Charles Bukowski shills for Dewar’s -- if only he could enjoy it

A poem by Charles Bukowski is featured in an advertisement for Dewar’s, the 157-year-old blended scotch. If only the notoriously hard-drinking poet had lived long enough to reap the rewards of his endorsement.

The L.A. poet died in 1994 at age 73, having lived long enough to go from being an antihero of the underground to being celebrated internationally for his writing. His life was fictionalized in the film “Barfly,” and his papers are now in the collection at the highbrow Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. So he has been recognized in many ways.

The poem, “So, You Want to Be a Writer,” was published in a posthumous Bukowski collection. It’s not him reading it in the advertisement -- instead of his gravelly drawl, it’s a polite, sincere British reader, Tom O’Bedlam.

The Paris Review finds the ad “all very sweeping and epic and generally the most movingly crass blend of commerce and poetry since Walt Whitman started shilling for Levi’s.”


But I think Bukowski would have enjoyed being connected to Dewar’s, as long as he got some free scotch out of the deal. Especially in his “Post Office” days, when he was working a job he hated and barely scraping by. Imagine getting a lifetime supply way back then! He’d order round after round for the bar, toasting, as his filmic alter ego Henry Chinaski did, “To all my friends!”


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