Charlie Kelly or Charles Bukowski: Can You Guess Who Wrote Each of These Poems?

In recent years, much has been made of the phenomenon of “outsider art,” or art brut. These terms, created respectively by art critic Roger Cardinal and artist Jean Dubuffet, refer to the creations of artists who work outside of the mainstream, such as psychiatric patients.

Now, the term applies to visual art, but if we shift the definition to include the written word, I can think of no more prominent standard-bearer for lit brut than dive bar janitor Charlie Kelly of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Charlie’s illiteracy is one of the show’s most dependable running gags, but in spite of his inability to read or write, he creates. Constantly. Whether it be songs, poems, or plays, Charlie is far and away the most artistic and literary member of the Sunny gang.

After I recently passed off one of Charlie’s creations as an e.e. cummings poem, to great success and over a thousand notes on Tumblr from kids tagging it #poetry and #words and #this is so beautiful, I’ve decided to conduct a little experiment.

Below you’ll find excerpts of several poems – some by Charles Bukowski, and some by Charlie Kelly. Can you guess which is which without peeking at the answer key?

I’ve taken the liberty of removing capitalization and most punctuation to level the playing field, but all wording and line breaks remain the same.

Good luck!

1.

then i got up and took a crap
there was a big spider in marie’s bathroom
but i crapped

2.

what we need is more
beer

3.

there’s a spider
he’s deep in my soul
he’s lived here for years

4.

i remember the cows
i once painted in art class
and they looked good

5.

i run and run and run and run
and run and run and run
he guns and guns and
guns and guns and guns
and guns and guns

6.

speaks like zeus
smells like poops
rage all over
from his head
down to his shoes

7.

the most horrible thing
i could think of
was part of me being
what ejaculated out of the
end of his
stupid penis

8.

don’t be a whore
tonight
because i got
nothing left
i’m spent
i’m really exhausted
too much sex
and too much stuff

9.

i could start
knocking cans from the shelves and
also rolls of towels, toilet paper,
silver foil,
i could throw oranges, bananas, tomatoes
through the air, i could take cans of
beer from the refrigerated section and
start gulping them

10.

they keep making them
and everybody keeps buying them
and wearing them
and the faces are just like
the american flag shirt

11.

our words
our passion that flows
like beer
misery chains
thunder rain

12.

thack thack thack thack
and then i hear birds
and thack thack thack
and i go to bed

13.

god damn, it’s almost like being shot in the ass

14.

on his bed made for kings
on his toilet made out of gold

15.

i’ll bet you sucked your mother’s nipples until you were
twelve years old

16.

if here by now then bad place be
trouble time for you
when heat comes

17.

have you hugged your rat today?
suddenly i have the urge to urinate

18.

we’re gonna do all the drugs
and then we’re gonna try
to fix the lights

19.

but she still looked good to me, she still looked good
and all thanks to an ugly horse

20.

when i am feeling
low
all i have to do is
watch my cats
and my
courage
returns
i study these
creatures
they are my
teachers

ANSWER KEY:
1. Charles Bukowski, the spider
2. Charles Bukowski, the crunch
3. Charlie Kelly, Go Fuck Yourselves
4. Charles Bukowski, cows in Art Class
5. Charlie Kelly, Hans Wermhatt
6. Charlie Kelly, Untitled (For Dennis)
7. Charles Bukowski, Three Oranges
8. Charlie Kelly, Untitled (For Dee)
9. Charles Bukowski, A Close Call While Shopping
10. Charles Bukowski, American Flag Shirt
11. Charlie Kelly and Dee Reynolds, The Deffest
12. Charles Bukowski, the house
13. Charles Bukowski, back to the machinegun
14. Charlie Kelly, Look at King Dennis
15. Charles Bukowski, two kinds of hell
16. Charlie Kelly, Bad Place
17. Charles Bukowski, the lucky ones
18. Charlie Kelly, The Drugs
19. Charles Bukowski, A $340 Horse and a $100 Whore
20. Charles Bukowski, My Cats

3 thoughts on “Charlie Kelly or Charles Bukowski: Can You Guess Who Wrote Each of These Poems?

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