're semi-autobiographical. Many of the events in his stories and poems were taken from his personal life.
Is it possible he can relate to the "drunk-maddened husbands" who are trying to get a little frisky with tired or frigid lover? It's possible, considering that his life was the inspiration for his prose.
Also, this poem implies that seeing these people act "normal" in his eyes is a bit of relief for him. Maybe, the joy he gets is that they affirmed his feelings and possibly existence.
"Long Walks at Night..."
While much of Bukowski’s themes are present, the poem’s format is unusual for him. It’s short and to-the-point and doesn’t waste time revealing his theme. He sets it up with the following lines:
“Long walks at night -
that’s what good for the soul:
Afterwards, he gives an observation to support his theme. This one is a twist (at least for those who don’t read him on a regular basis):
“peeking into windows
watching tired housewives
trying to fight off
their beer-maddened husbands.”
Here, the poem is seemingly influenced by another poet not often associated with him: William Carlos William. The poet in question often wrote short observational poems in which he barely injected any subjective thoughts into them. Bukowski takes it a step further and adds his opinion with the line: "that's what's good for the soul."
Word economy is another device he uses with precision. He doesn’t go into many details about the type of activities going on in the house. Instead, he describes it in a few words such as “tired housewives” and “beer-maddened husband.” This explains as much as is necessary to understand exactly what’s going on
Love him or hate him, Charles Bukowski has produced some of the most influential poems of the late 20th century. His style and diction may turn some people off; however, if one gets past that, he or she will discover works with genuine social commentary.
While “And the Moon” is a bit unusual for him, it is pure Bukowski at his finest. Besides, one can expect a Bukowski poem to have beer worked into it somewhere.
© 2015 Dean Traylor