Poems and Insults

Charles Bukowski

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Poems and Insults Review

by Lindsay Planer

After several decades out of print -- during which time copies traded hands amongst enthusiasts on the bootleg market -- author Charles Bukowski's infamous Poems and Insults (1975) has been issued on the Grey Matter label. In addition to being a particularly inspired [read: loose] reading, this set from the City Lights in San Francisco in September of 1973 is all the more consequential. Although his stark uncensored text and deadpan inebriated manner are certainly not for everyone, inclined parties will find few documents that so capture his self-deprecating wit, uninhibited narrative observations and unconventional aliterary delivery. Bukowski's unabashed aversion to general decorum or social ability stemmed from his poverty-stricken and abuse-filled childhood and adolescence. Worse still, he was plagued with a severe case of acne that further isolated him from his peers and family. His therapy came in the form of fusing the abnormality into his craft and in this way, Bukowski was able to transmute his pain into a highly original form of communication that was either despised or revered, but rarely ignored. His base morality suggests a perspective epitomizing the crass and decadent nature of modern Western civilization. His ability to connect with an audience is evident throughout this lo-fidelity recording, which seethes an appropriate level of discomfort, yielding an unsettling feeling of maculation. The subject matter deals in deviants of all stripes, including but certainly not limited to bodily functions ("Piss and Shit") to maladies ranging from the irony of sexually psychotic behavior ("Sex Fiends") to oral sodomy ("The Best Love Poem I Can Write at the Moment") and hitting on practically all derivations. His recitations, which are more akin to vignettes than standard poetry, also deal with omniscient themes such as "Death," "Love" and "Law," yet at the center are the series of core Freudian thoughts and revelations -- punctuated by Bukowski's belches and methodical delivery. Supplementing the track list are "A Report Upon the Consumption of Myself" and "Something for the Touts, The Nuns, The Grocery Clerks and You," both contributions from the hard-to-find Cold Turkey Press Special (1972) various-artists platter. While there should be fair warning to the easily offended, those who can stomach, if not enjoy Bukowski's irreverently honest attitudes, opinions and expressions are encouraged to indulge themselves on Poems and Insults (1975), as it remains a conscious-opening experience. Potential consumers should note that a considerably truncated edition surfaced as Reads His Poetry (2004) with less than half the contents.

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