book review: On Love

bukowski_on love

On Love by Charles Bukowski. Ecco| February 2, 2016| 224 pages | $24.99| ISBN: 978-0-06-239603-7

RATING: ****/5*

 “I’ve done the town, I’ve drunk the city. I’ve fucked the country, I’ve pissed on the universe. there’s little left to do but consolidate and ease out.”

–from “the trashing of the dildo”

I’ve come to appreciate poet Charles Bukowski recently. I read mostly Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and Mary Oliver. On Love is the third Charles Bukowski anthology from Ecco—the first two are On Writing and On Cats. I’m missing On Writing so hoping someone will gift it to me.

This poetry collection is perfect for both the Bukowski fan and the neophyte. Love becomes broadly defined to include: writing [in the poem “Carson McCullers,” Bukowski writes: “all her books of terrified loneliness/ all her books about cruelty/ of the loveless lover/ were all that were left of her.”; a typewriter [“we get along”]; books [“the first love:” “they brought me chance and hope and feeling in a place of no chance, no hope, no feeling.”]; his daughter [“poem for my daughter”]; sex [“the shower”]; lust; and commitment. In “I can hear the sound of human lives being ripped to pieces,” Bukowski says of creativity: “I don’t know why people think effort and energy have anything to do with creation.”

Writing for Bukowski means slitting his veins. He’s realistic and open. He relishes his experiences. He carefully contemplates then shares with his readers. He writes candidly and with full emotion always. He doesn’t censor or make anything especially pretty but he makes everything brim with feelings.

In “raw with love [for N.W.]:” “I will remember the hours of kisses our lips raw with love and how you offered me your cunt your soul your insides and how I answered offering you whatever was left of me.” It’s dirty and visceral and brash and honest. Bukowski writes: “I care for you, darling, I love you, the only reason I fucked L. is because you fucked Z. and then you fucked R. and you fucked N. and because you fucked N, I had to fuck Y.” Yes this from “blue moon, oh bleweeww mooooon how I adore you!” One of my favorite poems in this compilation is “a definition” in which he broadly, specifically and uniquely defines love—“love is what happens one day a year one year in ten” and “love is betrayal” and “love is what you think the other person has destroyed” and “love is everything we said it wasn’t” and “love is an old woman pinching a loaf of bread.”

The un-Valentine’s Day gift to give to that special someone. Or read it aloud to a friend or a lover. Read it by yourself in bed, in the tub, in the sun, in a snow storm. Soak it in.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.

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