Right before Christmas my Book Nerd Friend, Book Nerd Friend’s Girlfriend, Fiance and I were all out and about looking at a used book store downtown that we had recently heard of. I was walking around the aisles, taking in that familiar dusty smell of other people’s old books, carrying around a stack of Tom Robbins, when I noticed a tiny little wooden bookshelf by the front counter. What was on this wooden bookshelf you may ask? Well, let me enlighten you my friends, it was: Charles Bukowski. Not the dirty drunk old man himself, but some of his books and a few poem collections. So, with puppy dog eyes and pouty lips I asked Fiance to get me some for Christmas and, under the pretense that I would act surprised when I opened them, I left that day with two Bukowski books and three Tom Robbins. Talk about a haul.
Anyway, this review is about Bukowski’s collection of poems entitled Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame. It is a collection of selected poems from 1955-1973.
I think the best way to “review” this book is to post one of my favorite poems from each of the four sections, or a few portions of my favorite poems. So, the first section:
It Catches My Heart in Its Hands (Poems 1955-1963)
The Tragedy of the Leaves
I awakened to dryness and the ferns were dead,
the potted plants yellow as corn;
my woman was gone
and the empty bottles like bled corpses
surrounded me with their uselessness;
the sun was still good, though,
and my landlady's note cracked in fine and
undemanding yellowness; what was needed now
was a good comedian, ancient style, a jester
with jokes upon absurd pain; pain is absurd
because it exists, nothing more;
I shaved carefully with an old razor
the man who had once been young and
said to have genius; but
that's the tragedy of the leaves,
the dead ferns, the dead plants;
and I walked into a dark hall
where the landlady stood
execrating and final,
sending me to hell,
waving her fat, sweaty arms
screaming for rent
because the world has failed us
I think it’s kind of pointless to really review poetry… because I think that poetry is what you make of it.
This poem has a lot of what I love about Bukowski. It has women, and a sense of poverty, and death. It has alcohol and sadness.
On to reading!