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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER?, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"So You Want to be a Writer?" is a poem by Charles Bukowski, first published in his 1986 collection "War All the Time." Bukowski was known for his raw and gritty writing style, and his work often drew from his own experiences as a struggling writer and alcoholic. "So You Want to be a Writer?" is a satirical and somewhat cynical poem that offers a sobering view of the writing life.


The poem begins with the speaker addressing a young aspiring writer, warning them of the difficulties and sacrifices that come with pursuing a writing career. The speaker describes the loneliness and isolation that often accompanies writing, as well as the financial struggles and lack of recognition that many writers face. The poem goes on to critique the notion of writing as a "calling," suggesting that it is more of a compulsion or addiction that drives writers to create. 

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: "So You Want to be a Writer?" is a free verse poem that does not follow a specific rhyme or meter scheme. It is composed of three stanzas, with the first and third stanzas each consisting of six lines and the second stanza consisting of eight lines.
  • Tone: The poem has a satirical and somewhat cynical tone, poking fun at the idea of writing as a romantic or noble pursuit.
  • Imagery: Bukowski uses vivid and sometimes graphic imagery throughout the poem, particularly in the second stanza where he describes the "blood and guts" of the writing process.


"So You Want to be a Writer?" is a biting and satirical critique of the writing life. While it may seem harsh, the poem offers a sobering reminder that writing is not always a glamorous or fulfilling pursuit, and that many writers struggle with isolation, financial hardship, and a lack of recognition. However, the poem also suggests that writing can be a powerful compulsion or addiction that drives writers to create despite these challenges.

Poem Snippet:

"if it doesn't come bursting out of you

in spite of everything,

don't do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your

heart and your mind and your mouth

and your gut,

don't do it."

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