Let that stand as my `review`, here`s a further, fuller commentary, if I may be so extravagant.
It saddens me to see so many taken in by Bukowski`s poetry (nearly as much as it saddens me to disagree with such heroes of mine as Tom Waits & Leonard Cohen, who have both praised him).
I can enjoy his poems in small doses - they are laughably self-referential and aggressively unmetrical; verse so `free` gives liberty a bad name - when I am in a certain lowdown, gutter-mood, but surely 90% of this is the kind of self-indulgent stuff one writes reams of as a teenager (I`ve got the notebooks to prove it) but later grows out of.
All this sounds a mite pompous and censorious, I am aware. But may I challenge those readers who are perhaps new to most poetry: having devoured these gritty poems, please then seek out the 20th century American poets who, to my mind, really matter. Seeing as you ask, my pick would be: the justly venerated Robert Frost, the great Richard Wilbur, Robert Bly, Robert Hayden (what a lot of Bobs), Anthony Hecht, marvellous Denise Levertov, Louis Simpson, Samuel Menashe, Sharon Olds, wonderful William Stafford, William Carlos Williams, Theodore Roethke, the Canadian Alden Nowlan, mercurial Galway Kinnell, James Wright, and of course Sylvia Plath. Then try the astonishing, often `difficult` Wallace Stevens, as a treat! There are many more.
Poetry should never be a contest, but any of the above beat CB into a cocked hat. The simplest poem by Frost, the blithest poem by Bly, will nourish you in more ways than Bukowski at his best - whatever that might be. It saddens me too that CB`s profile gets higher while some of the abovementioned poets` profiles just get lower through relative neglect.
Many will disagree with me, I know. Nevertheless, thanks for reading this.