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Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  2,230 ratings  ·  107 reviews
One of the most recognizable poets of the last century, Charles Bukowski is simultaneously a common man and an icon of urban depravity. He uses strong, blunt language to describe life as he lives it, and through it all charts the mutations of morality in modern America.

Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way is a treasure trove of confessional poetry wr
Paperback, 395 pages
Published January 6th 2004 by Ecco (first published December 24th 2002)
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 ·  2,230 ratings  ·  107 reviews

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Peycho Kanev
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Bukowski is one of the most recognizable names in contemporary American poetry, probably so popular because his poems are so easy to read. He uses strong, simple language, raw pessimistic tone and blunt honesty to describe everything from feeding his cats to the state of morality in modern America. This collection confirms one more aspect of Bukowski's body of poetic work, produced, as he writes in a work called "found poems," at the rate of ten or twelve poems a night: namely, that the primary ...more
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Yes. See, Charles knew exactly what I needed...THIS is what I needed...THIS. WHAT FOLLOWS. NOW.

nobody but you

nobody can save you but
you will be put again and again
into nearly impossible
they will attempt again and again
through subterfuge, guise and
to make you submit, quit and /or die quietly
nobody can save you but
and it will be easy enough to fail
so very easily
but don’t, don’t, don’t.
just watch them.
listen to them.
do you want to be like that?
a faceless, min
Diana Marie
Apr 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"Why do we embroider everything we say
With special emphasis

When all we really need to do
Is simply say what
Needs to be said?"

This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading Bukowski's poetry. The pretension isn't there, the frills and things to impress aren't there - just this "raw honesty" that is often used to describe him. It felt real to me and pure - even if I wasn't impressed by some of the subject matter or stories. It doesn't matter, he says it anyways, and that's what I like about it.

Oct 10, 2008 added it
Shelves: poetry
I was unimpressed with 90% of the Bukowski I've read before I self-identified as feminist. Finishing the last half of this collection was cringe-worthy.

But I liked this poem:

"little poem"

little sun little moon little dog
and a little to eat and a little to love
and a little to live for

in a little room
filled with little
who gnaw and dance and run while I sleep
waiting for a little death
in the middle of a little morning

in a little city
in a little state
my little mother dead
my little father dead
in a
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, bukowski
And another greatgreatgreat poetry collection by bukowski, don't hesitate picking this one up
David Schaafsma
Nov 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
150 poems, 400 posthumous pages, from the wildly, sometimes humorously anti-academic poet/icon of depravity, writing in his seventies, looking back at his crazy life of debauchery from the perspective of failing health, wealth, prosperity, fame. Recalling the past, often in arrogance, in a foul mood, trashing everyone along the way...and yet he comes off as down to earth, a common man, a drunken, whoring and race track kinda guy til the end... I prefer the earlier Bukowski who was living the lif ...more
Dane Cobain
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of several poetry collections that were edited together by John Martin, Bukowski’s long-term editor, from a ream of material that he left behind to be published after his death. I actually like most of this more recently published stuff the most, in part because I think he got better with age and in part because I think he left some of his most personal stuff to be published after he was gone.

For the first time ever, I actually tabbed this collection with sticky labels so that I
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
It's worth picking up. There are a lot of great poems in this collection
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
misbegotten paradise

the bad days and the bad nights now come too
the old dream of having a few easy
years before death–
that dream vanished as the other dreams
too bad, too bad, too bad.
from the beginning, through the
middle years and up to the
too bad, too bad, too bad.

there were moments,
sparkles of hope
but they quickly dissolved
back into the same old
the stink of reality.

even when luck was
there and life danced in the
we knew the stay
would be short.

too bad, too bad, too bad
Mar 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This is my second attempt at reading bukowski, first time was traumatising and this one was a little bit... underwhelming? The poems get quite repetitive: women, drinking, describing the cheap, precarious settings where the scenarios happen. I'm not familiar with this poetry style and I didn't feel mesmerised while reading this book, I was like "meh", just getting through it.

I myself lead a miserable life just like you Chinaski, so I'm not too empathetic or shocked by the awful things you've enc
Mar 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Reading Bukowski is like going through a pile of trash, knowing that there must be something. And there was:
“About competition”
“Unblinking grief”
“The joke is on the sun”
“Who needs it?”
“The way things are”
“Remember this”
“Little poem”
“Where was I?”
“Heads without faces, seen in all the places”
“The simple truth”
“Here and now”
“Regrets of a sort”
“Unclassical symphony”
“At last”
“Misbegotten paradise”
Hanna Abi Akl
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another masterpiece by the master himself. Bukowski is a pioneer in the realm of poetry. Raw, unique and moving, his verses crash against your soul like the bittersweet last note of a classical symphony.
A recommended read, like every other work by the genius in the crowd.
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
To be quite honest, this was a slow burn for me. Once I was finally submerged, I enjoyed it, but man was it a slow start! This was my first reading of anything by Bukowski. I really wondered whether Bukowski would actually want these published in life. Some of them seem subpar.
my life as a sitcom
stepped into the wrong end of the jacuzzi and twisted my
right leg which was bad anyhow, then that night got drunk
with a tv writer and an actor, something about
using my
life into a sitcom and luckily that fell through and the
day at the track I get a box seat in the dining area,
get a
menu and a glass of water, my leg is really paining me, I
can barely walk to the betting windows and back,
about the 3rd race the waiter rushes by, asks "can I
borrow your menu?" but he doesn'
Rena Sherwood
Dec 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anthologies, poetry
I think I'm going to stop writing poetry because I could never write anything better than Bukowski. I read the library's copy and then a few years later just had to buy my own copy in 2016 because I could not get some of the poems out of my head. That and most of my library's Bukowski stuff has been stolen.


I have no idea why this year I've yearned to read Bukowski more than any other author. As I get older I find that he's the only writer who is writing about the reality I find myself stuck in.
Melanie Medved
Nov 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The last 50 pages of this book.... I just don't have any words to express the understanding I felt... Relating to old dead poets and not many other people is usually my thing, anyway, but this took it to a whole new level. It's one of his best volumes, his insights are full of wisdom, existential thoughts, and just how it is to be beaten down by life but still get up time and time again. I highly recommend it to anyone who is in a "misery loves company" mood or having an existential crisis of so ...more
Jun 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Bukowski's raw and raunchy poetic ramblings about his drunken, prostitute-filled life on skid row LA is the opposite of what I thought I'd ever like. He tells it like it is and does not candy coat. His repulsive life style is redeemed with his many ode's to his one true love, Jane. For me, one who will hopefully never live the life that Bukowski writes about, I actually enjoy taking a mental romp down those harrowing streets and living for a few poems that dirty life, relishing the feeling that ...more
Jennifer Walker
Aug 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
this was my first introduction to bukowski and what a nice bet. written when he was older, established, settled down a bit. it flows well, however the writings towards the end of the book get a bit unimportant. just daily scribe it appears. all in all, highly recommended as a bukowski starter. (it gives a nice glimpse while you work your way back to his younger years when he was all fired up!)
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Devastating, disgusting, inspiring and amazingly, unbearably human. I liked love is a dog... Better, but still...
Gregory Frye
Jan 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Excellent collection of poems from toward the end of Bukowski's career. Here he's transcended the drunken brawler and reached a sage-like wisdom. Buy it and read it.
vi macdonald
Some of these were legitimately pretty good.
Like, it wasn't great - and there were still plenty of horribly uncomfortable moments - but it was intermittently pretty decent.
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
loved many of these poems. i really like how he sticks to simple things, not really trying to be deep or complex.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
nobody can save you but yourself.
you will be put again and again into nearly impossible situations.
they will attempt again and again through subterfuge, guise and force to make you submit, quit and/or die quietly inside.
nobody can save you but yourself and it will be easy enough to fail so very easily but don’t, don’t, don’t.
just watch them.
listen to them.
do you want to be like that?
a faceless, mindless, heartless being?
do you want to experience death before death?
nobody can save you but yours
Jul 16, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a tough one - to rate overall a collection of so many poems, which are really all over the place in terms of quality. I've read Bukowski before, mostly in college, when the young, impressionable mind tends to romanticize and hold up what most would consider less-than-ideal and unrealistic behavior. Now, as an adult, I found myself approaching most of these poems with an odd sort of detachment, like watching some creature in a zoo, feeling a weird mix of fascination, inspiration, and pit ...more
Dec 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Magandang basahin at pagkunan ng pilosopiyang pang millenial. Bagay para sa mga hindi maintindihan kung saan, ano, paano, bakit, sino, kailan sila babangon sa kinahihigaang kama ng komportableng kakulangan at katanungan.

Pakiramdam ko sinulatan ako ni Bukowski.

Translates: relatable, can be a source of philosophical pointers for millenials - especially those who are on the verge of existential pursuing, those who are finding it hard to get up from their comfortable beds of despair and being lost.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Bukowski is the poet laureate of saying the same thing 800 times in 400 poems. These poems are just like all his other poems, about a life constructed out of women, drinking, writing, poverty, and gambling. Bukowski himself remains blameless and judgmental: he has lived the best life, and those who haven't dedicated themselves to wine and horse racing are leisure class bullshit artists. it's all very very boring.

no collection of poetry should ever top out at 400 pages.
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thought
Bukowski writes about life. The life he sees. He does not seem to try to explain it. Which makes him so much better than petty academic servants with their tin cups begging the state for a bigger pension, whining at any time of the day about how disrespected they can be. Bukowski is free. And his freedom inspires.
Mya Burns
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
some good poems but cant get over the glaring sexism (also racism + homophobia/transphobia but most obvious in almost every poem is sexism and misogyny) and he just sounds like a man that feels like the world owes him everything and acts like a woman that isn't everything at once for him is worthless. will be donating this book and didn't finish it.
Lovely Fortune
(Whoa, my first review on Good Reads)

I don't have much to say other than I only read this because I recited one of his poems for class. I'm not big on poetry. This was very hit or miss with this being mostly miss. "Giving Thanks" was my favorite poem.
Oct 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
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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
“Why do we embroider everything we say

with special emphasis

when all we really need to do

is simply say what

needs to he said?

Of course

the fact is

that there is very little that needs

to be said.”
“but isn't there always
one good thing
to look back on?

think of
how many cups of coffee we
drank together.”
More quotes…