"It was quite an evening," said Gilbert, who is 90 and lives in Claremont. "I didn't even know who Bukowski was, so I sat there not knowing what to expect. Here he was with a beer can in one hand and he's got these pages in the other hand and he's reading to us like he couldn't care less. He'd sip his beer then throw his page on the floor."
Gilbert said she was struck by the rawness of his poetry. "He sounded very honest, like he was telling it like it is," Gilbert said. "I knew he lived a life I would never know, so I was intrigued."
She was so enthralled by the man and his poetry, whom Time magazine called a "laureate of American lowlife," that she did what she has done for many other memorable experiences in her life: She wrote a poem, published here for the first time.
The Night Bukowski Read His Poems
His reputation preceded him
Campus police guarded the doors
The written word can be dangerous you know
Bukowski was going to read his poems
The only request from Charles
Bring plenty of beer
Everything would flow
What a show!
From the stairwell he stood
Never looking up
Beer can in one hand, poem in the other
The pock-marked face
Showed the ravages of the life he had known
And the seeds he had sown