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Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  4,451 ratings  ·  171 reviews
Play the Piano introduces Charles Bukowski's poetry from the 1970s. He leads a life full of gambling and booze but also finds love. These poems are full of lechery and romance as he struggles to mature.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published May 31st 2002 by HarperCollins (first published June 5th 1979)
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Oct 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Bukowski the fiction writer and Bukowski the poet always seemed to be two different people. I've read a handful of his poems over the years and recognized a fire in him that is totally lacking from his novel work. In his poems, there lies a confident drunk, asleep at the wheel of life, seamlessly floating on by, content with distraction and apathy. In his fiction, there's an emptiness that's so passive, it's hardly a story at all.

This is the first volume of his poetry that I've read from start t
Raegan Butcher
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is the first Bukowski book that I ever read. I think Bukowski's importance as an American writer will only grow in the 21st century. The man is already a Hemingway-like figure in Europe.The cultural snobs of academia in America have tried to ignore his work, but that will change. This collection is a grab-bag of previously uncollected poems that Bukowski regularly submitted to small press rags during the late sixties and seventies. These are from the seventies and there are some great poems ...more
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Unsurprisingly, I am once again floored. I finished this book in less than a day and I felt like a 3 year old who just had her lollipop taken away when it was done. I literally felt pouty that it was over. This series of poems is from the 70's and is incredibly eloquent and harsh at the same time. Each thing I read of Bukowski's is like revealing another piece of an unbearably complex puzzle. Last night I had the house to myself and had set up my netflix so I could have the first in a series of ...more
vi macdonald
Jul 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
I was genuinely hopeful for this one, "Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit" is kind of an amazing title. Unfortunately the poems in this collection hardly even come close to measuring up to their title, which is a shame.
Aug 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I read this when I was like 14. I thought he was brilliant.... turns out, not so much
Joe Totterdell
Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit is a short and sweet collection of poems published by Charles Bukowski in 1979 containing some of his most esoteric and least offensive poems (relatively speaking, of course, and as far as I have read of his work hitherto, which really says something about this collection)—some absolute gems in this collection.

"claws of paradise"

wooden butterfly
baking soda smile
sawdust fly---
I love my belly
and the liquor sto
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
there is nothing to do
but drink
play the horse
bet on the poem

i love the fact that bukowski's poems seem to tell a story, however gruesome that story may be. most of his poems revolve around alcohol/beers,
I am dying of sadness and alcohol ,
cigarettes and love. however, bukowski has a somewhat uncanny perception of love,
I have, he went on, betrayed myself with belief, deluded myself with love tricked myself with sex .

and I like it when they tell me;they are having luck with a man;luck w
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Though it's a slim volume of poetry, this book makes up for its size by packing a huge punch of brilliance. The amazing poems more than outweigh the average poems. Before picking up this book, I'd only read a few of Bukowski's poems and his novel Ham on Rye. This has definitely encouraged me to read more of his poems. Today I bought Love is a Dog From Hell, which I'm very excited to begin!

I'd recommend Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit to a
Brian Sims
Oct 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Just read Play The Piano Drunk Like A Percussion Instrument Until The Fingers Begin To Bleed A Bit by Charles Bukowski - yes, that's the title.. It's a book of his poetry - not for all; not sappy poetry that is, more like drunken Sailor's stuff.. I thought it was right up the alley with the rest of his literature, though I like his novels much better..
Paul Secor
Not everything works, but when Charles Bukowski nails one, it's down.
Aug 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry-prose
No more Bukowski for me, ever.
Sep 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
If you're looking for the popular image of Bukowski--drunk, misogynist, taking swings at whatever gets close--you can find him here, including perhaps the quintessential Bukowski line in "40,000 flies":

"it's so easy to be a poet
and so hard to be
a man."

This is the slimmest volume of his poetry that I've picked up, and while it's not my favorite, it has some gems. I've never been really disappointed by a book of Bukowski poetry.

Favorites in this collection:
"Leaning on wood," "The souls of dead a
Jess Beck
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Perhaps the style of writing was not for me, but I was disappointed by the poetry. Among the mediocre poems were some gems, though, and I feel it was still worth the gander.
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
tho he is still plagued with romanticizing a very particular kind of decadence and has real backwards ideas about gender, Bukowski the poet is I think much more talented than Bukowski the novelist. There's a real sense of cutting through the bullshit and honestly assessing life in these poems; he attacks the latter third of his life with the knowledge of the first 2/3rds, savoring the minor bacchanalias that sustain him while dismissing the bureacracies that want to infringe of that life giving ...more
Aug 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Over hyped misogynistic old drunk writes about bacon, factories, whiskey, farts, whiskey, being drunk, drinking, strippers, whiskey, his dad, his mom, and women.
how he fucked women he loved
how he fucked women he didnt love
how he didn't fuck women he loved
and how he didn't fuck women he didnt love

and don't forget that everybody farts.

if you want to read entire 3 page poems for a good line maybe, or boring short stories then this is your guy.

If a person loves Bukowski for me it's a warning
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Lost my freelance gig. Then my Mac computer died. Then a playwrighting gig fell through. Plus my joints ache and it's cold outside. Where do you turn for comfort? Well, there's always the blunt and bawdy poetry of Charles Bukowski, whose Schlitz-soaked verse strips life down to its essentials: women, sex, decay, liquor, money or the lack of it, misunderstandings, cockroaches, age, death, and gambling. Gambling, you ask. Oh, yes, gambling. It's all a gamble whether you bet on horses at the races ...more
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Slöpp byrjun

Fire Station (For Jane, With Love) - pg. 38 - circa 1967
The Egg - pg. 53
I'm In Love - pg. 57
A Radio With Guts - pg. 71
Interviews - pg. 75 - circa 1975
Face Of A Political Candidate On A Street Billboard - pg. 77 - circa 1974
Yankee Doodle - pg. 78
Nothing Is As Effective As Defeat - pg. 82 - circa 1975
The Proud Thin Dying - pg. 98 - circa 1988
Under - pg. 99
I Liked Him - pg. 106
The Killer Smiles - pg. 107 - 1977
Hug The Dark - pg. 113
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: modern-poetry
the great soprano has never read my poems
but we both know how to murder art
drink and mourn
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Many of these are timeless. A few have aged like milk. Reading Bukowski while female takes some patience.
Hashim Alsughayer
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dark, witty, and clever is so many ways. I think the best way to describe Bukowski’s writing is that it’s a mood of it’s own!
Eric Cartier
Aug 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Some gems are scattered amongst the poems assembled here. I'm surprised the lesser ones appeared while Buk was still living and writing, though, because they're fit for the company of those minor poems that make up most of his posthumous collections. Nevertheless, when he's on, he shines. His basic observations, brazen line-breaks and black humor will probably lead me to read everything he wrote, in search of those jewels.

From the proud thin dying:

it's the order of things: each one
gets a taste o
Reese Lightning
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Not my style. I can appreciate his sparse, stark, raw & ragged style of composition, but I prefer my poetry more poetic, the language more lyrical. This just seems like unremarkable prose chopped into blunt little lines like cocaine. And that doesn't magically transform it into poetry, in my humble opinion. I know he's supposed to be one of the greats, but what exactly is the talent here? I don't see any insightful observation, innovative ideas, interesting rhythm or subject matter, or whatever ...more
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is my personal favorite of Bukowski's books of poetry. It has such a raw voice to it. So many of the poems in this collection are memorable. This is the book I pull out when someone tells me that they know poetry because they know the 'classics'.
رؤيا شعبان
Dec 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
list of my favorite ones :

A Little Atomic Bomb
The Strangest thing
2 flies
The Ladies of summer
The Apple
5 dollars
Blue moon bleweew mooooon how i adore you ! ( the most funny one )
The killer smiles

Dec 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Good collection of early Bukowski poetry
Jun 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Scholars won't touch Bukowski. He's inconsistent, he does a ton of things that don't work. some poems are just plain bad, but when he gets it (and he does a decent amount of the time) it's great.
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Some of Bukowski's best, although most "raw", poetry. This is pure emotion from a decadent, masculine point of view. I am probably on my tenth reading.
Oct 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
The one take away from this is that if chuck can fall in love then there's hope for us all
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I first discovered that I like Bukowski in the fall, with "Love is a Dog from Hell." This book of poems was even better, I think. more resonant with me, at least.
Feb 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
poems like gunslingers
sit around and
shoot holes in my windows
chew on my toilet paper
read the race results
take the phone off the

poems like gunslingers
ask me
what the hell my game is,
would I like to
shoot it out?

take it easy, I say,
the race is not to
the swift.

the poem sitting at the
south end of the couch
balls off for that

take it easy, pardner, I
have plans for

plans, huh? what

The New Yorker,
he puts his icon

the poem sitting in the
chair near the door
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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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“you son of a bitch, she said, I am
trying to build a meaningful

you can't build it with a hammer,
he said.”
“I care for you, darling, I love you,
the only reason I fucked L. is because you fucked
Z. and then I fucked R. and you fucked N.
and because you fucked N. I had to fuck
Y. But I think of you constantly, I feel you
here in my belly like a baby, love I'd call it,
no matter what happens I'd call it love, and so
you fucked C. and then before I could move
you fucked W., so I had to fuck D. But
I want you to know that I love you, I think of you
constantly, I don't think I've ever loved anybody
like I love you.”
More quotes…