I just finished Charles Bukowski’s Love is a Dog from Hell, a collection of his poetry written between 1974 and 1977. It’s a long book, 307 pages, but I finished it in about 2 hours with the sun creeping down the windows of the library where I sat.
What can I say? I hated it. But I loved it. Sort of. It’s not even poetry. There’s not a fragment of music in it. Bukowski writes microfictions with lots of line breaks. Some of it was disgusting, some cruel, some the kind of braggadocio that I despise. I had the feeling that at least some of it was written while he was stone-drunk. But I couldn’t look away.
I could say there’s truth in it. But it’s not my truth. It’s not universal truth. But I have the feeling it was Bukowski’s absolute truth. And it was refreshing to see so much honesty on the page, even if it was a drunken honesty stained with feces and vomit.
Bukowski writes poetry much like Hemingway wrote books. His works are simply stated, nothing fancy. I have a feeling that Hemingway could have been a Bukowski of prose if he’d learned to embrace his alcoholism rather than fight it. But Hemingway was always concerned with his reputation, and Bukowski only rarely seemed to give a shit. He just wanted to get laid, maybe because he came to it late.
I will try not to make too complete a judgment about Bukowski based on this one collection. I need to find out more. I certainly can’t say that I liked this first foray into his world. But it hit me harder than any poetry I’ve read, or written, in quite a long time. I know I’ll read more.
I wonder if I’ll hate myself for it.