You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense by Charles Bukowski

Summary from Goodreads:

Charles Bukowski examines cats and his childhood in You Get So Alone at Times, a book of poetry that reveals his tender side. He delves into his youth to analyze its repercussions.

You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense roughly contains 138 poems, in free verse. The topics are an assortment of various things, but largely autobiographical. Charles Bukowski  mapped out his life in this collection, it contains his childhood including a tenuous relationship with his father, his ten year hiatus from writing (to which he refers to as the ten-year-drunk), his rise to fame as a writer and his winding down from his old degenerate life to a much mellowed state. Then there are pieces that talk about mundane things such as cats, classical music, driving, horse racing, booze, whores.  Then there are those that speak of death, poverty, life, writing, isolation. It's basically a mishmash of actual events and Bukowski's opinions on ideas and things. 

Bukowski writes all these with a gruff quality to them. He has a cynical and scornful view of the world and he is able to translate them in his poems effectively and beautifully. While, he does sound bleak for the most part, there snatches of light. There are a couple of poems that talk about facing life's hardships. It doesn't matter whether you are in the absolute worst possible condition, what matters is how your face them, head on with all the bravery you can muster.

Now I thought greatly about the title, which is actually taken from one of the poems. And I realized that Bukowski is not talking about loneliness. Alone is not loneliness. For Bukowski, it's a sense of detachment. Detachment from people and all the other things people are concerned with. He seems to not be in sync with humans and this makes coexistence difficult for him. And this way of thinking, I realized has given Bukowski some bad rap and has been equated with arrogance. But I kind of like his writing. I think it's honest and distressing and funny and badass. On the downside though, the collection felt a bit repetitive as it was winding down.

Here is one poem from among my favorites:

“Beasts bounding through time" 

Van Gogh writing his brother for paints

Hemingway testing his shotgun

Celine going broke as a doctor of medicine

the impossibility of being human

Villon expelled from Paris for being a thief

Faulkner drunk in the gutters of his town

the impossibility of being human

Burroughs killing his wife with a gun

Mailer stabbing his

the impossibility of being human

Maupassant going mad in a rowboat

Dostoevsky lined up against a wall to be shot

Crane off the back of a boat into the propeller

the impossibility

Sylvia with her head in the oven like a baked potato

Harry Crosby leaping into that Black Sun

Lorca murdered in the road by the Spanish troops

the impossibility

Artaud sitting on a madhouse bench

Chatterton drinking rat poison

Shakespeare a plagiarist

Beethoven with a horn stuck into his head against deafness

the impossibility the impossibility

Nietzsche gone totally mad

the impossibility of being human

all too human

this breathing

in and out

out and in

these punks

these cowards

these champions

these mad dogs of glory

moving this little bit of light toward




  1. I remember when you had me read this particular poem, then our conversation lingered over Shakespeare. Hehe!

    1. Oh, right! I remember! And I am glad to have picked Bukowski for my first poetry collection. I am not sure how I'd with with other types of poetry. Say a sonnet, or a haiku, or something. For now, free verse is more my speed. :)

  2. I had an opportunity to be in discussion with one poet who adored Bukowski. His writing too had the safe gruff, but I also feel, Bukowski, saw things as they are. This poem, it sounded morbid and whatnot, but its actually very beautiful in his reflection of what we thought as impossible in humans.

    I have never read a whole collection of Bukowski's poetry, but I like your mention about being alone. Some people just prefer the absence of people in their every day. There is comfort in being alone.

    1. Yeah, and he's unapologetic about telling people how he sees things. And right, I like how he feels comfortable with being alone, with isolation and space and solitude. And in being alone, he seems to have developed a acute sense of awareness about the surroundings and people and himself. And they all come off beautifully in his poems.

      And "Beasts bounding through time" really struck me. The bestiality of humanity or humanity's bestiality. And you know living seems like it's so easy, instinctive even. But not really. :)


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