A new ad for Dewar’s Scotch whiskey uses Charles Bukowski’s famous poem, “So You Want to Be a Writer,” to hawk their booze. The reading is quite beautiful, the kind of pathos-rendering performance one wishes they had first heard outside of an advertisement. Now, I’m way past caring about hearing my favorite song in a commercial. First of all, no one is dumb enough to think the artist or band is actually endorsing a project. Secondly, making money off of music is really difficult, so I’m pretty sympathetic to whatever artists or their surviving family have to do to make ends meet. This Dewar’s ad however, rubs me the wrong way, and I can’t quite figure out why it’s so different.
Maybe it’s because music is capable of being such a passive experience, while this kind of poetry requires a more focused engagement. Yes, we’ve all gotten wasted, put on the headphones, and listened to ABBA with a fevered intensity (or maybe that’s just me?), but most of the time, we have music playing while we commute, clean the house, type away at work, take care of the kids, or do whatever mundane task the day requires of us. Most music is art that we can fit into the nooks and crannies of our lives—a soundtrack—but this kind of poetry requires a bit of space, and a bit of time.
Or maybe It’s because this poem has always rubbed me the wrong way, as an anthem of creative onus. I’ve always felt it odd that someone would list off the many “wrong” ways to make art, as if it’s some sort of orthodox religion. And the idea that art should only be produced in a flash of inspiration or passion has been argued against by so many artists. Sometimes things take time, first drafts, second drafts, 134th drafts. Sometimes the failures and near-misses of creation are what’s necessary to really transform a project into something great. Sometimes creation is a schlep. Sometimes ideas and work needs to age (like a good whiskey!).
Or maybe I just don’t like the ad because I think Dewar’s is terrible Scotch?
Via Open Culture