Charles Bukowski Quotes

Charles Bukowski was a prolific writer, penning six novels, and countless poems, short stories and columns during his life (1920-1994).

Here are some of the best Bukowski Quotes, taken from these works.

Best Charles Bukowski Quotes

“Pain doesn’t make anything, nor does poverty. The artist is there first. What becomes of him depends upon his luck. If his luck is good (worldly-speaking) he becomes a bad artist. If his luck is bad, he becomes a good one.”

~ Charles Bukowski


“It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. 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?”

~ Charles Bukowski, Factotum


“the way to create art is to burn and destroy
ordinary concepts and to substitute them
with new truths that run down from the top of the head”

~ Charles Bukowski


“Sex is interesting but not totally important. I mean, it’s not even as important (physically) as excretion. a man can go 70 years without a piece of ass but he can die in a week without a bowel movement.”

~ Charles Bukowski, Notes of a Dirty Old Man


“Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them.”

~ Charles Bukowski, Pulp


“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. 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.”

~ Charles Bukowski


“don’t feel sorry for me
because I am alone

for even
at the most terrible
is my

~ Charles Bukowski


“On such jobs men become tired. They experience a weariness beyond fatigue. They say mad, brilliant things. Out of my head, I cussed and talked and cracked jokes and sang. Hell boils with laughter.”

~ Charles Bukowski, Factotum


“I would say that Mickey Mouse has a greater influence on the American public than Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, Rabelais, Shostakovitch, Lenin, and/or Van Gogh. Which says ‘What?’ about the American Public. Disneyland remains the central attraction of Southern California, but the graveyard remains our reality.”

~ Charles Bukowski


“’I came with some damn fool,’ she said. ‘Forget him.’

‘If you can, I can,’ I told her.”

~ Charles Bukowski, Post Office


“So, that’s what they wanted: lies. Beautiful lies. That’s what they needed. People were fools. It was going to be easy for me.”

~ Charles Bukowski, Ham On Rye

“‘You know,’ he said, ‘that LSD has put a lot of people in madhouses – brain damage.’
‘Everything puts people in madhouses.'”

~ Charles Bukowski, More Notes of a Dirty Old Man


“there is nothing quite like
the expectancy of a
beginning writer
unless it is the conceit
a successful

~ Charles Bukowski


“death, at last, is a bore – no more than pulling a shade. we do not die all at once, generally, but piece by piece, little by little. the young die hardest and live hardest and understand nothing. but they are the most generous and the truest and better fit to lead than the cautious wise.”

~ Charles Bukowski, Portions From A Wine-Stained Notebook:Uncollected Stories and Essays, 1944-1990


“Drinking is an emotional thing. It joggles you out of the standardism of everyday life, out of everything being the same. It yanks you out of your body and your mind and throws you against the wall. I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you’re allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It’s like killing yourself, and then you’re reborn. I guess I’ve lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now.”

~ Charles Bukowski, An interview with London Magazine, Dec 1974 – Jan 1975


“I have two rules. One is, never trust a man who smokes a pipe. The other is, never trust a man with shiny shoes.”

~ Charles Bukowski, Hollywood


Have a favorite we left off? Let us know in the comments below.



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  1. Bukowski Quotes

    Hey, Tippy, thanks for the comment and thanks for visiting. What’s your favorite Bukowski book?

  2. Enjoyed his books for years. They give a non glossy view of America and society in general. When I first read them when I was younger, it certainly was an alternative view from the portrayal of America in films, tv shows etc. Before the advent of the net the books were hard to get a hold of in the UK. However I did manage. I love his work because it is not pretentious and straight to the point. The turns of phrase are very good too. My favourite is Post Office as it was the first of his books I read. What an introduction to his body of work it was. Great site and keep up the good work.

  3. Bukowski Quotes

    Thanks for the comment, lewisadam, I found it really interesting. Certainly Bukowski was a different voice for both Americans and non-Americans alike. I’m always interested in hearing about how people found Bukowski and what it used to be like trying to get his books back in the day (especially in other parts of the world besides America).

    Also, thanks for the kind words about the site, I appreciate it.

  4. the shortest distance between two points is often unbearable

  5. i just stumbled upon bukowski’s work. i am 32 years old and completely baffled by how long it has taken me to read this great work. i’ve read ‘ham on rye,’ ‘post office,’ ‘more notes from a dirty old man,’ all in about a week. can’t wait to get started on ‘women’ and all the others, esp the poetry. i’m very glad i can follow the bukowski quotes via twitter!

  6. I just discovered this site and I so pleased that there is such a great resource for his fans to celebrate his work and read daily quotes!

    I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager. I lived out in LA where I was able to visit some of his old haunts from time to time, to now living in Paris where I have reread a few of his books in French (I got a crash course in learning French slang and dirty words!)

    I just wanted to drop a note to say hi and thank you for creating this great site!

  7. I have to tell all you friends of.mine that fter reading everything he did it was watching” the bukowski tapes” that really moved me. A rare 2 hour french interview that shows the man behind the words. He is one ofonly a very few humans I admire and love intensly. Try to find it

  8. My cigarette case has a good quote on it:

    Some people never go crazy, what truly horrible lives they must lead. – Charles Bukowski

  9. Love is a dog from hell.

  10. “My ambition is handicapped by my laziness.”

  11. “Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.”
    ― Charles Bukowski

  12. As a poet, as a writer, as a human being, I have to confess that Charles Bukowski has been a BIG influence on me. If he never existed, I’d probably be completely lost (or maybe I’d BE Charles Bukowski, who knows… and who cares) . Some people have Jesus, some people have John Lennon, I have Charles Bukowski.

  13. i had never heard of him i just saw ham on rye in the main aisle at appalachian state but i didnt bother checking the book out. its when i dropped out that i was at the library and i just randomly picked up his book “sifting through the madness for the word the line the way” well i had spent my life feeling exactly like the poems he wrote and i couldnt find anyone to talk to for years who would relate to the degrading jobs, lack of respect and courtesy, the constant emotional squalor of being a fellow human in a cesspool melting pot of humanity or shall i say lack of. well it kept me from blowing my brains out and i ended up reading book after book and still to this day there is noone i relate too just him. The bummer though of wanting to be a writer is that 1 he said it all 2 the way he said it is so great 3 every time you try to write a poem it ends up sounding like him and you look like a hack. so i guess my future is still at the end of a barrel 🙂

    • I felt the same way when I first read him. Given some reflection, I’m certain he would tell you their are plenty of hacks, just not nearly enough hacking. ;-). See what I did there… Hacking away….

  14. what i love about the man is that he just gave up on the bullshit 9-5 instead of wasting his time trying. i spent 12 years and im 30 now, but i spent 12 years busting my ass from crate company peon, lonestar dishwhore, southern states fertilizer bag labeler(haha), arbys sandwich bitch, and last but not least Red lobster salad and tea slave. only to get absolutely nowhere and here he was saying ok fuck it. i’ll be poor but im not gonna be another cog in the machine. im not gonna be your slave. im gonna drink and write about what worthless assholes like you are in the world and what a complete shame it is because life could be really beautiful without you. in my simple estimation society creates charles bukowskis. they make men who have no choice but to give up. its sad but i am glad and i find it ironic that you have all these men in the world who work their way up the ladder and make money and are viewed as such successes and yet you would never even want to have a conversation with a damn one of them because its all fake. but how many people would die to spend 2 hours listening to charles bukowskis simple and yet extremely deep assertions on life and people. the guy is just amazing to me and i am glad he was born. if he wasnt born i would feel like a complete stranger on this earth.

  15. my favorite quote of his is : ” back then i was a young man, waiting to grow old; now im an old man waiting to be born” . fucking awesome 🙂

  16. and the empty bottles like bled corpses
    surrounded me with their uselessness

  17. I found Bukowski in L.A. at a Venice Beach book store. At that point I had written poetry, but hadn’t read any…what I found changed my perspective on writing. Thanks Hank…

  18. “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

  19. “Nothing ever goes as it should, it goes as it must.”

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