Bukowski's unmistakable charisma - an ex-down-and-outer who wrote of booze and loneliness in maverick, confident free verse - made him one of the world's most popular poets long before he died in 1994. More than a decade later, death has not slowed his production. This collection is selected from an archive of verse that the author left to be published after his death. It includes poems of love and sex, advice to so-called losers (as he once was) to have confidence in themselves (as he did), gambling laments and humbling ...
Bukowski's unmistakable charisma - an ex-down-and-outer who wrote of booze and loneliness in maverick, confident free verse - made him one of the world's most popular poets long before he died in 1994. More than a decade later, death has not slowed his production. This collection is selected from an archive of verse that the author left to be published after his death. It includes poems of love and sex, advice to so-called losers (as he once was) to have confidence in themselves (as he did), gambling laments and humbling poems accepting his own imminent ultimate full stop.
"Welcome to my wormy hell," Charles Bukowski (1920 --1994) invites the reader at the outset of this collection of posthumously published poetry. Bukowski, a writer who became famous for his novels, stories, and poems depicting the raw, down-and-out life left a great deal of unpublished work at his death, and it has continued to appear in several volumes.
"Come on In!" is a mixed collection which includes some good poems. Bukowski explores themes that will be familiar to readers: life at the track, boxing, drinking, his experiences with women, loneliness and the desire to be alone, life on the edge, the love of animals, particularly cats, and the writing of poetry. The collection shows Bukowski's sardonic, wry and laconic humor.
The theme of death pervades this collection as Bukowski, old and ill, shows a full awareness of his own mortality. In addition, Bukowski reflects upon his own success as a writer. In his young days, the subject of most of Bukowski's writing, he lived the life of a drunk in the underclass. Beginning in 1971 when he received a stipend from John Martin of Black Sparrow press to devote himself to writing, Bukowski gradually became commercially successful and wealthy. In the poem "you can't tell a turkey by its feathers", which recounts how Bukowski's father thought he wouldn't amount to anything, Bukowski boasts that "Last year I paid/ $59,000 income/tax." Many of the poems involve Bukowski's success and recognition, as he compares his late life with his earlier days.
The poems are unrhymed and unmetered and generally written in short stanzas. Most of them are short, but in some instances Bukowski tells stories in his poems, frequently set out as dialogues or conversations. In this book, the poems are arranged in four broad divisions: "I live near the/slaughterhouse/and am ill/ with thriving"; "she looked at me and asked/did you?/did you/did you?"; "it's a lonely world/of frightened people"; "I will never have' a house in the valley/ with little stone men/ on the lawn".
The poems I enjoyed in the collection include Bukowski's reflections on his past relationship with women. In "red hot mail" Bukowski contrasts his state as a successful poet with his younger years when women would not look at him. He writes:
"I only wish now some lass had
chanced upon me then
when I so needed her hair blowing in my
and her eyes smiling into mine,
when I so needed
that wild music
and that wild female willingness
Among the many other poems which show Bukowski in a meditative, thoughtful mood are "alone again", "to the ladies no longer here" and "here we go again." Bukowski's poem "a close call" shows all too clearly the fine line that separated sanity and madness in his life. The poem "the nude dancer" consists of an elderly Bukowski's portrayal of an exotic dancer which complements nicely an earlier poem on this theme describing an encounter in Bukowski's youth, "Love poem to a stripper". One of the acclaimed poems in this collection is "the 'Beats'" in which Bukowski contrasts his own writing to that of the beat writers and concludes:
"my opinion remains the
same: writing is done
at a time
at a time
and all the gatherings
have very little
But I think the best writing in "Come on In!" is in the final section of the book. Bukowski offers meditations on his own terminal illness and on the meaning of his life which are moving indeed. The poems I enjoyed in this part include "my cats", "two nights before my 72nd birthday", and "closing time" in which Bukowski discusses his love for Beethoven, "this composer/now dead for over 100/years,/ who's younger and wilder/than you are/than I am." Bukowski observes that "the centuries are sprinkled/with rare magic/with divine creatures/who help us get past the common/ and/extraordinary ills/ that beset us."
The final poem in the book "mind and heart" is a valedictory poem as Bukowski faces death. "Unaccountably we are alone/forever alone/ and it was meant to be/that way", he begins. He reflects upon his life and finds that he has developed some had-won serenity of "peace of mind and heart." He advises his readers to "read/what I've written/then/forget it/all." And again:
"drink from the well
of your self
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