Love is a Dog from Hell
by Charles Bukowski
(HarperCollins Publishers, 2002)

Love is a Dog from Hell features Charles Bukowski’s poems from 1974 through 1977. This volume is broken up into four parts. The first poem, “Sandra,” has echoes of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, with its theme of a beautiful woman and a narrator who’s too smart to fall for her trap. Bukowski opens up about intimate subjects and brings a refreshing lack of pretension. These poems are easy to connect with, such as the poem “numb your brain and your ass and your heart”; it speaks of disconnecting in order to relax, which I’ve found myself having to do more and more as the year 2020 goes on. I want 2020 to end the way the show ends in his poem:

[…] it all finally vanished / like a paperclip in a / bag of trash and I / reached over and flicked off the set and / slept well for the first time / in a week and a half.

This collection also contains one of my very favorite Bukowski poems, “an almost made up poem” that a friend of mine sent to me once when I was very depressed, following a betrayal: “kid, I wrote back, all lovers betray.” That line made me feel like someone truly understood. This particular poem also contains a line I’ve always liked, one that I wish people would use to describe me:

[…] she’s mad but she’s magic. There’s no lie in her fire.

Most books of poetry eventually grow tedious to read through, but reading Bukowski’s work is always a joy, as he breaks with poetic traditions, delves into taboo subjects, and, like all good art, challenges you to form an interpretation.

If you’re a fan of Bukowski’s, you’ll adore Love is a Dog from Hell. It contains some of his best work and his more complex poems. Stylistically, it’s an absolute gem.

Some of it is filth; of course it is. We are talking about Charles Bukowski, here. But in one of the poems of this volume, he lays out the game—his worst poems are still better than anything created by his critics, who sat there waiting for him to die—he called them gravediggers. And there is a real sincerity to this work that is not to be missed.

Click here to buy Love is a Dog from Hell.