Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way - Charles Bukowski

2003; 395 pages. Genre : Contemporary Poetry. New Author? : No. Overall Rating : 7*/10.
Sifting Through The Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way is a collection of poems by Charles Bukowski published posthumously. Buk died in 1994 and ANAICT, this is the 6th such compendium of his unpublished works to come out after he passed away. As such, my fear was that the pickings by now were getting rather slim.
What's To Like...
I shouldn't've worried. There's lots of good stuff here, albeit along with some dross. And at $15 (new) for 400 pages, it was better-priced than most of the Bukowski poetry books I've seen.
All of Bukowski's pet topics are present - his love for booze, the unfathomableness of women, the struggle to be a writer, his hatred for his father, and his passion for betting on the horses. Since a lot of these poems were penned in his last few years, old age and death are also repeating themes.
But the plethora of poems also allows Bukowski to address other subjects. There is a fabulous piece on Classical Music, the Chinese poet Li Po shows up twice, and even Country Joe & The Fish makes an appearance.
A lot of the poems are simply Bukowski's reflections on various incidents happening around him. A conversation at the next table in a restaurant, an actor stopping by to say hello, going to the movies as a kid (he preferred Buck Rogers to Ginger Rogers), the challenge of replacing his beloved manual typewriter with a word processor. Of course, we all have such experiences, but only a talented writer can make his anecdotes interesting to others.
my neighbor gives me the key to his house
when he goes on vacation.
I feed his cats
water his flowers and his
I place his mail in a neat stack
on his dining room table.
am I the same man who planned to
blow up the city of Los Angeles
15 years ago? (pg. 32)
I took another bus to New Orleans.
I had a portable typewriter with me.
that's all that I needed
to prove I was a genius.
that, and another
35 years. (pg. 233)
we must be patient with the gods.
they like to have fun,
they like to play with us.
they like to test us.
they like to tell us that we are weak
and stupid, that we are
the gods need to be amused.
we are their toys. (pg. 390)
November creeps in on all fours like a leper. (pg. 330)
I prefer Bukowski's poetry to his short stories and his quasi-autobiographical novels. The former are too lewd (although it has to be remembered they were written for sex magazines). And although Ham On Rye is excellent, Women and Factotum were quite meh. It's in his prose that Bukowski's creativity and keen insight emerge. Lucky for me, that's the genre that the bulk of his books are. 7 Stars.

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