Book Reviews · Poetry

The Pleasures of the Damned by Charles Bukowski

I hauled this book along with 3 others last year at a vintage bookstore and got around to reading it just now.

[Related: Rare books, cats, and my loosened purse strings at Atlanta Vintage Books.]

Goodreads synopsis:

To his legions of fans, Charles Bukowski was—and remains—the quintessential counterculture icon. A hard-drinking wild man of literature and a stubborn outsider to the poetry world, he wrote unflinchingly about booze, work, and women, in raw, street-tough poems whose truth has struck a chord with generations of readers.

Edited by John Martin, the legendary publisher of Black Sparrow Press and a close friend of Bukowski’s, The Pleasures of the Damned is a selection of the best works from Bukowski’s long poetic career, including the last of his never-before-collected poems. Celebrating the full range of the poet’s extraordinary and surprising sensibility, and his uncompromising linguistic brilliance, these poems cover a rich lifetime of experiences and speak to Bukowski’s “immense intelligence, the caring heart that saw through the sham of our pretenses and had pity on our human condition” (New York Quarterly). The Pleasures of the Damned is an astonishing poetic treasure trove, essential reading for both longtime fans and those just discovering this unique and legendary American voice.

Review:

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Charles Bukowski is THE BEST poet to ever walk this Earth. Man, this dirty old guy could write! He made free verse his bitch and told us in raw sentences how life is at the bottom-most part of the barrel.

I wasn’t able to read this book in one sitting because Bukowski needs to savored. You read a poem, ruminate on it for a few hours, and only then move on to the next one. So it’s no wonder it took me more than a month to finish this book.

While I love all his poems, my top two right now are these:

1. Art

as

the

spirit

wanes

the form

appears

2. Bluebird

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
you.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.

then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

 

Read this book if you like poetry, free verse, and Bukowski.

 

Rating: 5 out of 5

 

What did you think of my review? Do you like Bukowski? Let me know in the comments!

~ Shruti

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12 thoughts on “The Pleasures of the Damned by Charles Bukowski

  1. I’ve started reading more poetry recently (and writing some too though I ain’t gonna show anyone).
    This book sounds really interesting (I’ve never read a poem like bluebird and it’s AMAZING).
    Adding to the summer reading list😁

    Liked by 1 person

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