Good and original poets spawn bad and imitative poetry.
Look at all the verbiage spewed out by those green and dappled flecked imitators after Dylan Thomas had one too many on a New York afternoon; or all the poems about PMT, swollen ankles and the indifference of men that came forth after Sylvia Plath’s sad demise; or the short men who swaggered after Charles Bukowski died, juggling six-pack and pen, writing long anaemic poetry about drinking, fighting and love. Yes, good poetry does often inspire bad poets.
It doesn’t always appear after death, sometimes it rubs shoulders with the living poet in hope of capturing some of their spark. I recall when the cool got hip to Bukowski and he appeared in Andy Warhol’s Interview talking with actor Sean Penn, that everyone including Penn was writing long three word a line poems about nothing much in particular, but this how it is if you’re a poet and you know sensitive and you gotta live that kinda life on the edge kinda thing blah-de-blah-de-blah. Suddenly it was hard to find a magazine that didn’t have some sub-Bukowskian ode in it, that looked like the stuff from high school poetry clubs and always made me think of G.K. Chesterton’s line that:
To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.
Bukowski did not give many readings during his lifetime. Biographers have claimed he hated giving readings, but did it for the two hundred or three hundred dollars to keep him in booze, smokes and a wager on the horses. But this all changed in the 1980s, when money started coming in via checks and royalties for books and film options and Bukowski no longer needed that extra couple of hundred to tide him over. Bukowski gave his last poetry reading at the Sweetwater music club in Redondo Beach, California on March 31, 1980, almost a decade and a half before he died in 1994. The whole reading was (thankfully) filmed by Jon Monday, who left the performance unedited as he believed the sections between Bukowski reading his poems gave some insight into the man and his temperament. It certainly does, as Oliver Hardy would say, and shows why the original poet will always be better than the imitators.