“The Walt Whitman of Los Angeles.”
—Joyce Carol Oates
“He brought everybody down to earth, even the angels.”
—Leonard Cohen, songwriter
Arguably the most imitated and influential American poet of the previous half-century, Charles Bukowski remains a counter-culture icon more than a decade after his death. The Continual Condition is a collection of never-before-published poems by the inimitable Bukowski—raw, tough, odes to alcohol, women, work, and despair by a rebel author equally adept at poetry and prose. Charles Bukowski lives on in The Continual Condition, a godsend for admirers of his previous collections Slouching Toward Nirvana, The Pleasures of the Damned, and Love is a Dog From Hell, as well as his novels Factotum, Ham on Rye, and Pulp.
Sex, self-disgust, horse racing, literary fame and obscurity, delight in foul language ("dry and ridiculous bungholes"), and fleeting but genuine pleasures (from voyeurism to eating a spider crab): Bukowski's many, many remaining fans will find familiar themes in this 12th set of previously unpublished poems to appear since the Los Angeles writer died in 1994. "The god-damned editors don't know anything," he tells "the lady on the couch," and indeed he insists on the life, the meat, of the poems. Short lines dominate this particular cull of verse, with plenty of quoted conversation mixed in; as with most of his work, misanthropy rules, making the flashes of mercy and of sexual acceptance shine bright indeed: "I was/ sick and I/ turned to look out the/ window/ white yellow grease of/ morning/ burning my/ eyes./ Next to me in bed/ there she was." The poems may repeat themselves, but they stay true to Bukowski. Few people would want to trade places with this poet for whom "pain sits, pain floats, pain/ waits;/ pain is," but plenty will continue to cherish his unpretentious words.