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What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire
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What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  3,719 ratings  ·  118 reviews
This second posthumous collection from Charles Bukowski takes readers deep into the raw, wild vein of writing that extends from the early 70s to the 1990s.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published June 1st 2002 by Black Sparrow Press (first published June 5th 1999)
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Ham on Rye by Charles BukowskiPost Office by Charles BukowskiWomen by Charles BukowskiFactotum by Charles BukowskiHollywood by Charles Bukowski
The Best of Charles Bukowski
9th out of 18 books — 77 voters
A World of Verse by Christopher  ShieldsThe Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats by W.B. YeatsThe Iliad/The Odyssey by HomerThe Divine Comedy by Dante AlighieriThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
86th out of 379 books — 214 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Moira Clunie
he's a difficult crank, too much bukowski is probably not good for the mental health, but there is beauty in the ugliness. or there is truth, which is sometimes the same thing. revelation.

in this book, i keep coming back to "white dog":

I went for a walk on Hollywood Boulevard.
I looked down and there was a large white dog
walking beside me.
his pace was exactly the same as mine,
we stopped at traffic signals together.
a woman smiled at us.
he must have walked 8 blocks with me.
then I went into a grocer
One of my favorite poems by Bukowski in this volume, not anthologized much for some reason. There are others as well- all good and inimitably honest to whatever moment he's writing about, and sometimes humorous.

"Born to Lose"

I was sitting in my cell
and all the guys were tattooed

all of them were able to roll a cigarette
with one hand

if I mentioned Wallace Stevens or
even Pablo Neruda to them
they'd think me crazy.

I named my cellmates in my mind.
that one was
too much
too little
or too late

too fat
too thin
or too bad

laughter or
or immaculate

-from "the crunch (2)"

'nuff said
"precious grenades inside my skull,
I’d rather grow roses than nurture self-pity,
but sometimes it really begins to tell on me
and I have visions of house trailers and
hookers slipping into giant volcanic cracks
just south of Santa Barbara.

I found out this was another posthumously released volume of previously unreleased works. I cursed myself, I had done it again. Last time was no success, so why would this be any better? Thankfully it is human to err and so I had. This turned out to be so muc
Bukowski lived a tough life
but had his fun
and jesus could he write it down.

Real real real.
Erica Schwer
If you are afraid to break the bubble you are living in and transcending the bullshit, Bukowski is not the one for you. His compilation of poetry is blunt and depressing, yet more real than anything I have ever read. Bukowski has truly nothing to hide and his poetry gets down to the truth. Although he comes off as a very isolated and depressed individual, I can really understand where he is coming from as well as his trouble relating to society. What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the ...more
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 Bukows
Po Po
My friend Todd recently recommended this book to me during our most recent book club. Thankfully, my lovely bibliophile hubby actually had this book in his possession.

I am not usually into reading poetry--I would much rather make my own bad poetry or scrub toilets, but this book of poetry immediately captured my attention and retained it all throughout.

This seems like a hefty volume at first glance, but don't let it put you off. It is an amazingly quick read. I finished it in a couple days, eve
I love Bukowski, but sometimes it feels like reiterations of the same thing. He's got his general themes: seedy sex, American poverty, back alley transactions, loneliness and despair, and he doesn't stray too far from those motifs. The poems are true to the periods he lived in, and only Bukowski can make stuff like dog fights poetic. There were some great lines, though:

"feelin' bad, kid?" he asked/yeh, yeh, yeh/"kid," he said, "I've slept longer than you've lived."
-too soon

things get bad for all
I love Bukowski's poetry, but it's also easy to hate it. Or to kind of love it and hate it at the same time. Prepare to be depressed and maybe revolted. This book upsets me but also teaches me a lot about common threads and human nature. I like that Bukowski doesn't give me some sort of academic exercise / intellectual self-massage and call it a poem. He's just going to say what he's going to say -- and it's important or it's not -- and you should just shut up and read it or not. I was moved.
Corey Johanningmeier
Jun 07, 2007 Corey Johanningmeier rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: human beings
Shelves: poetry
Reading Bukowski is like hanging around drunk in the broke-down, decrepit, sun-drenched underworld of Los Angeles; listening to Mahler and betting your last five dollars on a horse named after a stripper you used to know. But you don't get dirty or hung-over, and the only ill-effect is a new-found empathy for the damned.
My absolute favorite Bukowski book. People say he's overrated and too popular now days, and he is...he would have HATED the popularity he's managed to master in death. I appreciate him for what he is: a lowlife waste-less drunk. I respect him for that.
Kye Alfred Hillig
This one has some of my favorite Bukowski poems. At the end of almost all of them you are left with the feeling that he has lifted the veil and shown the world for what it truly is.
Sep 11, 2012 noelle rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
this was on my to read shelf but i'm pretty sure i've already read it because one of my favorite bukowski poems (everywhere, everywhere) is in it, unless it's elsewhere, too

but it's all beat up like it spent a week in my purse and i found dried flowers in it(??????) so i guess i have

but i guess i'm still going to finish it

the thing about bukowski is, and i'm pretty sure i said this last time i read a book of his poems, he's overwhelmingly boring. he knew that though. most of his books only have
Bukowski is back with another epic collection of idiosyncratic poetry. The poems published in the collection were written between 1970 and 1990, and they were part of an archive that the great poet left behind to be published after his death.

As always, it's fascinating to see the way in which Bukowski used simple (and often profane) language in such a powerful way - his poems don't read like Shakespeare, they read like Bukowski talked, and that's what gives them their power. Bukowski wasn't a po
What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through Fire by Charles Bukowski (Harper Collins 1999)(811) is another of Bukowski's seemingly endless series of collections of posthumously-published poetry from his estate. Query: Bukowski published voluminously while he was living. If Bukowski thought particular poems were good enough to publish, would he have not chosen to do so during his lifetime? My rating: 4/10, finished 5/15/14.
Oh my goodness, I finished a book! I am so proud of myself but I really should take this time to thank the author: Bukowski. Well done, sir. I never thought I would be the sort of person to read a grouping of poems much less an entire book of them but I liked it and now I'm reading others poets so I guess I'm a changed person. I'm just glad my roommate decided to borrow this puppy from Cameron.
Absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. I fell in love with Bukowski's poetry all over again and I didn't even think that was possible.

Happy National Poetry Day, Chuck. I hope you know what this collection did to me and how badly I needed every slice of it.
Chris Leo
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.
Marcelino Sumaya
No allusions, no pretexts.

Words in beautiful sequence, made me a believer in poetry.
Bunny McIntosh
What matters most is how well you type drunk.
Suzanne Hill
I wish there were more stars...
Nehal Nabil
"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." tha
May 31, 2013 Jake rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
For a long time, it was hard for me to consider a Bukowski book of poetry. In every one I had read previously, there were poems I thought kicked the shit out of everything else ever written, and then there'd be poems where I thought he mailed it in. Maybe it was because this was the longest collection of his I've ever read, as it seemed truly unending, but it all finally looked like pieces of a puzzle of a man. The bad poems seemed to connect, as if Bukowski had faith in artistic transparency, t ...more
Jun 02, 2008 John rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: angry poet types, misanthropes-gone-hopeless romantics, Mark Coleman
Recommended to John by: Tim Schafer
This is the first book I've read of Bukowski's poetry, so the good news is I have nothing to compare it to (I did read Ham on Rye a couple years ago, which was inspired much more naseau and self-loathing than this). This collection of poetry, written while Bukowski was in his fifties and published a few years after his death, is as glum and sharp as one would expect. However, the book is not without its tender, even beautiful, parts. Some poems ('this moment') even suggest a very vivid sense of ...more
Adam Garcia
I found many favorites in this. . . Sometimes I think "I can write like this" But it's not the style in which he writes but what he says. Once you read one or two of his works (any of them) (I actually prefer the stuff he wrote later in his life) You fall in love with the man. The poems (if you wanna call them that) i love almost never seem to be the ones "you people" talk about, or use to remember the man.

Some notes on Bach and Haydn
it is quite something to turn your radio on
at 4:30 in the
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 ...more
Jul 08, 2008 Matt rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Blue-Collar Intellectuals, People Who Are Smart and Mad, Poets and fans of Poetry
I think I've got a handle on Bukowski now, on the basics anyway. And I like him, mostly. His poems are at their best when he's talking about his life and feelings, and when he's not afraid to be a little raw-- which is most of the time.

On the downside, the fact that he is clearly the speaker in every single poem is a little bit of a drag. Not bad exactly, but limiting. And I don't really like most of his poems about how hard it is to write poems. They're the equivalent of 24 Hour Comics where th
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 an
An excellent poetry collection overall. The middle got a little weird and it felt like it was more of a collection of journal entries or something, but I found a number of poems that I enjoyed very much. Below I have included a list of the ones I liked:
- the railroad yard
- pershing square
- too soon
- the pretty girl who rented rooms
- the people
- white dog
- some notes on Bach and Hayden
- lifedance
- full moon
- about a trip to Spain
- one more good one
- hard times on carlton way
- hunchba
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Is there a book containing Bukowski's complete works? 6 165 Sep 27, 2013 08:08AM  
  • The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry
  • Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life
  • Charles Bukowski
  • Scattered Poems
  • Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs
  • The Wine of Youth
  • Collected Poems 1947-1997
  • Residence on Earth
  • The Moon Is Always Female: Poems
  • Fear of Dreaming: The Selected Poems
  • The Beat Book
  • The Selected Poems
  • Good Poems for Hard Times
  • A New Path to the Waterfall
  • Poetry as Insurgent Art
  • Walking the Black Cat
  • Hank: The Life of Charles Bukowski
Henry Charles Bukowski (born as Heinrich Karl Bukowski) was a German-born American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles.It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands ...more
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“I remember awakening one morning and finding everything smeared with the color of forgotten love.” 1487 likes
“Things get bad for all of us, almost continually, and what we do under the constant stress reveals who/what we are.” 904 likes
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