by Charles Bukowski. Black Sparrow Press. 24th Street, Santa Rosa, CA. 95401. 360 pages.
Book Review by Michael Basinski
These poems are part of the archive of material left by Charles Bukowski for publication after his death. Reading Charles Bukowski now almost seven years beyond his death can only be compared to drinking many good good bottles of aged red French wine. Or are there other things to compare with the experience? Is that too corny? Sentimental? I suppose. What can one write? It is like seeing a giraffe kiss an anteater? Imagine their purple tongues coiling about. It is like exploring the oceans of Europa? Ah the radiation mirco-waving my skin. How to review a giant? It is the problem the Lilliputians had with Gulliver. Nevertheless, Bukowski has immense posthumous power. Bukowski’s particular and unique point of view comes crisp and still clearly forward. So much can be said. So short a space. And each individual fan will have such a different take. So, it is obvious then, no matter if one likes it or not, Bukowski is literature. Perhaps it is best just to savor in so short a space as this. I guess, yes. In so many ways this is just a puff and an homage. So be it and so what. Readers are what keeps Bukowski alive. Here are my new favorites: “Polish Sausage.” In the poem “Polish Sausage” Bukowski relates a trip to meet some friends of an unidentified - her - up in the mountains. And when they, Bukowski and her, arrive, Bukowski finds the most banal world. He writes,
there was a young girl in the yard planting a young tree. there was a young man there too. we went inside and drank some beer. there was a parrot with a very yellow head. there was a bag of dry cookies.
Who hasn’t suffered such at the hands of the vapid lives of mediocre
hairless great apes? I have. I have too often. And then in the poem,
Swinging from the Hook Bukowski’s ponders,
and then I get that thought I wonder why it is that I am allowed to drive my car at all? it doesn't seem right that I am allowed to turn and stop and start and speed just like that old lady in the green Ford and blue hat I saw a few hours ago….
Existence! Existence. Oh the suffering of we humans. Certainly, it doesn’t seem right that I sit here and type. I shudder. I should be an anteater kissing a fire hydrant or a South American sloth bear. Or I should be a rotting pear surrounded by vulture fruit flies. And then Oh Buk in heaven is it like, is It, the Big Heaven like the incident in your poem, “Social Butterfly.” Is it? Oh are all the angels like all the human idiots?
… it's best to keep acting, look normal, hide in the crowd and stay our of sight and the best way to hide is to act just like everybody else.
Grateful, Oh Bukowski, for bringing the lives of all of us humble readers into focus, into the rhythm of the great wheel of life where death is as beautiful as life. Bukowski writes in his poem, “The Strange Workings of the Dark Life”
thanks the bluebird in the mouth of the cart with tender whiskers and the padded feet of death.