You don’t need more jeans. What you need is more poetry.

Annoying Levi’s ad on TV these days. Seen it? Never mind if you haven’t; you’re not missing much. Why am I writing a post about it? Because I find it interesting how retailers are using poetry to sell clothes.

The commercial in question is from Levi’s new campaign – Go Forth. The poem in question is Charles Bukowski’s The Laughing Heart, one of his more optimistic pieces, written in a  gentler hand than the standard misanthropic deliveries he is known (and I will say loved) for.

Let’s face it, Charles Bukowski was a dirty old man, but he was everyone’s favorite bastard. Swilling whiskey with one hand, and feeling up a topless starlet with the other, was his idea of a portrait. And Levi’s has chosen his words as the new anthem for today’s denim wearing generation. Frankly, I don’t blame them. It was a great fucking idea.

The poem, is astounding. It simply is a work of staggering beauty and tenderness.

But Levi’s is little more than an industrial workwear brand turned urban fashion weathervane. “Here’s what jeans need to be doing now,” Levi’s seems to say, “This is what you need to own to be cool now; a pair of jeans that tells the world you buy into Bukowski’s beautiful philosophy of hope for the youth, and their future.”

And if you already own 150 pairs, here is a beautifully shot commercial featuring the gut-twisting words of an American poetic iconoclast, to convince you to walk into their stores and buy another.

Don’t fall for it. Listen to me: You don’t need more jeans. What you need is more poetry.

– The Laughing Heart –
by Charles Bukowski 

 your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. tejaswini says:

    grrr…I know, I was so mad when I saw that ad. I pity the generation learning those lines as “Levis ad”. they did the same thing with a whitman poem. Shouldn’t they have Bukowski written there somewhere?


  2. tejaswini says:

    also, have you heard Waits read “The laughing heart” , its a delight. look it up.


    1. mentalexotica says:

      I will. Thank you.


  3. dibakar says:

    see the awesome thing at the end of the day is that i loved the poem and the ad but it never made me think twice about buying a pair of levis – or any jeans for that matter.

    though i must mention that as we speak there are two monstrous holes appearing right near the crotch area of my current pair and they prevent me from sitting with my legs spread open in civil company.

    my life is my life and i will only buy a pair when the holes consume the jeans and the balls hang out. or maybe not.


    1. mentalexotica says:

      Dibakar, I loved that! Your writing, that is, not your testicle sprouting denims. Incidentally, do get a new pair. Poetry is great but we don’t need to see your family’s crown jewels either.


  4. sarah says:

    i agree with what you say, and to i can only imagine how horrified Mr. Buwkoski would be to see how his poetry is being used to sell jeans- the irony of it hehe. but having said that, I don’t see the harm in the ad if it’ll make people pause and listen to the poem. if it can introduce someone to bukowski. Its probably easier to reach most people nowadays through advertisments and products than it is by handing them a book. if this is what it takes to keep poetry be
    personally I had the same feelings as dibakar- loved the add, love the poem, didn’t think abt buying anything.


  5. Jeffrey says:

    How can i cite this website?


    1. mentalexotica says:

      It was a Levi’s ad. Look for it on YouTube.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.