During his lifetime, Bukowski (1920-94) acquired a global following for his verse and prose depictions of down-and-outs, small-time gamblers and tormented, ambitious failures in his native Los Angeles. The confrontational post-Beat poet and novelist left behind a vast archive of manuscripts, from which this seventh posthumous book of verse has been drawn. The thick volume (like his other books) includes plenty of casual anecdotes, fiery catalogues of others' woes, and dejected musings on his own persistent drinking, sometime poverty, and mood swings. It includes, too, the off-color language and sexual escapades (some triumphant, most embarrassing) that have always ranked among Bukowski's attractions. His familiar world of "bums and heroes" in "tiny rooms" where "each meal was/ a miracle and/ the week's rent/ more so" comes to the fore quickly, and as usual, there's something to it. Heroes range from anonymous pals to Toulouse-Lautrec and Delmore Schwartz. Some poems examine Bukowski's problematic attitudes toward sex and romance: "no matter what woman I'm with," Bukowski declares in one such poem, "people ask me,/ are you still with her?" Bukowskian figures more typically find solace at racetracks, with whores, with liquor ("I drank and I drank and/ I drank in my room") and finally in writing, which lets them "kiss the sweet lips of this dirty/ world/ goodbye." Nobody will be converted to Bukowski by these verses, but that's hardly the point: like William Burroughs or Jim Morrison, Bukowski in death retains the tenacious (and mostly youthful) fan base he gathered in life. (Dec.) Forecast: Bukowski's books are perhaps best known among booksellers for the rate at which they are stolen. Black Sparrow has done well so far with each new salvo of Bukowskiana; there's no reason to think this book of poems will fall short of previous marks. (Booksellers might want to keep them behind the counter with a note tacked to the 'B' shelfAadds to the mystique.)
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Black Sparrow says it has still more uncollected Bukowski in the barrel, but much in the sixth posthumous gathering of the roughneck bard's leavings sure sounds like bottom-scrapings. For instance, the poem that ends, "I am a beautiful person. / and you are. / and she is. / as is the yellow thumping of the sun and the glory of the world." It is hard to believe Buk would have tolerated the last line's personification of thumping and glory while he was alive, or the poem's egregious lack of irony. Yet this, including several of the bad poems, is way funnier than practically any other poet's stuff these days. Buk's life--full of blue-collar jobs, smoking and drinking, playing the horses, basking in classical music on the radio, going on tears naked, shacking up with a succession of floozies and the occasional wife, midnight typing, and lots of driving--was a dingy fountain of low-life literary comedy. There are better books for one's first taste of Bukowski, but this one will do fine for connoisseurs. Ray Olson
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