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Essential Bukowski: Poetry

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Edited by Abel Debritto, the definitive collection of poems from an influential writer whose transgressive legacy and raw, funny, and acutely observant writing has left an enduring mark on modern culture. Few writers have so brilliantly and poignantly conjured the desperation and absurdity of ordinary life as Charles Bukowski. Resonant with his powerful, perceptive voice, h Edited by Abel Debritto, the definitive collection of poems from an influential writer whose transgressive legacy and raw, funny, and acutely observant writing has left an enduring mark on modern culture. Few writers have so brilliantly and poignantly conjured the desperation and absurdity of ordinary life as Charles Bukowski. Resonant with his powerful, perceptive voice, his visceral, hilarious, and transcendent poetry speaks to us as forcefully today as when it was written. Encompassing a wide range of subjects—from love to death and sex to writing—Bukowski’s unvarnished and self-deprecating verse illuminates the deepest and most enduring concerns of the human condition while remaining sharply aware of the day to day. With his acute eye for the ridiculous and the troubled, Bukowski speaks to the deepest longings and strangest predilections of the human experience. Gloomy yet hopeful, this is tough, unrelenting poetry touched by grace. This is Essential Bukowski.


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Edited by Abel Debritto, the definitive collection of poems from an influential writer whose transgressive legacy and raw, funny, and acutely observant writing has left an enduring mark on modern culture. Few writers have so brilliantly and poignantly conjured the desperation and absurdity of ordinary life as Charles Bukowski. Resonant with his powerful, perceptive voice, h Edited by Abel Debritto, the definitive collection of poems from an influential writer whose transgressive legacy and raw, funny, and acutely observant writing has left an enduring mark on modern culture. Few writers have so brilliantly and poignantly conjured the desperation and absurdity of ordinary life as Charles Bukowski. Resonant with his powerful, perceptive voice, his visceral, hilarious, and transcendent poetry speaks to us as forcefully today as when it was written. Encompassing a wide range of subjects—from love to death and sex to writing—Bukowski’s unvarnished and self-deprecating verse illuminates the deepest and most enduring concerns of the human condition while remaining sharply aware of the day to day. With his acute eye for the ridiculous and the troubled, Bukowski speaks to the deepest longings and strangest predilections of the human experience. Gloomy yet hopeful, this is tough, unrelenting poetry touched by grace. This is Essential Bukowski.

30 review for Essential Bukowski: Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Always Pouting

    I haven't read anything by Charles Bukowski before this but I really enjoyed this. Again its hard to really review poetry but I have wanted to read more of it and so I'll have to figure it out I guess. My favorite poem was definitely Bluebird, and I had been reading it in recitation and I started to cry so I had to be all low key and try to wipe my face like I was just itching but I don't think anyone was fooled. I'm not sure why it got to me so much but I felt really emotional about it. I'm not I haven't read anything by Charles Bukowski before this but I really enjoyed this. Again its hard to really review poetry but I have wanted to read more of it and so I'll have to figure it out I guess. My favorite poem was definitely Bluebird, and I had been reading it in recitation and I started to cry so I had to be all low key and try to wipe my face like I was just itching but I don't think anyone was fooled. I'm not sure why it got to me so much but I felt really emotional about it. I'm not sure how I felt about his constantly writing poems about writing poetry because I think he and I happen to have different ideas about creativity and intelligence etc. Also he seems to have some pervasive fear about not being able to write well anymore. There were other poems that I didn't necessarily feel resonated with me but I do enjoy his writing style and I can appreciate them regardless of that. I definitely want to read more of his work in the future.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Arthur Graham

    What's funny is that I've read every novel and damn near every story ol' Buk ever published, but I must confess I've read precious little of his poetry in comparison. I picked up this latest collection hoping it would catch me up a bit, and I'd say that's what it did. Combining old classics like "the tragedy of the leaves" and "dinosauria, we" with plenty of newer and more obscure stuff as well, I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a short introduction to one of the greatest What's funny is that I've read every novel and damn near every story ol' Buk ever published, but I must confess I've read precious little of his poetry in comparison. I picked up this latest collection hoping it would catch me up a bit, and I'd say that's what it did. Combining old classics like "the tragedy of the leaves" and "dinosauria, we" with plenty of newer and more obscure stuff as well, I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a short introduction to one of the greatest and most prolific American poets of all time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carrie (brightbeautifulthings)

    I’m always hoping that I’ll like poetry more than I do, but I think the truth is that I almost never get it. Other than an abundance of Shakespeare and Marlowe and a brief section on Romantics, I never had a proper poetry class, and I lack the ability to just naturally intuit what poets are talking about. Except in occasional bursts, I can’t feel most poetry the way I feel fiction. I think this is more of a flaw in me than in the poetry. I’ve run across fragments of Bukowski and always found them I’m always hoping that I’ll like poetry more than I do, but I think the truth is that I almost never get it. Other than an abundance of Shakespeare and Marlowe and a brief section on Romantics, I never had a proper poetry class, and I lack the ability to just naturally intuit what poets are talking about. Except in occasional bursts, I can’t feel most poetry the way I feel fiction. I think this is more of a flaw in me than in the poetry. I’ve run across fragments of Bukowski and always found them beautiful, but he’s so prolific I had no idea where to start. I found this in a bookstore and thought it would be a good introduction. While I can warn you in advance that I don’t have any smart things to say about this collection, and I’m hardly the most qualified person to talk about it, I’m writing the review on the likely chance that there are other people out there who struggle with poetry just as much. There’s a possibility that my floundering around trying to understand it might somehow be helpful to you–if only in the knowledge that, nope, you’re not alone. I can’t really speak to whether or not this is a good introduction to Bukowski, having never read any of his collections before. Is it a good overview? Is his best work showcased here? I have no idea. I believe the poems are chronological though, and in some sense it felt like there was an aging process going on. The beginning feels young and edgy, and the end feels older and worn down. It’s entirely possible I just made that up. My sense of the collection was the same one I got from reading bits of his poetry online or on social media: fragments of beauty mired in things that are much less beautiful. The occasional line or two would jump out at me, ringing with truth, but there were only one or two poems that I enjoyed in their entirety. I really liked “for Jane” because it captures, beautifully and tragically, what it’s like to lose someone; I had chills at the end. This collection is rather dark, very masculine, and it doesn’t shirk from the gritty or the disgusting. It reminds me of Raymond Carver in its attention to the working class and its spare, brutal observations. I have trouble relating to it, since it seems very set in a specific culture that I’m not a part of (not that it’s impossible to relate to things you’re not a part of–that is, after all, one of the great things about art of any kind). I think it’s important to read Bukowski because I don’t know anyone else who writes like this or about these topics, but it’s not a book I’ll turn to when I’m down. I think I still prefer poetry in small doses. I review regularly at brightbeautifulthings.tumblr.com.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gini

    I liked this batch of poems. They are simple, straight forward, and describe what many know as real life. Sometimes the language is coarse, but the later works lose that edge, and I think that improved his ability to speak to more people. Though his life seems to have been less than comfortable for the most part, he finds ways to soften the pain with a wry humor. The little one liners that end several of the selections accomplish that wonderfully. I may have to try some of his other works now.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Virginija Rudytė

    There is something about Bukowski and his poetry that just goes straight into soul and stays there forever.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ju$tin

    so in the preface abelstated that he had to leave out like 75-90(?) poems mainly due to some length restriction? other than a slow start that was the most disappointing part about this book. woulda been nice to get all the top picks under one roof but i'm sure we'll see another book come out with the rest of them then, eh?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Miglė

    what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Abdul Raheem

    God! I fucking love bukowski's work.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Seth Steele

    it has been a beautiful fight still Is. My contact with poetry has been fairly limited thus far. I've read Shakespeare, Milton, Dante- but nothing like this. This was the first volume of actual poems I'd ever purchased, and I don't think I could've started in a better place. Bukowski is like no other writer I've read- he's extremely raw- even graphic. But he knows how to cut deep, and pull emotion from the coldest things. He writes about ugly things in a beautiful way, and beautiful things in a w it has been a beautiful fight still Is. My contact with poetry has been fairly limited thus far. I've read Shakespeare, Milton, Dante- but nothing like this. This was the first volume of actual poems I'd ever purchased, and I don't think I could've started in a better place. Bukowski is like no other writer I've read- he's extremely raw- even graphic. But he knows how to cut deep, and pull emotion from the coldest things. He writes about ugly things in a beautiful way, and beautiful things in a way that makes us realize they can still be ugly. He's cynical, but still shines through with moments of hope. He talks about death, sex, war, hatred, love, betrayal, the gutter and the top. But most of all he shows us life in very few, well chosen words. I'd never could've imagined poetry could've been like this- I feel like this volume has opened a new world for me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    I wasn't expecting this at all. I got completely swept away by Bukowski's words, so much so that, at the end of the book, I was surprised and disappointed that it was already over! It is powerful, it is disturbing, it is both depressing and uplifting. Can't wait to read more of him.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nora

    I had never felt that close to the human being as I did with Bukowski in Essential. The simplicity of “I met a genius” made me realise how blinded we are by preconceptions. Big truths can also be found on innocent eyes. Turned the page and went from such an enlightenment to a laughing storm. I could be the one in “Metamorphosis”, maybe you could be that one too. As I told my dad, some humans are messy by nature, don't try to change it, cause this is part of my essence. Turned the page and tears I had never felt that close to the human being as I did with Bukowski in Essential. The simplicity of “I met a genius” made me realise how blinded we are by preconceptions. Big truths can also be found on innocent eyes. Turned the page and went from such an enlightenment to a laughing storm. I could be the one in “Metamorphosis”, maybe you could be that one too. As I told my dad, some humans are messy by nature, don't try to change it, cause this is part of my essence. Turned the page and tears stopped me dead on my tracks. “Hell is a lonely place”, indeed. I finished the book and I was touched by all kinds of observations gathered in all those crystal clear snapshots. I remember the book now, and the Essential still lingers on. A footprint of street wisdom in my heart. Thanks to the editor for such a great job.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    This 2016 Bukowski collection does an excellent job of spanning a broader period of Bukowski's career than most collections. CB's popularity focuses primarily on his "Dirty Old Man" phase/persona so most published works/collections focus there (understandably so). But everybody has a limit on how many poems about jerking off they can read before fatigue (physical and mental) sets in. My personal limit is 27, but only if I'm hydrated. So it was nice to read some CB poems outside of that phase. On This 2016 Bukowski collection does an excellent job of spanning a broader period of Bukowski's career than most collections. CB's popularity focuses primarily on his "Dirty Old Man" phase/persona so most published works/collections focus there (understandably so). But everybody has a limit on how many poems about jerking off they can read before fatigue (physical and mental) sets in. My personal limit is 27, but only if I'm hydrated. So it was nice to read some CB poems outside of that phase. One other strong point of this collection is that it largely eschews the most ostentatiously vulgar of CB's poems in favor of his more thoughtful or (dare I say it) contemplative and inspirational poems. In particular: "the strongest of the strange" // "no leaders" // "the bluebird" // "do you want to enter the arena?" // and "roll the dice"

  13. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Delgado

    His poetry is embedded into our culture through others’ referencing hint the same way he did with his influence and contemporaries. At the same token, he is still one of our contemporaries. His poetry is not only fresh, it speaks to out humanity.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eric Spiegel

    Vulgar, crass, and harsh, yet also beautiful, haunting, and accessible. Bukowski’s poetry is something to be experienced. I love his voice and everyone should read some of his work, both poetry and prose.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Burns

    Lighting new cigarettes, pouring more drinks. It has been a beautiful fight. Still is.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jt

    I only was aware of this writer from the songwriter Paul Hewson. i learned about his collection of poetry from such titles of The Last Night series as well as These Days Run Away Like Horses. his style is so original yet very much of the times he lived in. the alcoholic abuse, the infidelities accentuate to the mythology of Henry Charles Bukowski. He is a real, authentic storyteller who spills Truth whenever it is needed. I felt connected to his lessons. Yes, he definitely damaged his longevity I only was aware of this writer from the songwriter Paul Hewson. i learned about his collection of poetry from such titles of The Last Night series as well as These Days Run Away Like Horses. his style is so original yet very much of the times he lived in. the alcoholic abuse, the infidelities accentuate to the mythology of Henry Charles Bukowski. He is a real, authentic storyteller who spills Truth whenever it is needed. I felt connected to his lessons. Yes, he definitely damaged his longevity with excess. I can see why Bukowski is affiliated with the hipsters within the Beat Generation as well as Hemingway's Lost Generation. I don't really know how to describe him & his writings. He defies labels or cultural stereotypes. This was my introduction into the dark, comical, yet brutally sincere world of Charles Bukowski. It was an intense rollercoaster of extreme spins, turns, and detours. You feel like a passenger burning down the highway with a bottle of Jack or Gin and a head full of strange destiny. Anyhow, i don't retain titles well but "I Met A Genius" was so profound and simplified. We can learn a lot from the youth. I'd recommend Bukowski immensely. There will be contrarians to his ethos. Be open and the heart will notice beauty. Be closed and the soul will lead to nowhere. Always, Jt

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    Bukowski is the poet of the downtrodden. His poetry takes whatever is vile and base about life, bathes it in a vat of brine, and spews it out onto the page with gall. The result, interestingly, is as profound as it is brutally honest. Sexist in some places, yes. Vulgar in most places, absolutely. But in doing so he gives a voice to an overlooked population, injecting life and character into what many have rejected as "dross." It reminds me of what my alcoholic uncle would write if he put his pen Bukowski is the poet of the downtrodden. His poetry takes whatever is vile and base about life, bathes it in a vat of brine, and spews it out onto the page with gall. The result, interestingly, is as profound as it is brutally honest. Sexist in some places, yes. Vulgar in most places, absolutely. But in doing so he gives a voice to an overlooked population, injecting life and character into what many have rejected as "dross." It reminds me of what my alcoholic uncle would write if he put his pen to page. Several of these poems made me cringe, several made me laugh. Some pained, some enlightened. At the very least, these poems reflect the double-sidedness of life, and provide powerful commentary on the Janus-like world we live in. The things that are beautiful are also ugly; the things that are disgusting are also intriguing; the things that are alive are also dead. And so forth. In the spirit of his poems, those in this collection are also accessible to the everyday reader. But don't expect to be comfortable or comforted. Like Dante's guide Virgil, Bukowski will take you through Hell before sending you to Heaven.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve Walsh

    Let’s be honest, poetry is not really my thing. But the line in Gill Landry’s song ‘Just Like You’ about ‘reading Bukowski in your underwear’ had me intrigued. And then, look what 4th Estate sent me – Essential Bukowski! Thanks, guys. So, is it any good? I decided to start at the back, ‘cos I’m getting on a bit, as I keep being reminded, and the poems are in chronological order. I was pretty hooked right from the end. These poems are about life and the way it is. Plenty of mess and no hold barre Let’s be honest, poetry is not really my thing. But the line in Gill Landry’s song ‘Just Like You’ about ‘reading Bukowski in your underwear’ had me intrigued. And then, look what 4th Estate sent me – Essential Bukowski! Thanks, guys. So, is it any good? I decided to start at the back, ‘cos I’m getting on a bit, as I keep being reminded, and the poems are in chronological order. I was pretty hooked right from the end. These poems are about life and the way it is. Plenty of mess and no hold barred. If you don’t think poetry is your thing, try a few of these, they’ll get to you.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mert Topcu

    It turns out I really liked his late work (i.e. the poems he wrote after 1985) compared to his poems before 80s And the first half of this collection is from before 80s. Therefore 4 stars but what a character and poet: This collection has some of his best known poems like "the bluebird", "dinosaria, we", etc. I've read Bukowski so many years ago for the first time and loved it, so this was a great re-iinroduction. Looking forward to reading more from him, i.e Ham on Rye (novel) and The last night o It turns out I really liked his late work (i.e. the poems he wrote after 1985) compared to his poems before 80s And the first half of this collection is from before 80s. Therefore 4 stars but what a character and poet: This collection has some of his best known poems like "the bluebird", "dinosaria, we", etc. I've read Bukowski so many years ago for the first time and loved it, so this was a great re-iinroduction. Looking forward to reading more from him, i.e Ham on Rye (novel) and The last night of the Earth Poems.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Excellently curated collection with over 200 pages of pure Bukowski. Bukowski's realism, is fully on display. He's hilarious at times and spot on in his rejection of mainstream blah blah. The priest and the matador, communicate, loser, favorites. bluebird, for jane, nirvana, an almost made up poem, and we aint got no money were some of my favorites. I could keep listing poems, but you should just get a copy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    M.S. León

    The title says it all. It’s an essential collection for any lover of poetry—especially if you’re a lover of Bukowski’s work!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matt Nichols

    “Memory is a trap: look to the walls and begin again.”

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kent

    Brutal, honest, hopeless wisdom.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeri

    ah yes, words — at least we have one good thing going on in this world

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dan Burt

    4.5 stars.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    "roll the dice if you’re going to try, go all the way. otherwise, don’t get into it. if you’re going to try, go all the way. this could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe your mind. go all the way. it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days. it could mean freezing on a park bench. it could mean jail, alcoholism, it could mean derision, mockery, isolation." "but now it’s the waiting on death. it’s not death that’s the problem, it’s the waiting." "people are not good to each other. perhaps if "roll the dice if you’re going to try, go all the way. otherwise, don’t get into it. if you’re going to try, go all the way. this could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs and maybe your mind. go all the way. it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days. it could mean freezing on a park bench. it could mean jail, alcoholism, it could mean derision, mockery, isolation." "but now it’s the waiting on death. it’s not death that’s the problem, it’s the waiting." "people are not good to each other. perhaps if they were our deaths would not be so sad."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Abhilash Ramesh

    Bukowski’s poems are like jokes. It has setup and punchline. His poetry is far more underrated than his mainstream literary works. Underrated, but not inessential!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Hans

    what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Greg Williams

    This is an anthology of poetry by Charles Bukowski that spans his career. After reading it, I think this is a good introduction to his work. Sometimes there is a stark beauty in his writing: there are so many days when living stops and pulls up and sits and waits like a train on the rails and there is a loneliness in this world so great that you can see it in the slow movement of the hands of a clock. Sometimes, he's downright funny: it's not the large things that send a man to a madhouse . . . . . . with ea This is an anthology of poetry by Charles Bukowski that spans his career. After reading it, I think this is a good introduction to his work. Sometimes there is a stark beauty in his writing: there are so many days when living stops and pulls up and sits and waits like a train on the rails and there is a loneliness in this world so great that you can see it in the slow movement of the hands of a clock. Sometimes, he's downright funny: it's not the large things that send a man to a madhouse . . . . . . with each broken shoelace out of one hundred broken shoelaces, one man, one woman, one thing enters a madhouse. so be careful when you bend over. and some people never go crazy. what truly horrible lives they must live. Here's what he has to say to those who want to be writers: if it doesn't come rushing out of you, don't do it. ... when it is known to you truly, you will do it by itself and it will keep doing it until you die or it dies in you. there is no other way. there never was. Having never really read Bukowski before, I discovered that I like his poetry from this book. So I definitely recommend this as an intro to his poetry.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Haley

    Immensely enjoyed this collection. Some poems were a little over the top for me personally but I love 3/4ths of them.

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