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What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through The Fire (2002)

What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (2002)

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4.29 of 5 Votes: 3
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1574231057 (ISBN13: 9781574231052)
black sparrow press

About book What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through The Fire (2002)

Reviewing a poetry anthology isn’t like reviewing any other kind of literature. This book represents the great man’s collected works, so all you can really talk about is the general impression you were left with. That impression to me was surprisingly a positive one. Sure, Bukowski talks about life as a down and out but he finds a kind of beauty in it, one that I’m sure the more idealistic or pampered would find rather alluring.I don’t want to live Bukowski’s life; no right-minded person would. So, why do his etchings about a wretched life appeal to so many people? I have a couple of theories. Firstly, Bukowski has the most finely honed vocabulary you’re likely to come across. By this I don’t mean flowery and obtuse words; I mean small, sharp sentences that nick you where he wants just in time for the next razor-sharp line. When you read Bukowski you feel as if you’re getting the truth in its sparsest form; there’s no window-dressing.The first and third parts were similar in writing style and tone; the middle seemed a bit more experimental and wacky. I didn’t appreciate the middle part as much as it seemed as if Bukwoski was trying too hard to be a poet. It would be interesting to know what period of his life these poems were collected from. My guess is that they’re taken from a point in time where he was enjoying a good amount of fame from his writing and beginning to rub elbows with the ‘literati'; these were his attempts to impress them. I could be completely wrong, but this was my impression – the whole section seemed very un-Bukowski like, even contrived.On to the topics Bukowski discusses. First up is his father, ubiquitous in most of his writing, whom it’s apparent he hates a great deal. Bukowski’s loathing towards his father is detailed within the first couple of chapters but soon peters out after that. His father’s brutality and classical American idealism is painted as a contrast to how he sees life, revealing a sensitive side to the author which isn’t always easily observed, given his forthrightness.Perhaps the most recurring topic, in all of his work not just here, is that of women. Women and love are the mainstay of what Bukwoski writes about and he does it with much aplomb. His views on relationships are oddly dark but there’s a very real quality here which anyone who’s experienced loss will identify with. There are a few choice poems about Bukwoski having sex with women that are absolutely hilarious – described much in the same way in his book Women. These are usually heated exchanges which read as “Please fuck me” to which Bukwoski replies “Ah shit, O.K.”. Ridiculous? Yes. Entertaining? Ah shit,yes.I found myself thumbing through and earmarking several poems which I had found interesting but for the life of me I can’t remember any off the top of my head – except one. This is unusual because it’s not his usual style or topic yet there’s a lucidity to it that really struck me. Here goes:You’ll chuckle along with Bukowski as he rants long into the night. You’ll also find yourself experiencing moments of epiphany as he looses some gems from time to time. He makes a great point about how art should be for the common man and that artists haven’t done enough to motivate people to better themselves.Perhaps he was playing the fool in order to inspire us.

Most reviewers have agreed, there is no middle ground here – you either like him or you don’t. Maybe, he’s not really a poet. Maybe, in his unique and very authentic voice he is sharing his experiences from living on the streets and we have to pick the ones that speak to us.Many, if not most of us, at one time, maybe while in grad school or in the military, ran into someone like Bukowski. If not, well, if it broadens us to understand 19th century Russians – it would not hurt to also share Bukowski’s viewpoint for a moment. Here are a few that spoke to me:No TitleAll theories like clichés shot to hell,All these small faces looking up beautiful and believing;I wish to weep but sorrow is stupid.I wish to believe but belief is a graveyard.We have narrowed it down to the butcherknife and the mockingbird.Wish us luck.HunchbackMoments of agony and moments of glory march across my roof. . . My luck has been better than the luck of the cut gladiolus, although I am not sure.I have been loved by many women, and for a hunchback of life, that’s lucky.. . .so many searching hearts now fixed in my memories that I’ll go to my death remembering.I have been treated better than I should have been – not by life in general nor by the machinery of things but by women.But there have been other women who have left me standing in the bedroom alone doubled over – holding the gut – thinking why why why why why why?Women go because they must go in the order of things.The women know better but often chose out of disorder and confusion.They can heal with their touch and they can kill what they touch and I am dyingBut not dead yet.Insanity. . . sometimes there’s a crazy one walking in the street. He slips past. . .not worried about alarm clocks or approval.However, almost everyone else is sane, knows the answer to all the unanswerable questions. . . and can laugh at every feeble joke.The crazy ones only laugh when there is no reason to laugh.In our world the sane are too numerous, too submissive. We are instructed to live lives of boredom. no matter what we are doing. . . we are numbed, sadly sane.When you see a crazy one walking in the street honor him but leave him alone. Stand out of the way. There’s no luck like that luckNothing else so perfect in the world let him walked untouchedRemember Christ also was insane.He makes me aware of things I have either long forgotten or may never have known. Although, Bukowski was at times tormented, his poetry tells me that at times he was also a gentle soul.

Do You like book What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through The Fire (2002)?

My first Bukowski, other than the occasional poem here or there. For the first hundred pages or so, I didn't feel I "got" Bukowski at all. It just seemed like a bunch of uninteresting vignettes with strange line breaks. But gradually, I realised that Bukowski isn't about the individual poems; he's about the collective impression generated by all of them. No individual poem could have created the tapestry of love, hate, quiet joy, quiet desperation, brute indifference, and everything else that is conveyed bit by bit, atom by atom, by exposing oneself to an entire volume - in truth, I'm not sure I could describe this feeling at all. That's not to say that there aren't great individual poems in here. In particular, I enjoyed "lifedance", "odd", "roll the dice", "a vote for the gentle light", "revolt in the ranks", and especially "some notes on Bach and Haydn". The last of these is the closest you could get to a microcosm of Bukowski as a whole, as far as I'm concerned.

Overall, Bukowski's book of poesy was more like a novel to me than some collected works. I really enjoyed reading this book, will prolly buy his others, and perhaps I will find a poster of him for my dorm room because he looks like an interesting drunk. I liked him as an author with a couldn't-really-give-a-damn attitude who was able to criticize his own faults along with the faults of others around him with the experience of an old man. However, looking at some of his poems with an intent to analyze won't work out. Though some can hold deeper meanings, many of them seemed like stories to me, which I didn't expect from such a published author. So, if you're interested in poems about women, drinking, gambling, friends, enemies, agoraphobia (of sorts), and angry, young men then you would love WHAT MATTERS MOST IS HOW WELL YOU WALK THROUGH THE FIRE.

"The area dividing the brain & the soul is affected in many ways by experience– Some lose all mind & become soul: insane. Some lose all soul & become mind: intellectual. Some lose both & become: accepted." The main reason I was almost so adamant to not read any of Bukowski's poetic works (excluding Post Office because it's a novel) is well ... it's poetry. "Poetry is never good enough, it's either overly sad it's not realistic, ridiculously moderate or grossly lovey-dovey." that basically sums up how I feel, nay, felt about poetry. But then I read this collection & I was simply awed. He felt like that kind of free-spirits who'd mock the human race with a tint of not-so-subtle misanthrope. I thought poetry can't touch me & I was right, it's more like poetry makes me seasoned. It's pretty brilliant how he keeps referring to his influences (cheap pun intended lol). Picking a favourite poem was a challenge, but I settled for Knives Sharpened & Lifedance because come on, they'd their charm.
—Nehal Nabil

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