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What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  5,895 ratings  ·  195 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 Ecco Press (first published June 5th 1999)
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 ·  5,895 ratings  ·  195 reviews

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Moira Clunie
Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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
Feb 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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
Oct 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Bukowski lived a tough life
but had his fun
and jesus could he write it down.

Real real real.
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
"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
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
and when love came to us twice
and lied to us twice
we decided to never love again
that was fair
fair to us
and fair to love itself.
Corey Johanningmeier
Jun 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Po Po
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
too much
too little
or too late

too fat
too thin
or too bad

laughter or
or immaculate

-from "the crunch (2)"

'nuff said
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Dane Cobain
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020, poetry
What a title!  I read this during the Coronavirus madness and the title fits that situation perfectly.  This was a collection created after Bukowski died and they've done a good job pulling together material that showed his mood in those years.  From unwanted visitors telling him how great he is to freeloading friends trying to get a few bucks from him to his cats.  Each time I read one of his poems about cats I can see how much he lived his life like a cat, eating, drinking, going after ladies ...more
Cody Sexton
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
There is very little left original to say about Charles Bukowski.
Bukowski is the type of writer who takes you deep into the raw, wild vein of writing and for me, one who exists at the intersection between the touching and the haunting.
He is one of the most influential and imitated poets America has ever produced and his poems are executed with all the boldness and audacity of a German expressionist painter.
You don't even really need to be intimately familiar with his world of seedy bars, vulgar
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Unlike many of his devotees, I cannot say that I would like to sit and have a drink with Charles Bukowski. I think it is safe to say that from what I know of the man, it would be an unpleasant experience at best for the both of us. Some people, however troubled or misanthropic (good word choice, yeah?) they may have been in life cannot help themselves...they write beautifully. And Charles Bukowski wrote so damn beautifully. His later poems are by far my favorite, the youthful anger tempered with ...more
Erica Schwer
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Bel Rodrigues
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"I will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I offered you what was left of me
and I will remember your small room
the feel of you
the light in the window
your records
your books
our morning coffee
our noons & our nights
our bodies spilled together sleeping
the tiny flowing currents
immediate and forever"

Kye Alfred Hillig
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing

all theories
like cliches
shot to hell,
all these small faces
looking up
beautiful and believing;
I wish to weep
but sorrow is
I wish to believe but belief is a
we have narrowed it down to
the butcherknife and the
wish us

In one sentence: Just a man in a room - odd, then, that this is enough to make people read them voluntarily, religiously, unlike almost all contemporary poetry with their bigger brains and better politics and more eventful stories and u
juicy brained intellectual
Aug 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
‘What Matters Most….’ is quite evidently one of his last collections of poems; there’s a more somber and reflective mood, typical of a man nearing the end, slowly moving past his regrets, yet with a fire burning bright, deep down.

I guess what makes his poems so special is that most of us can relate to them, because he draws out the beauty, harshness and loneliness that exists even in the most everyday situations: at the racetrack, at the car wash witnessing a bird’s death, playing with his child
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"I will remember the kisses / our lips raw with love / and how you gave me / everything you had / and how I / offered you what was left of / me, / and I will remember your small room / the feel of you / the light in the window / your records / your books / our morning coffee / our noons our nights / our bodies spilled together / sleeping / the tiny flowing currents / immediate and forever"
Sleepless Dreamer
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
If you would have told 16 year old me that there is some literature that they're not yet ready to understand, they would have been incredibly annoyed and would absolutely disagree. And yet, here I am, reading another Bukowski book, after hating Women.

And I have to admit, I saw a lot more beauty in it. I felt like I understood more of him, like his vibe made sense. That I've experienced enough of life to see what he means when he's talking about pain or mental health issues (and future me is pro
Nov 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction, poetry
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
Jun 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent posthumous collection.

Loved to hear Buk reflect on his childhood, being a young man, jobs and all kinds of things. One of my favorite poems was a poem called, "the poetry reading." Enlightening because I knew Buk, did a few poetry readings to promote his books.

Always sage-like and reflective.
I absolutely love this collection of poems. I think this is a book everyone should have in their collection. It is inspiring and thoughtful. Well written and even with some of its charming typos. Worth the read. Some of the beginning stuff seems taken as excerpts from past books, then you get further in and his mind starts to open up onto the page. Delightful.
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm not saying that this wasn't worth reading, but I'm giving it two stars because of how hard I found it to get through. While there are a few gems of poetry within this collection; I found largely they did not interest me and weren't my preferred style of poetry at all.
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
you must refuse to join them.
you must remain yourself.
you must open the curtains
or the blinds
or the windows
to the gentle light.
to joy.
it’s there in life
and even in death
it can be there.
Julie Ruble
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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.
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Is there a book containing Bukowski's complete works? 7 282 Feb 12, 2020 12:26PM  

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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

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