Bukowski Quotes, Ranked


Bukowski Quotes, Ranked

American poet/writer/cynic Charles Bukowski (b. 1920 d. 1994) is eminently quotable, and his efficient, uninflected prose and poetry make for excellent slogans. Although most of his most famous phrases are longer than what you could get on a T-Shirt, they fit well within what you can use for a status update, cover photo, or tweet. As with all great writers, the bad get lumped in with the good as if all were of equal value, when in fact some of his bon mots are … less wise than others. So here, in order from the terrible through to the transcendent (think of it as ‘worst to first” for those of you who are going to have to google ‘transcendent’) , I’m going to present and discuss six of the most common Bukowski quotes


“She is mad but she is magic, there is no lie in her fire”.

Ah, the rallying cry for bat-shit insane women everywhere, women who are in fact, only ever mad, and will, in due course, start fires. But there is no magic, there never was, and there never will be.

Pro-tip: If you ever see a woman quote this or use it as a Facebook status/cover photo run, don’t walk, as far away from her as fast as you can.

Bukowski was considered a bit of a misogynist by many. I don’t know if this is true but this phrase is his gift to misandry.

Not that good:

“Find what you love and let it kill you.”

He may have intended this as a paean to masochism, a sop thrown to the crowd that believes that there is some sort of nobility in suffering, especially of the kind self-inflicted through vice. Hey may even have believed it. In this case its worth noting that Hank loved booze, cigarettes, (younger) red-heads, and playing the ponies … and died of leukemia. I doubt he loved leukemia.  It killed him anyway.


“We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”

I do not think of Bukowski as a motivational speaker but there it is.

You know, if this gets you up off of the floor than who am I to criticize? Unlike the previous two quotes I can’t see this one actually hurting anyone. Believe it or not self-proclaimed misanthrope Bukowski had a few quotes in this same pop-psych power-of-positive-thinking vein and for me it was a toss-up between this one or “You are marvelous, the Gods wait to delight in you”. Same thing really, and note how I just sneaked in an additional quote there. In regards to “Death” or “The Gods” Bukowski, if not an actual member of any known Atheist organization, was at the very least a non-theist but like all non-theists he probably had a lapse or two.

I do wonder if he wrote the more positive phrases he’s associated with while pleasantly buzzed and some of his darker stuff while sober, cold, and very, very alone.

Now you are talking:

“You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.”

Check any back-and-forth on any election thread on any form of social media and you’ll see a lot of grandiose romanticism, and a whole lotta politics. It’s all just talk.

I had a girlfriend once, certifiably insane, who would give every single homeless person she saw some money. “That pee-stained skeevy bastard needs a bath and someone to make sure he takes his meds” I’d tell her, “And not money. He’ll just use it to huff glue.”

“A dollar helps him right here, right now” she’d say.

She lived the rest of her life by the “She’s mad …” quote and might have been the worst person I have ever known (1) – save in regards to the homeless, where I think she saved one person at a time for as long as a dollar or five would save them.


“It’s the order of things: Each one gets a taste of honey, then the knife”

This one is from the poem “The Proud Thin Dying” and should be quoted more often – it is light and darkness and everything all in one quote. I have to believe that when most people read this they believe themselves to be getting the knife when in fact they taste the honey. That’s what I like so much about it. It satisfies something deep within me.


The Problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

And so it has ever been.

Remember, if you have ever posted publicly on any matter pertaining to a US presidential election or party nomination for president – you are not one of the smart ones.


Believe it or not the hardest part of this list was keeping at five-ish quotes. Bukowski wrote over a thousand poems, a hundred short stories, six novels, and seemed not to shy away from interviews. Hell, his phone number was listed in the public phone directory for years. Everyone has a Bukowski quote/story.

At any rate, you can quote (and post those quotes) from Bukowski until the cows come home. Just don’t do it too much or you’ll find yourself in just a t-shirt and underwear skyping with some fatty from Cleveland at 2 in the morning.

Over and out amigos, amigas. I post in flurries, God only knows when I’ll be back.


(1) A reader reached out to remind me that the noted is not technically the worst person I have ever known and quite possibly not even in the top ten. I admit, I write these things with more than a little hyperbole so I have added this disclaimer/footnote.

As an aside, if it bothers you, quit coming back and reading it.


One thought on “Bukowski Quotes, Ranked

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s