The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1951-1993 (Anglais) Broché – 2 décembre 2008
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To his legions of fans, Charles Bukowski was—and remains—the quintessential counterculture icon. A hard-drinking wild man of literature and a stubborn outsider to the poetry world, he wrote unflinchingly about booze, work, and women, in raw, street-tough poems whose truth has struck a chord with generations of readers.
Edited by John Martin, the legendary publisher of Black Sparrow Press and a close friend of Bukowski's, The Pleasures of the Damned is a selection of the best works from Bukowski's long poetic career, including the last of his never-before-collected poems. Celebrating the full range of the poet's extra-ordinary and surprising sensibility, and his uncompromising linguistic brilliance, these poems cover a rich lifetime of experiences and speak to Bukowski's "immense intelligence, the caring heart that saw through the sham of our pretenses and had pity on our human condition" (The New York Quarterly). The Pleasures of the Damned is an astonishing poetic treasure trove, essential reading for both longtime fans and those just discovering this unique and legendary American voice.
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Nothing was immune from Bukowski's pen. Apparently he could write about any subject. There are poems here on the killing of elephants in Vietnam, a grammar school bully remembered, the ignorance of youth, a trip to the doctor, picturing himself in a nursing home, a conversation with death, an old car ("a poor man's miracle"), the abuse that both he and his mother suffered at the hands of his father (his mother had "the saddest smile I ever knew"), the homeless, the old, poor, sick and dying, throwing a radio out a window, etc., etc.
No one would say that Bukowski wrote "pretty" poems. On the other hand, we cannot deny that many of them go straight to the bone. In "eating my senior citizen's dinner at the Sizzler" (what a horrendous image) markers in modern cemeteries are "flat on the ground, it's much more pleasant for passing traffic." His world is inhabited by a sixty-five-year-old man with cancer who kills his sixty-six-year-old wife who has Alzheimer's and then kills himself and a house that is sad because it is inhabited with people who have mindless, dead-end jobs. For many of the people Bukowski writes about, "it's a lonely world/of frightened people,/just as it has always/been." On the other hand, in the poem entitled "mind and heart" (p. 523), he acknowledges that we are all alone, "forever alone" but goes on to say that "I have been alone but seldom lonely."
Reading Bukowski reminds you of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg--although he certainly is not derivative of any other writer-- but a case can be made that he is a lot closer in his mood and world view to some of the darker poems of both Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson than he probably would have acknowledged. There is a place in the parade of poets for anyone who speaks the truth: the Robert Frosts, the Emily Dickinsons, the Donald Halls, the Edwin Arlington Robinsons along with the Charles Bukowskis.
Most of Bukowski's books, especially the majority of the posthumous collections, are like garage sales - you dig through a dozen dusty stacks of crap to find one or two jewels worth keeping. But this one has a pretty good hit to miss ratio, although it is worth noting that most of the duds are posthumously published (or previously uncollected) poems. That said, another reviewer mentioned that the book was missing the poems "Love Poem to a Stripper", "To the Whore that took my Poems", and "The Beats." I would add to that "The Blackbirds Are Rough Today," "Consummation of Grief," and especially "I Met a Genius." Now, if you're new to Bukowski and you think that I'm just angry because some of my personal favorites are missing, go to Google and look up "Bukowski poetry," find a random website, and look for these poems. They're always there at any site you visit. That's because they're canon. How John Martin, the editor of this book, could miss these poems is beyond me. He obviously didn't check fanzines or conduct surveys, otherwise he wouldn't have overlooked such classics.
Now, if you've never read Bukowski before, and you're looking for a good collection, this is still probably the best place to start, but just be warned that it's somewhat uneven and incomplete. If you're a music fan, here's another analogy for you: You know that greatest hits collection by your favorite band that substitutes a couple of odd demos, live versions and b-sides for a few of your favorite songs? It's kind of like that - frustrating, but it's still better than most of the group's albums. So, if you're looking for one collection to replace the 10-20 Bukowski books sitting on your shelf, you may have to keep waiting for awhile. But if you're looking for a book that has the majority of Bukowski's greatest hits with a few stray b-sides thrown in, you could do a lot worse.
There are some astounding poems in this collection, such as `The Genius of the Crowd', `Dinosauria, we' and `the bluebird' but there is also a lot of second or third-rate filler. You can sometimes read 100 poems in a stretch and not find one worthy of detailed future consideration. I get the impression that Bukowski's long term venerable editor John Martin slapped this one together, tossing in the mix, dozens of uncollected or newly published poems to give the volume a fresh, previously unread feel, even amongst Buk's most ardent followers. The book is certainly worth reading, but overall, a vast majority of the poems did not challenge me or extend my understanding of the Bukowski canon.
If you are a novice reader of Bukowski, rather than waste your hard earned bucks on 'Pleasures of the Damned' check out some of his finer earlier work- he actually agreed to have published during his lifetime. You can't go wrong with LOVE IS A DOG FROM HELL (1977), BURNING IN WATER DROWNING IN FLAME (1978) or WAR ALL THE TIME (1984).