cover image The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1951–1993

The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1951–1993

Charles Bukowski, , edited by John Martin. . Ecco, $29.95 (556pp) ISBN 978-0-06-122843-8

Bukowski’s chatty free verse (and fiction) about disappointment, drunkenness, racetracks, flophouses, lust, sexual failure, poverty and late-life success amassed an enormous following by the time of his death at age 73 in 1994. Billed as the last book with new Bukowski poems in it, this hefty collection also culls from his prior books, and it is all of a piece: the warnings about lost potency, the ironic takes on ailments of mind and body, the comradeship with everyone down at the heels, down on his luck, or down to his last shot of booze. Bukowski’s best poems have an exaggerated, B-movie black-and-white aura about them. One new poem warns “that/ nothing is wasted:/ either that/ or/ it all is.” In another, “hell is only what we/ create,/ smoking these cigarettes,/ waiting here,/ wondering here.” Near the front of the volume comes a page-and-a-half-long verse manifesto, “a poem is a city,” that might describe what Bukowski could do: “a poem is a city filled with streets and sewers,” it begins, “filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen... banality and booze,” and yet “a poem is the world.” (Nov.)