95 Charles Bukowski quotes that blew my f*cking mind.

Written by Cole Schafer




 At the core of all good writing (and copywriting) is the sentence.

And, besides Hemingway, I can’t think of a better craftsman of the single sentence than the late indie poet and novelist, Charles Bukowski.

I picked up Bukowski for the very first time this year, beginning with arguably one of his most widely-read works, The Post Office.

(I wrote down my favorite line from it and the other twenty-five books I’ve read so far this year, here).

Two, maybe three pages in, I felt like slapping myself in the face –– I couldn’t fathom how I had spent so much time on this planet having never read him.

While his writing style was less polished than Hemingway’s, it had just as much punch and arguably more tenacity.

For the unfamiliar, reading Charles Bukowski is like going for a ride on a Honey Badger –– nothing is off-limits, nothing is too scary to write about and you never know what the hell he is going to do or say next.

95 Charles Bukowski quotes (make sure your back is to a wall).

I did some digging and in my opinion, here are Bukowski’s hardest-hitting lines. Make sure you’re sitting down. If you begin to feel light-headed, take a breather. You’ll want to brace yourself for this prose.

  1. Great art is horse shit, buy tacos.
  2. An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.
  3. Find what you love and let it kill you.
  4. Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside – remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.
  5. People run from rain but sit in bathtubs full of water.
  6. Nothing is worse than to finish a good shit, then reach over and find the toilet paper container empty. Even the most horrible human being on earth deserves to wipe his ass.
  7. Baby, I said, I'm a genius but nobody knows it but me.
  8. I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them.
  9. The tigers have found me and I do not care.
  10. And yet women –– good women –– frightened me because they eventually wanted your soul, and what was left of mine, I wanted to keep.
  11. Bad taste creates many more millionaires than good taste.
  12. The nine-to-five is one of the greatest atrocities sprung upon mankind. You give your life away to a function that doesn’t interest you.
  13. I wanted the whole world or nothing.
  14. How the hell could a person enjoy being awakened at 6:30AM, by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so.
  15. Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink.
  16. If you get married they think you’re finished and if you are without a woman they think you’re incomplete.
  17. Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.
  18. The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it – basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.
  19. I want so much that is not here and do not know where to go.
  20. My beer drunk soul is sadder than all the dead Christmas trees of the world.
  21. In my work, as a writer, I only photograph, in words, what I see.
  22. If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.
  23. What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.
  24. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us.
  25. Dogs and angels are not very far apart.
  26. Anything is a waste of time unless you are fucking well or creating well or getting well or looming toward a kind of phantom-love-happiness.
  27. Genius might be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way.
  28. People are strange: they are constantly angered by trivial things, but on a major matter like totally wasting their lives, they hardly seem to notice.
  29. You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.
  30. The best often die by their own hand just to get away, and those left behind can never quite understand why anybody would ever want to get away from them.
  31. Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must live.
  32. I don’t like the clean-shaven boy with the necktie and the good job. I like desperate men, men with broken teeth and broken minds and broken ways. They interest me. They are full of surprises and explosions.
  33. Beware of those who seek constant crowds; they are nothing alone.
  34. He asked, What makes a man a writer? Well, I said, it's simple. You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.
  35. In this land some of us fuck more than we die but most of us die better than we fuck.
  36. I loved you like a man loves a woman he never touches, only writes to, keeps little photographs of.
  37. We drink our coffee and pretend not to look at each other.
  38. Still, I kept thinking about Lydia. The good parts of our relationship felt like a rat walking around and gnawing at the inside of my stomach.
  39. The worst thing for a writer is to know another writer, and worse than that, to know a number of other writers. Like flies on the same turd.
  40. Why was it that every time you saw a woman like that you were with another woman?
  41. But your eyes –– they’re beautiful. They’re wild, crazy, like some animal peering out of a forest on fire.
  42. Human relationships were strange. I mean, you were with one person a while, eating and sleeping and living with them, loving them, talking to them, going places together, and then it stopped. Then there was a short period when you weren't with anybody, then another woman arrived, and you ate with her and fucked her, and it all seemed so normal, as if you had been waiting just for her and she had been waiting for you. I never felt right being alone; sometimes it felt good but it never felt right.
  43. I heard a long insane wail like a wolverine shot in the arctic snow and left to bleed and die alone…
  44. The lobster tasted good in my mouth, and I drank him down with fine wine. Good fellow. I always liked you in your pink-red shell, dangerous and slow.
  45. It was best to stay away from other writers and just do your work…
  46. People were usually much better in their letters than in reality. They were much like poets in this way.
  47. There isn’t a better way to drink than at a small table over a white tablecloth with a good-looking woman.
  48. Fiction is an improvement on life.
  49. I’m just an alcoholic who became a writer so that I would be able to stay in bed until noon.
  50. I was sentimental about many things: a woman’s shoes under the bed; one hairpin left behind on the dresser; the way they said, 'I’m going to pee.' hair ribbons; walking down the boulevard with them at 1:30 in the afternoon, just two people walking together; the long nights of drinking and smoking; talking; the arguments; thinking of suicide; eating together and feeling good; the jokes; the laughter out of nowhere; feeling miracles in the air; being in a parked car together; comparing past loves at 3am; being told you snore; hearing her snore; mothers, daughters, sons, cats, dogs; sometimes death and sometimes divorce; but always carrying on, always seeing it through; reading a newspaper alone in a sandwich joint and feeling nausea because she’s now married to a dentist with an I.Q. of 95; racetracks, parks, park picnics; even jails; her dull friends; your dull friends; your drinking, her dancing; your flirting, her flirting; her pills, your fucking on the side and her doing the same; sleeping together.
  51. But then if you lied to a man about his talent just because he was sitting across from you, that was the most unforgivable lie of them all, because that was telling him to go on, to continue which was the worst way for a man without real talent to waste his life, finally. But many people did just that, friends and relatives mostly.
  52. Hello, Death. But I’ve had almost 6 decades. I’ve given you so many clean shots at me what I should have been yours long ago. I want to be buried near the racetrack… where I can hear the stretch run.
  53. Sandra is the slim tall ear-ringed bedroom damsel dressed in a long gown, she’s always high in heels, spirit, pills and booze.
  54. My 6 foot goddess makes me laugh the laughter of the mutilated who still need love.
  55. She was always thinking of sex, she carried it around with her like something in a paper bag.
  56. Your boys can keep your virgins give me hot old women in high heels with asses that forgot to get old.
  57. Your poems about the girls will still be around 50 years from now when the girls are gone, my editor phones me.
  58. She’s from Texas and weighs 103 pounds and stands before the mirror combing oceans of reddish hard which falls all the way down her back to her ass.
  59. When I think of her life and compare it to other lives more dazzling, original and beautiful I realized that she has hurt fewer people than anybody I know (and by hurt I simply mean hurt). She has had some terrible times, times when maybe I should have helped her more for she is the mother of my only child and we were once great lovers, but she has come through, like I said she, has hurt fewer people than anybody I know, and if you look at it like that, well, she has created a better world. She has won. Frances, this poem is for you.
  60. She knew what she wanted and it wasn’t me.
  61. I know this poet: he’s just like the rest of us: he’ll vomit anywhere for money.
  62. That’s what they want: a God damned shows a lit billboard in the middle of hell. That’s what they want, that bunch of dull inarticulate safe, dreary admirers of carnivals.
  63. And if you have the ability to love, love yourself first.
  64. And nobody finds the one but they keep looking crawling in and out of beds.
  65. I could have had her once. I wonder if she thinks I could have saved her?
  66. They disgust me, the way they wait for death with as much passion as a traffic signal.
  67. Watching the bull get the matador, that’s the best.
  68. I saw a beautiful blonde girl embrace a young man there and kiss him with what seemed hunger and I stood and watched until they broke away.
  69. When I think of myself dead, I think of someone making love to you when I’m not around.
  70. And you invented me and I invented you and that’s why we don’t get along.
  71. There is always one woman to save you from another.
  72. We see it too late: after the cock gets swallowed the heart follows
  73. She’s got red hair like lightning from heaven.
  74. I am going to die alone just the way I live.
  75. I was a man who thrived on solitude; without it I was like another man without food or water. Each day without solitude weakened me.
  76. Cheer up. Maybe you’ll be famous after you’re dead.
  77. She must have a suction pump for a pussy.
  78. Look at his hands. He has the most beautiful hands. You can see that he has never worked.
  79. I took the salt and the pepper, seasoned the broth, broke the crackers into it, and spooned it into my illness.
  80. When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat.
  81. I’m a genius but nobody knows it but me.
  82. As usual Carmen was wearing a very tight knitted dress that fit her like a balloon fits the trapped air, maybe tighter.
  83. We really had nothing to do but drink wine and make love.
  84. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, forced-fed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?
  85. She was desperate and she was choosey at the same time and, in a way, beautiful, but she didn’t have quite enough going for her to become what she imagined herself to be.
  86. Some people don’t like anybody who is famous. Some people don’t like anybody who isn’t.
  87. In the sun and in the rain, in the day and in the night, pain is a flower, pain is flowers, blooming all the time.
  88. All people start to come apart finally and there it is: just empty ashtrays in a room or wisps of hair on a comb in the dissolving moonlight.
  89. When things get bad enough, the kitten will kill the lion.
  90. Death comes slowly like ants to a fallen fig.
  91. My typewriter at this hour would scream like a raped bear.
  92. It is hard to find a man whose poems don’t finally disappoint you.
  93. She’s more dangerous than all the armies of all time.
  94. Forget my brother, I am my own keeper.
  95. There is loneliness in this world so great that you can see it in the slow movement of a clock’s hand.

By Cole Schafer (everything except the 95 lines you just read).