Publication Date: May 31, 2002
Better World Books Reading Challenge — An anthology of poetry
Published in 1977, Love is a Dog from Hell is an anthology of poetry written in the 1970s by the German-American poet, Charles Bukowski.
I have said before, I’m not the ideal poetry reader. I’m an adaptable but pragmatic reader. This reviewer was that person at the back of her college class thinking that one day the author got high or bored and just decided to write and the deep dive that anyone does in their work is unnecessary. The great thing about Bukowski is that he is one of those people who tells you that he was drunk or high and just started writing. To paraphrase the passage from Love is a Dog From Hell and say that I can’t be sure if this is good poetry or bad acid. Love is a Dog From Hell reads like an acid trip … or what I imagine one might be as I’ve never dropped acid.
Bukowski is a poet whose place in fiction is evident. In 1970s fiction, the sexual rebellion of the 1960s went from joyous to dark corners. Free to be you and me brought out wide collars and snap-up shirts, people drinking and having sex in the bathroom at the bowling alley instead of renting shoes and throwing strikes. Bukowski is your weird uncle who always creeped out your friends.
The theme of Love is a Dog From Hell is sex, drunkenness and the quality of said sex. Bukowski is a fan of the female form but is very much a man of his era in his misogyny. He sees women as duplicitous and manipulative. Because women are angry, men drink. Loneliness is a cancer that destroys and women are looking to emasculate and isolate. One might call some of the passages raging against the machine except that it reads as written by someone who really needs a non-sexual hug and a nap. If Bukowski fits into the mold of a beat poet, he is their Archie Bunker.
Bukowski’s style is that of the storyteller. His language is very direct. Readers get a firm grasp of who Bukowski is in his time. He likes older women with butts that look like they might be younger, he likes his booze and he likes the drugs. Bukowski tells readers “If there are junk yards in hell, love is the dog that guards the gates.” He’s the guy you met in the 1980s who was always belied up to the bar, talking about all the women he’s had and how they’ve brought him nothing but pain. A lot of the poems in Love is a Dog From Hell read as very similar in context and situation. That’s the thing, people who are drunk and angry are usually angry about the same things when they get drunk.
If Love is Dog From Hell is indicative of Bukowski’s work, unless you’re a student of beat poets, I’d give him a miss. I’m willing to bet much of what he says in the anthology you likely heard from your Uncle Butch when he had a few too many at a family event.
For more reviews regarding the Better World Books Reading Challenge check out A Childhood Favorite and A Book Independently Published.
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