Love is a Dog from Hell

by Charles Bukowski

Love is a Dog from Hell CoverAt the time of writing this, I just finished getting through a stack of poetry in preparation for an author panel event I was tasked at moderating, and, aside from perhaps Ezra Pound’s Cathay, this was likely my favourite collection. The trouble is I’m having some difficulty getting at the why of it all.

Perhaps it’s due to the honesty I feel when I read through Bukowski’s poems. The author definitely doesn’t mince words and also never strays away from difficult, depressing, and even disgusting subjects. In doing so, he not only cultivates this honesty, but he even occasionally hits on a great profundity that I suspect would more easily pass you by if you attempted to broach such things while dancing around them. Of course, this will also make the collection unpalatable to many a reader, especially when you consider how much of it talks about his alcoholism and womanizing, even going so far as to discuss things like public masturbating.

I realize how much this is going to make me come across as a terrible person, but this at least partially explains how Bukowski finds some of his charm. Similar to someone like Walt Whitman––more on him in a couple weeks––Bukowski makes it at least somewhat clear that he thinks very highly of himself. But, unlike Whitman, he’s an oftentimes depressed nihilist who is sometimes quite self-deprecating, and quite open when recalling embarrassing anecdotes, such as the hung-over poetry reading in which he threw up in a grand piano. What comes across is less a man balancing on a pedestal that I want to knock over, and more a real, flawed person.

So, while it’s definitely not for everyone, I found Love is a Dog from Hell to be quite enjoyable. These musings from a dirty old man are crass, sparse, and depressing, but sincere and oftentimes hilarious.