Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Review: Love is a Dog From Hell by Charles Bukowski

Love is a Dog from HellLove is a Dog from Hell by Charles Bukowski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Don't bring a whore, I'll only fall in love with her."

The verse appears more than once in Charles Bukowski's set of poems, "Love is a Dog From Hell." The majority of the poems are devoted to the various muses of his life, lovers and exes, some of them overlapping. Each one of these women is studied, catalogued, screwed, licked, tickled, and nailed into this shadowbox of poems like spread eagled Monarch specimens, not a single detail or secret concealed.

The human condition in this volume is showcased not as spiritual, but as animal, where base urges and bodily distresses are discussed with uncensored aplomb. Masturbation, defecation, oral sex, the desire to hear a lover urinate, all get devoted verses, mirroring the poem in which he fondly remembers a poetry reading in which vomiting seemed the thing to do, but no one else seems to understand that.

In true Bukowski fashion, pretty rhymes are dispensed with and he goes straight to slashing open a vein and pouring whiskey over it. This is a man who can't quite understand how he is getting scores of women to roll around on his bed, but he ain't gonna look a gift horse in the mouth, and he sure as hell is gonna go charging in like a bull.

He freely discusses his own insecurities in poems where he describes his openly listed phone number and the calls he takes from strangers just to feel a connection. He even betrays sparks of softness in a poem written for his ex-wife, or one written for his daughter. There's an eerie sweetness to his poem "an almost made up poem" which chronicles the affection he had for a young aspiring poet he never meets. "I probably would have been unfair to you..." he writes of their unconsummated love as if her untimely demise is far more merciful than eventual heartbreak in each other's arms.

Reading these poems made me feel as if Bukowski had wrapped his arm around my waist and pressed me onto a chair and locked the door, and with the revelation of each passing poem I felt less and less inclined to escape.

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