The Bukowski Project

Artistic Idea & Invention, Conception & Direction, and Compositions by Ute Lemper, with additional compositions by Vana Gierig and Todd Turkisher

A journey through the poetry of Charles Bukowski in music and words, based on 3 poetry books by Bukowski (the poems kept in their original forms)
• You get so alone that it just makes sense
• The last night of the earth poems
• What matters most is how well you walk through the fire

I am fascinated by the rather dark universe of Bukowski’s work. The poetry is very situational, like short movies, absolutely unpretentious and very much down to the bone in honesty and realism. It bares the nakedness of a lost soul, lost in a life and in a society that did not care about his survival, and the rage of an angry man, who finds salvation in the bottle and in the words he feeds into his type writer.

In 2009 the Milan Literature festival (La Milanesiana) asked me to create a poetic project in music and I decided to finally invent a journey through Bukowski’s poetry and set it to music. I read through the entire body of work and focused in the end on a set of 30 poems from 3 different poetry books. (What matters most is how well you walk through the fire / the last night of the earth poems / you get so alone sometimes that it just makes sense).

From then on it was pure passion to find the heartbeat, the pulse and the musical landscape that captured the essence of the words.

As the Bukowski Project is more like a collage, I tried nevertheless to walk thematically through various aspects of his life. I start with the more philosophical explorations about life and death and his feeling of being trapped in-between like a lost dog, then move on to his rather battered upbringing with his abusive father who always reappears in his poems like a tyrant. We follow into the twisted relationships with woman, who he seemed to consume and abuse insatiably like beer and vodka. Towards the end I focus on the political poetry. He presents apocalyptic discriptions of society and a total loss of trust, morality and dignity in the political and economic systems.

In this last chapter he reminds me the most of Berthold Brecht. The directness of his words and the observations of crime and injustice, outcasts, decadence, the losers, loners and the whiskey bars seems familiar to me from the world of Mahagonny by Brecht. Yet, Bukowski had very prophetic visons and it is shocking how much truth we discover 30 years after the scripture of these works.

Pieces in the Performance ( Songs and Texts ):

(Prolog) Hot
1. Pulled Down The Shade
2. The Meaning Of It All
3. This Moment
4. She Comes From Somewhere/You Do It While You’re Killing Flies
5. Well, That’s The Way It Is
6. Beast
7. The Circus of Death
8. Time
9. How Is Your Heart
10. Let Me Tell You
11. They Don’t Eat Like Us
12. The Man
13. Memory
14. Bumming With Jane
15. Lifedance
16. On The Sidewalk And In The Sun
17. No Help For That
18. The Bluebird
19. Darkness
20. The Crunch
21. Let ’em Blow
22. Warm Light
23. Wind The Clock
24. Dinosauria We
25. Full Moon
26. The Last Shot
27. My Uncle Jack
(epilog) Showbiz

© The Bukowski Foundation/Ute Lemper
With Special Thanks to Linda Bukowski