Which do you prefer: Bukowski poems, short stories, or novels

Gerard K H Love

Appreciate your friends
His novels-like most writers- are a series of interconnected short stories. I like the short stories. But it really doesn't matter because his poems are often like little stories but with fewer words. Which do you like or are you just messing with us?
I've always enjoyed the poetry more. I have a horrible attention span, so being able to sit down and read a book is very time consuming for me. With a poetry book, I can sit and read 10 pages or so in a night, then pick it up again whenever, and not really be lost.
I prefer his short stories. I enjoy the completely bizarre topics of his short stories. Some of my favorites that come to mind are: maja thurup, love for $17.50, and the jockey. There is one excellent short story that I am forgetting the name of where the character wakes to find gold spots covering his body and is quite disturbed by this. He goes on a killing spree in the end only to realize that his spots have vanished.


more crickets than friends
they are all equally great to me. I have never been able to say I like one over the other. love them all. first book I read of his was a book of poetry, then short stories, so I guess you could say I read the novels last, but still, all the same to me...phenomenal, each and every type!


"The law is wrong; I am right"
There is one excellent short story that I am forgetting the name of where the character wakes to find gold spots covering his body and is quite disturbed by this. He goes on a killing spree in the end only to realize that his spots have vanished.
That's from the book, Notes Of A Dirty Old Man, I believe.

I like it all, novels, short stories and poems. Many of the poems are stories in themselves. That's why they're often referred to as story-poems. They don't differ that much from the short stories, I think.
Last edited by a moderator:
If I had to choose one Bukowski book I would choose one of his poetry collections. He got me into poetry, and I still haven't found anyone who quite matches up to Buk. Plus poems are so short and quick to digest. It's like a little life manual, his books...if I feel a bit shitty and locked up in my own thoughts, I often pick up one of his poety books, and usually snap out of it.
For me, it would definately be his poetry. It's what he loved most and consequently, I think it's where his genius really shines through. The massive insight that he shares in some of his short poems is really quite extraordinary.


"So fuck Doubleday Doran"
Buk's novel Women influenced me the most, (I read the book about 26 years ago.)
But- his poetry means more to me than his short stories and novels.
Again a but, I do love all his novels and short stories collections.

I't has been mentioned before that one of the later postumous poetry books
The People Look Like Flowers At Last is kinda underrated me thinks.
I forgot how the book scored in the buknet poll...

Wasn't it Buk himself who said "mainly I'm a poet".
I'm not sure though...


Sad Flower in the Sand
Poetry, definitely. I find that his poetry over belies a lot of emotions that his novels and short stories often touch only on the surface. Not to mention that it was humorous, more humorous than the semi-biographical details of Ham on Rye would have me believe.

And I agree with Ponder. The People Look Like Flowers At Last is a strong collection for me. It was also one of the first full books I've read, but... I'm not going to say that couldn't color my opinion, but I still enjoy it to this day.


If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
For me its his poetry.
I don't read many novels anymore.
Don't know why.
There seems to be so much filler inbetween the high points.
There's no room for filler poetry...
[...] Wasn't it Buk himself who said "mainly I'm a poet". I'm not sure though...
You're right!
I don't recall that very line, but I do recall, that he usually referred to himself as a poet. (or a writer of course, but never as a novelist or such a thing.)

I'm not checking now, but in 'Birth Life and Death of an underground newspaper' he first refuses to write 'Notes', because he considers himself a poet. I also think, in 'This is what killed Dylan Thomas' he is asked in an airport bar, who he is and he says, he's a poet. In the Hackford-documentary he's standing in a store saying to a lady-customer, standing in the row before him, something like "I am the poet".

So, as I see it, he always considered himself a POET.
(sure: "always" is an incorrect term, since we all know, there were (early) times, when he produced (nearly) only prose.)

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
you read the novels, they make you laugh, the shorts stories enhance the pleasure, the poetry makes it last.

I think I get the most enjoyment out of his letters, then poems. The short stories are fun, followed by the novels... but his letters have the most punch for me.
Work it out Black Swan, that was eloquent! As it stands now, I've only read Women. I first fell in love with the short stories and mainly read those exclusively all the while trying to read the poetry. The poetry was like my first listening of Jimi Hendrix, abrasive. But man i tell ya, keeping at it and finding some real gems in the poetry is what really made it last for me...

I love it all, but the poetry strikes a chord in me the novels and short stories don't. Whenever I read it, I feel...I can't even think of the word. "Powerful" is the first word that comes to mind, but that's not quite right.
I would have to go with the poems.

I love the novels and shorts, but the poems boil it all down for me.
It's funny in that some of my favorite moments are in the short story (All the Assholes... is my favoite of all, along with Life and Death in the Charity Ward) and those parts in Women where he types out headlines just make me laugh 'til my bladder fails, and that bit in Ham on Rye where he's swimming and ends up in that women's snatch, and it's not a snatch so much as a jungle and the guys says "Come on lady, the kid probably thought it was the grate over the drain" is one of the funniest things I've ever read or heard, because the context is so well constructed, but yeah,

it's the poems.
The novels and the short stories . Ham on Rye and Notes of a dirty old man are my favorite books ." Notes" was the first book I read and it still be my number one.

Lolita Twist

Like Dennis said up top, I have a horrible attention span. (It wasn't always like that :(). That's lead me to really love and appreciate his short stories, even over the poems (because my mind tortures me and tries to dissect hidden meaning in the poems), which are mostly very straight and to the point, blatantly honest. Always enjoy a short story by Bukowski. But I do love his poems, and his novels, which make me laugh out loud in a silent room.
It's a toss up. I have read the novels a few times so at this point it's like the poetry. I can read a chapter and know what follows. The poetry is always just enough, I can just pick one randomly and that may just set the tone for the day. But I must say I totally agree with Black Swan.
My fascination with Bukowski started with the book Post Office and Factotum and as the years go by I am getting to enjoy the poems. The fact that he started being published late in his life adds to the mystery and believability of his work. I like all facets of the body of his work.
The short stories. Not an easy call for me because some of the poems kick my butt, however, I have to say stories.

There was one piece that opened with the character about to jump from a bridge but he changed his mind. He got a went to a diner, foiled a robbery, and went home with an unattractive and lonely waitress.

Not going to spoil it, but the last scene where he is going to leave, and the reaction from the waitress showed such visceral humanity. I cried.