These Words I Write

Keep Me From

Total Madness


There is a tendency for writers of fiction and poetry to excel in one and not in the other. Hemingway's one book of poetry testifies to this phenomenon; likewise, poet E. E. Cummings published his only novel The Enormous Room to mediocre reviews. With Bukowski, there's little thematic variation in the scope of his work, so it's unlikely he'll receive any posthumous prizes. Though for the reader who cannot get enough of his fiction, Bukowski's poetry is accessible, familiar, and unpretentious.

Having written this several years ago, and having given Hemingway's poetry further consideration, perhaps I followed too closely the conventional critical assessment of his poems and judged him too harshly. In fact, many of Hemingway's Stein-influenced poems have much in common with the bawdry, drunken, unaffected Bukowski. For Bukowski fans, Hemingway's poems may well be worth the reading investment.

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Open All Night: New Poems.
CA: Black Sparrow, October 2000. 375 pages.
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What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire.
CA: Black Sparrow, September 1999. 409 pages.
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Bone Palace Ballet: New Poems.
Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow, 1997.
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Betting on the Muse: Poems and Stories.
Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow, 1996.
The first posthumous collection of writing includes poetry and short stories.
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The Last Night of the Earth Poems.
Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow, 1992.
A prodigious collection of poems. Over 400 pages, his first poetry collection in four years. Quantity is quality, in this case.
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In the Shadow of the Rose.
Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow, 1991.

"This first edition is strictly limited to 750 deluxe hardcover copies numbered & signed by the author & 26 signed lettered copies."

The poems of this oversized edition (8.25 x 10.75 inches) were reprinted as section 4 of The Last Night of the Earth Poems.

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Septuagenarian Stew.
Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow, 1990.
Bukowski alive and writing at age 70. The poems have a weakness to them, but the stories are among his most restrained, complete. Includes the two chapbook stories "There's No Business" and "Bring Me Your Love".
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The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems, 1946-1966.
Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow, 1988.
Contains poems pulled from various out-of-print literary publications. In the short foreword Bukowski discusses his life at the time he wrote the poems.
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Gold In Your Eye.
Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow, 1986.
Life's gotten better for Bukowski in the single poem sent by the publisher as a New Year's Greetings in pamphlet form. "I got in my BMW and drove down to my bank/to pick up my American Express Gold card." Representative of Bukowski's mature, settled style.
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You Get So Alone at Times that It Just Makes Sense.
Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow, 1986.

More poems on Buk's favorite themes.

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War All the Time: Poems 1981-84.
Santa Barbara CA: Black Sparrow, 1984.
A large collection of poems. No longer the lion, Bukowski finds more genteel subjects: gambling, horse-racing, music, and art.
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Dangling in the Tornefortia.
Santa Barbara CA: Black Sparrow, 1981.
An inspired volume. Bukowski has moved through revelry into a period of remembrance of the revelry. Some of the intensity is gone, but it's replaced by thoughtful introspection and greater attention to craft. Dedicated to John Fante, a writer who inspired Bukowski as a young man.
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Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit.
Santa Barbara CA: Black Sparrow, 1979.
A humble collection of poems, even if the title stands out from other books on the shelf. A very solid selection of poems, a number of them having appeared in the chapbook Fire Station.
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A Love Poem.
Santa Rosa CA: Black Sparrow, 1979.
A chapbook of 3 pages, "A Love Poem" was sent as "a New Year's Greeting" from the publisher. Longish poem to "All the women."
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Love is a Dog from Hell: Poems 1974-77.
Santa Barbara CA: Black Sparrow, 1977.
Bukowski has found his form, and most of the poems follow a typical pattern, the pseudo-narrative style, the concluding epiphany.
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Burning in Water, Drowning In Flame: Selected Poems 1955-1973.
Santa Barbara CA: Black Sparrow, 1974.
Contains previously published material:
  • It Catches My Heart in Its Hands (1963)
  • Crucifix in a Deathhand (1965)
  • At Terror Street and Agony Way (1968)
The final eponymous section prints poems dating from 1972 to 1973. Classic, crazed Bukowski.
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Santa Barbara CA: Black Sparrow, 1976.

Limited edition chapbook of 140 copies signed by Bukowski.

  • "Scarlet"
  • "red up and down"
  • "prayer in bad"
  • "weather"
  • "I made a mistake"
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Mockingbird Wish Me Luck.
Los Angeles CA: Black Sparrow, 1972.
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Fire Station.
Santa Rosa CA; Capricorn P, 1970.
Nine poems, including "Fire Station", about an afternoon spent drunk playing cards with firemen.
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The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills.
Los Angeles CA: Black Sparrow, 1969.
Contains several poems about the death of his common-law wife, Jane. Poignant, ceremonial. The burial by words marks the split between the ravaging immediacy of his early poems and the ravaged memory of his later ones. He has reached his pinnacle with "Uruguay or Hell" and "For Jane."
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At Terror Street and Agony Way.
Los Angeles CA: Black Sparrow, 1968.
The end papers, the title page, have a barely visible impression of a type-written letter by Bukowski and an impression of the Bukowski little man, clouds, and a sun. A good example of the kind of quality book publishing done by Black Sparrow.
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Poems Written Before Jumping Out of an 8 Story Window.
Glendale CA: Poetry X/Change/Litmus, 1968.
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The Genius of the Crowd.
Cleveland OH: 7 Flowers Press, 1966.
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Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live with Beasts.
Bensenville IL: Ole Press, 1965.
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Cold Dogs in the Courtyard.
Chicago IL: Leterary Times-Cyfoeth, 1965.
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Crucifix in a Deathhand.
New Orleans LA: Loujon Press, 1965.
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It Catches My Heart in its Hands: New and Selected Poems, 1955-1963.
New Orleans LA: Loujon Press, 1963.
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Run with the Hunted.
Chicago IL: Midwest Press, 1962.
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Longshot Poems for Broke Players.
New York NY: 7 Poets Press, 1962.
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Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail.
Eureka CA: Hearse Press, 1960.