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on 19 May 2017
Bukowski will probably always be my favourite poet.
He has a way with words, in which he manages to portray both bitterness, humour and a very realistic if not overly critical way of looking at even the smallest things in life.
This collection is one I love very much, and I always wish for more people to read this book.
I find it hard to put it away, and always take it with me in longer journeys. I never tire of it.
If you are looking through the reviews to figure out whether you should buy this or not; do it.
You Will get so many pages of valuable poems, there is nothing to regret except for letting this collection pass you by.
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on 20 May 2016
I re read this constantly. My favorite book of poems of all time. I've also bought this for friends who have also enjoyed it
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on 20 May 2017
Love Bukowski's work. Very dark but real. Book arrived in great condition. Very thick to take everywhere with you.
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on 5 August 2011
I haven't read much poetry - it tends to put me off. Usually I find it either over-flowery (anyone from before the 20th Century), obscure - anyone who thinks the totally imprenetrable is somehow profound (almost everyone else) or twee and banal (pointless 'exercises' in poetry by those who've taken classes in it.)

This is different. It's raw, honest, earthy, true, and (mostly) perfectly clear. I take the point about the one word lines - these do become irritating and I wouldn't want to buy a slim volume full of this type of poem - but this is a pretty big collection - nearly 500 pages - and there should be something for everyone. Anyway, it's nice to be able to dip in and read something quickly sometimes, without having to agonise over what it 'means'. It's nice to read poetry that isn't precious and affected. And if it's poetry just because he says it is, well, isn't that true of lots of other poets, and poetry critics?

My one beef about the book is that there's no sense of development, no chronological sequence; the poems from all periods of Bukowski's life are scattered seemingly at random. Whilst it's possible, by looking up a poem in the index, checking which collection it's from, and finding out when that was issued, to get this, it would have made for a more enjoyable read if the poems had been chronological, or at least had dates after them.
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on 7 December 2011
There is a famous Leonard Cohen quote concerning Bukowski: ' He brought everybody down to Earth, even the angels.' This is as concise a summation of his genius as one can hope to come across. Bukowski deals mainly in bringing colour and menace to the mundane surfaces of contemporary urban existence, but he also brings humanity and hope to scenes of desolation and poverty, such as in the urgent individualism of 'no leaders, please' and the touching vulnerability of later poems such as 'cancer' and 'so now?'. Charles Bukowski is undoubtedly a poet of flare, imagination and great personality - eschewing formal conventions and manners, this is a treasure trove of inspiring, melancholy, uplifting, bitingly realistic and always fantastic poetry. If you have an interest in poetry, buy this book. If you don't, buy this book.
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Charles Bukowski writes that the pleasures of the damned are "limited to brief moments/of happiness:/like the eyes in the look of a dog." The poem gives its name to this 2007 anthology of Bukowski's poetry, prepared by John Martin, Bukowski's long-time friend and editor and the founder of the Black Sparrow Press, which published most of Bukowski's works.

Charles Bukowski (1920 - 1993) was an underground, cult novelist and poet whose reputation has continued to grow since his death. Bukowski is best known for his novels including "Ham on Rye", "Women" and "Factotum" and for the several movies which have been made of his works and life (including "Barfly" featuring a young Mickey Rourke.) But Bukowski also wrote many volumes of poetry, some of which continue to be published posthumously. Martin has culled through over 2000 published poems to produce this anthology of 550 pages and 271 poems, including 20 poems which had not been published earlier.

Known as the "poet of Skid Row", Bukowski was born in Andernach, Germany. At the age of three, his family moved to Los Angeles where Bukowski lived for 50 years. As a young and middle aged man, Bukowski led a tattered life which he captures in his poetry. He writes of cheap rooming houses, alcohol, poverty, horse racing, and relationships with women, many of which are of the commercial variety. His poems are in a simple free verse form generally with short lines. They are easy to read. The poetry is tough, raw, vulgar, and gritty. The earlier poems tend to be shorter, imagistic, and autobiographical. The latter poems tend to be longer and frequently are more in the nature of stories or narratives than the earlier writings. As Bukowski aged, he attained a substantial degree of popular success. The latter poems reflect this success and are frequently meditative and tamer than his earlier work. Throughout Bukowski exhibits a sharp, sardonic sense of humor.

Bukowski wrote a great deal and wrote quickly. Thus, his poetry is highly uneven. Many of his poems are pessimistic in tone, focusing on death or suicide. But they also show a certain determination to live and to take the experiences life gives. The poems also emphasize the power of art, its rarity, and the ability it has to redeem even a shabby, sordid, and difficult life.

The preparation of an anthology has certain difficulties which Martin has not always surmounted. First, this anthology, similar to Bukowski's output, is too long and includes too many weak poems. Conversely, readers familiar with Bukowski's poetry will undoubtedly find that some of their favorites are not included in this collection. Poems that I missed included "Love Poem to a Stripper", "To the Whore that took my Poems", "The Beats" and others. The collection is also weighted heavily towards the latter, posthumously published works. These poems are valuable in their meditative quality, and in showing Bukowski facing illness and death and writing until the end. But they lack some of the grit for which he is likely to be best remembered. Thus, the anthology could have been shorter, better selected, and weighted somewhat differently.

With that said, Martin has captured a great deal of Bukowski and his poetry. This book gives readers, especially those new to Bukowski, a feel for his work. It includes in one place many poems that admirers of Bukowski will want to keep and revisit. The book opens and closes with two of Bukowski's best poems. The opening poem "the mockingbird" is a short, violent parable of death and destruction. The penultimate poem in the collection "the bluebird" takes a much different tone, as the seemingly harsh Bukowski tells the reader:

"there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him.
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see

The best poems in the collection, and in Bukowski's work on the whole, are those which treat of women and sexuality in all their passion, rewards, and dangers. Somewhat less well-known are Bukowski's tributes to musicians, artists and writers. Bukowski loved classical music, and his poems celebrate Hugo Wolf, Verdi, Bruckner, and, in a poem called "closing time", Beethoven. Bukowski writes: "I/admire the verve and gamble/of this composer/now dead for over 100/years,/who's younger and wilder/than you are/than I am."

Other poems celebrate the death of John Fante, a writer that Bukowski greatly admired, together with figures such as Li Po, Sherwood Anderson, Carson McCullers and Van Gogh. In a poem called "the burning of the dream" Bukowski looks back at his days reading in the old downtown Los Angeles Library before its destruction by fire. The poem describes Bukowski's early and extensive reading and the credo he tried to follow as a writer. He states:

"It would take decades of
living and writing
before I would be able to
put down
a sentence that was
anywhere near
what I wanted it to

The poems in the collection do not appear in any particular order; although the poems in which Bukowski describes his cancer and impending death are grouped towards the end. The anthology concludes with a useful alphabetical index of the poems which allows the interested reader to trace each poem to the book in which it first appeared.

Bukowski is not a poet for everyone or for every mood. But I have continued to read and to be moved by his writing for many years. Martin has produced a good anthology of poems by an American outsider.

Robin Friedman
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on 4 January 2011
I am not American, so what i've written here could be entitled, 'what Bukowski did for me'. What his words did for me. Suffice to say, even owning other Buk-books I saw this on the shelf and went for it straight away.

Not sure what drew me in again, that grimacing scowl of societal scorn, that gutteral hatred of convention, that oily, phat 'I told you so' glare, that scarred acne covered face, those tungsten eyes, that broken soul of a man who saved a million lives from themselves and the utter mundanity of their pointless pitiful existences. Bukowski then, the 'low life' representative of everything that's beautifully fcked up about modern life.

Loneliness was his throne - from it he fed millions. I am one such.

But he didn't feed me the 'food stuff of life' or anything so pretentious. What he did feed me with were words, images, consolations, humour laced misanthropy, the grittiest reality anyone could design. He fed me and infused me with an insight only a poet can give his readers. The utter detail, the sub-conscious fusion of desire and sexual-erotic filth eg. 'Flower in the Rain' Did Henry Miller say it any better in Tropic of Cancer??

There's nothing conceptual about this. Put away your fanciful metaphors and your flowery, pompous language. I need a beer. I left school with nothing, I'm not an english lit student or surveyor of the literary-cultral canopy that covers our lives. This is not high brow, but it's not entirely low brow either. It nestles in the medium sized nest, of a societally observant golden eagle, who is top of his literary food chain. I need another beer. Sound familiar?

So it's 11am, and he opens a Millers, what's next? off down the dog track, drive some groupie back to the airport, have a fight with one of his other women, piss in the sink of eternity? All these things, instead of the meaningless hubb-drub of the santised 9-5 working office life.

People are not nice to each other, are they.?? This life didn't treat Buk nice either (read his novel 'Ham on Rye' and you'll find out) and the results are revealed in nearly 500 pages of graphic detail....

Take, 'The Genuis of the Crowd' and 'Hug in the Dark' two blistering attacks on 'the system' and on conventional thinking, and on all the clap trap that goes with it. Makes you think. I'm not going to print them here, you'll have to buy the book.

I've read many 'technically correct' metred poets, who, like Bukowski, have that 'inner voice' that 'way with words', that poetical expression. Not all poetry is meant to be read out loud. Readers don't read the form, they read the words, what they might refer to, and in which context, and then what the words mean to them. Only other poets read the metre. Who buys Pope? who buys Edward Thomas?
Who buys Frost? who buy Wallace Stevens? More people read Bukowski than all those others put together... why is that? The subject matter is very different, the style is different, the form takes second place or no place at all. Content is king.

Is 'technically correct' poetry intellectual elitism and this is dumbed down?? From what i've read, Bukowski knows more about human nature than all those others put together. Culture is not just for the university graduate, high brow, erudite, esoteric, PhD English lit professors. The man in the street, needs to read as well. Bukowski is the true representative of those people. A champion of the under-class, a purveyor of content over form, a rocket up the jacksie of the orthodoxy conventionalist who beat their old-school drums, which inevitably falls on deaf ears these days.

The Pleasures of the Damned then. A collection spanning a lot of years, where a lot of things happened. Transitional times. And there to record it all, your man here, drinking his beer, and telling it how it is.

It will sit on your book shelf, snorting poetical fire out of those booze fuelled nostrils, that depraved, licentious who cares about the American dream counternance, that septic tank of gutteral bile - or in other words - what actually happens every day, but other poets haven't got the guts to talk about.
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on 17 March 2017
Prose In lines of unequal length is not necessarily poetry.
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on 30 August 2013
This book promises 'the best of the best of Bukowski', and it certainly doesn't disappoint - then again, at over 500 pages, there's a lot in there to choose from. However, there's some new stuff too - some of the material was first published here, and its covers contain a sizable amount of the great poet's work between his early, formative years and his final days, dying of leukemia after a lifetime of heavy drinking.

And, for once, the editor is almost as qualified as Bukowski himself to bring the collection together - his name is John Martin, and he was the editor of the Black Sparrow Press, which you might have heard of. If you're in to poetry, odds are that you've read one of their books.

Now, I've got to admit here that so much, so far, is explained in the back of the book, but I figured that with 500 words I had the time to cover the blurb. Besides, it's relevant. There's just one quote in particular that I'd like to dwell on, though - Leonard Cohen said: 'He brought everybody down to earth, even the angels.' I think that's a fair summary.

Bukowski's work is always unique, he just has a certain style that nobody else can imitate, though many have tried. He just writes about his everyday life, a life which generally consists of a mixture of bad jobs, women, booze, horses and unsavory and unhygienic situations.

It's in the way that he says so much about himself by just illustrating a snapshot of the events that occur in his alcohol-riddled day-to-day life. He does it with lines like: "I think of devils in hell and stare at a beautiful vase of flowers as the woman in my bedroom angrily switches the light on and off."

Bukowski's poetry is kind on the mind, it's both easy to read and highly intellectual, and the ever-present ghost of Hank Chinaski threads through all of his work like the mirror that it is. At times, we get rare glimpses of the pressure of being a writer: 'A great writer remains in bed, shades down, doesn't want to see anyone, doesn't want to write anymore, doesn't want to try anymore; the editors and publishers wonder: some say he's insane, some say he's dead; his wife now answers all the mail: "... he does not wish to ..." and some others even walk up and down outside his house, look at the pulled-down shades; some even go up and ring the bell.'

Bukowski is an interesting character, a man with many faces, most of which are drunk. I strongly suggest that you check out some of his work and consider investing in a copy - once you find out just how he lived his life, you'll wonder how he managed to survive in to his seventies and how such an old, cynical soul could have such a poetic voice.
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on 6 January 2010
The Pleasures of the Damned

The Pleasures of the Damned is an apt title for this huge volume of the cult poet Charles Bukowski's poems, peopled as it is by those on the margins of society who, in the words of the wonderful Jarvis Cocker, 'dance and drink and screw because there's nothing else to do'. Published in The States at the end of 2007, this collection is being reprinted in paperback by Canongate in January 2010 to tie in with their republishing of Howard Sounes's definitive 1998 biography of the poet, Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life.

Bukowski was a prolific writer, churning out hundreds of poems as well as several novels and short stories. He wore his heart on his sleeve: his poetry opens a door into his life and is alternately bruised and angry, sorrowful and savage . If experience of hardship is the stuff of artistic inspiration then Bukowski had it in rusty, crap-shoveling spades. Bullied as a child because of his name and clothes, socially withdrawn until he discovered alcohol, which became his crutch, plagued by severe acne which scarred his skin permanently, his was not a happy or conventional youth. His poems reflect the path his life took, taking refuge in bars and brothels, racing tracks and poker tables . A cross between the sardonic, witty Tom Waits and the lost, shambling Pete Doherty of the poetry world, he has previously been described as the lowlife laureate.

Bukowski spent most of his life in LA, and his depiction of the lives of those under the radar in the city of broken dreams is as powerful and accessible as James Frey's in his last novel Bright Shiny Morning. Like Frey, one hesitates about whether Bukowski can truly be called a 'great' writer - Frey's repetition for emphasis, his disregard for punctuation and his fairy-story stereotypes (notably rich = evil, poor= saintly) are occasionally irksome, but there is no denying the immediacy and impact of his work. Similarly, Bukowski's poems hold an earthy fascination, trawling as they do through the lives of the less than privileged.

However, the dense fug of cigarette smoke and liver-pickling liquor seen from his bar stool stance don't detract from his acute vision and sharp perception. The subjects covered in these poems are many and include war, ageing, the desolation of the homeless and addicted, the anonymity and soullessness of life in the big city, sex, love, the author's snarling contempt for the bourgeouis and his hatred for the moneyed classes. But anyone anticipating a grim, humourless read is in for a pleasant surprise: as Irvine Welsh did in his early work when he was still fresh and shocking, Bukowski manages to inject humour into the most unlikely situations. Take this explanatory ending to a four page list of individuals Bukowski entreats us to ask, for example: ' A snarling wife on the balustrade is more than a man can bear.' Or this poem entitled 'A Future Congressman':

'In the men's room at the


this boy of about

7 or 8 years old

came out of a stall

and the man

waiting for him

(probably his father)


'what did you do with the

racing program?

I gave it to you

to keep.'

'no,' said the boy,

'I aint seen it! I don't

have it!'

they walked off and

I went into the stall

because it was the only one


and there

in the toilet

was the


I tried to flush

the program


but it just swan

sluggishly about



I got out of

there and found


empty stall.

That boy was ready

for his life to come,

he would undoubtedly

be highly successful

the lying little


Some of the narrative poems are reminiscent of Lou Reed circa Transformer - matter-of-fact, gritty, colourful stories of people who end up on the wrong side of the tracks for whatever reason. Consider this extract, for example:

'it's always early enough to die and

it's always too late,

and the drill of blood in the basin white

it tells you nothing at all

and the gravediggers playing poker over

5am coffee, waiting for the grass

to dismiss the frost...

they tell you nothing at all.'

Perhaps, like Reed, Bukowski will be remembered as a spokesman for the dispossessed in decades to come. He deserves to be.
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