It has become a yearly autumn ritual, as the leaves turn here in the Northeast, Black Sparrow Press releases another posthumous collection of Charles Bukowski’s poetry. Having always respected Bukowski’s unique brand of scabrous realism, I have always looked forward to these new collections to ruminate over while drinking beer on a Sunday morning while other people attended church. I have already been told that there is a seat in Hell already embossed with my ass print, so why not live it up a bit?
The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps is the latest of Bukowski’s dead autumn leaves to fall from the Black Sparrow tree. Please forgive me if I toss it into the head high leaf pile that sits out front of my neighbor’s house (like I would bother raking leaves) that awaits the Highway Department’s orange leaf sucking elephant on wheels.
I tried to like it. I tried to find the handful of either good or great poems that justified the existence of the other collections published since Bukowski’s death in 1994. I just could not manage it.
My biggest gripe is that, there are several poems included in The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps that have appeared almost verbatim in other previously published collections. Consequently, Bukowski comes off not as a bitter sharp-tongued iconoclast, but rather more like someone’s poor elderly uncle that cannot remember that he has already told a story seven times since breakfast.
Clearly, the archive well that Bukowski left is running dry. I cannot say I would recommend The Night Torn Mad with Footsteps nor would I conclude that this offering will be left standing in 15 or 20 years, but, as always, have a look for yourself and decide.