'The Last Night of the Earth Poems' by Charles Bukowski (1992)

The Last Night of the Earth Poems - Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems (New York: Ecco, 2002), 405pp

 

A great collection of Charles Bukowski's poetry containing some of his best-known poems, including 'The Bluebird', 'Dinosauria, We' and 'Nirvana'. The collection has a certain melancholy about it, yet it is a melancholy mixed with hope, in line with the other stuff he wrote in his twilight years. He is at his best when describing the atmosphere and quiet dignity of bars and cafés and other non-descript rooms, in poems such as 'Bonaparte's Retreat', 'Last Seat at the End' and the afore-mentioned 'Nirvana'.

The thing with Bukowski is that he's always been an honest writer, and now when writing in his old age it is quite affecting. He is looking back on his life honestly, assessing his mistakes as well as his successes, and there is a simple dignity in this. This honesty is powerful to behold and quite bittersweet, most notably in 'The Bluebird' and 'Spark'. Bukowski is also a decidedly more likeable and sympathetic person in these later poems than in the novels that made his name. I think you need to delve into both his poetry and his prose to fully appreciate his character, but he allows an unrepentant sentimentality to come through in his poetry that he often suppressed in his somewhat muscular and hard-living prose. In this respect, 'The Bluebird' is the most eloquent and fascinating testament to this conflict within the man. It is rare to find a writer so open, and consequently Bukowski is one to cherish.

Personal favourites include: 'Begging', 'Air and Light and Time and Space', 'Car Wash', 'The Bluebird', 'Confession', 'Spark', 'The Science of Physiognomy', 'We Ain't Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain' (which reminds me of something Nick Cave might write), 'Bonaparte's Retreat', 'Dinosauria, We', 'Last Seat at the End', 'Charles the Lion-Hearted' and 'Nirvana' (which has been covered by Tom Waits).