Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: Love is a Dog from Hell, by Charles Bukowski

Love is a Dog From Hell is generally considered to be one of the strongest Charles Bukowski books of poetry.  The Bukowski poems inside it were written in the early to mid seventies when he had begun his rise to fame and he was receiving more attention from the female gender (see my article: The Wives and Girlfriends of Charles Bukowski).  I think it is fair to say therefore that some of the poems are almost a poetic version of the Bukowski novel: Women.

Love is a Dog from Hell is split into 4 parts and poems it contains are in the classic Charles Bukowski style of direct, prose poems.  Although his approach can sometimes seem brutal, Bukowski is a writer of experience and hidden subtlety and is capable of writing poems of poignancy, as well as wit and raw emotional intensity.  His poem dedicated to his ex-girlfriend, for instance, "One for old snaggletooth" is rather touching: "she has hurt fewer people/than anyone I know,/and if you look at it like that,/well,/she has created a better world/she has won."

As I mentioned earlier, this Charles Bukowski book is of particularly interest to people who want insights into his attitudes towards women, as many of the poems take his relationships as subject matter.  Bukowski has been accused at various times of being a woman hater (see my article: Was Charles Bukowski a Misogynist?) and in these poems we see his full range of attitudes and musings, from poignancy and sentimentality, to cruelty and lust. 

One of the most interesting poems in the Bukowski book is “An unkind poem” which takes a shot at poets and the poetry scene which begins with the lines: The go on writing/ pumping out poems --/ young boys and college professors/ wives who drink wine all afternoon/ while their husbands work,/ they go on writing/ the same names in the same magazines/ everybody writing a little worse each year.

The book is a definite must have for any fans of Charles Bukowski poems and is one of his strongest collections of his works.  Is it the best Bukoswki book of poems?  No, not in my opinon.  The Last Night of the Earth Poems, written close to the end of his life, is my favorite and the collection of early work, Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame is also great.  Love is a Dog from Hell is probably the best Bukowski book of poems from his mid period, however and I would definitely consider buying it if you don’t already own a copy.

See also


  1. Let's not forget the movie of that same name. Also Classic.

  2. Some great quotes from a great man!

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