The Laughing Heart Summary by Charles Bukowski

The Laughing Heart was published in 1996 by Black Sparrow Press. It was written by the poet, Charles Bukowski in Circa.1993.

Henry Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) was a German –born American author and poet. He is renowned for his literature on themes of alcoholism, problems of urbanity, and frivolous relationships with women. ‘The Laughing Heart’ is a departure from Bukowski’s usual affinity towards the American-lowlife. In this poem, Bukowski focuses on a universal topic that affects all of living beings in an essential way: Life and Death.

Summary of The Laughing Heart Summary by Charles Bukowski

The poem of 20 lines is integrated into one long stanza. It begins with a firm and assertive statement, ‘your life is your life’. The first line carries a strong rebellious sentiment; however, the next line explains the context in which the first line is spoken. It’s a poem with a positive outlook towards life. The poet asks us, human beings, to live life in its extremity, to overcome passivity. He uses the word ‘clubbed’ in juxtaposition with ‘dank’ to express the variables regarding a life lived in darkness, in cowardice. ‘Clubbed’ suggests a violence, which indicates that Bukowski considered being forced to live submissively a violent act towards life itself. And a life lived in submission to fear of death and darkness is ultimately ‘dank’- cold.

Lines 3 and 8 are the same- ‘be on the watch’. The message lying between the two lines is motivational. And this is the first time the themes of darkness and light come into play. The message is motivational. Bukowski sys that no matter what the problem, no matter how dark the present, one can find a spark of light if one is attentive enough. Lines 9-11 talk about how one must seize every opportunity one gets in life, to be a better person, to lead a better life. Lines 12-15 discuss the theme of life and death. Death is presented for the first time in line 12. Bukowski deals with a very potent philosophy here. He says that one cannot beat death, but one can beat death in life, that is, one can live life to the fullest. Although there is no respite from death, there is however, the satisfaction of knowing one has lived life completely before it’s gone forever. And the more one realizes this truth, the easier it is for him/her to step out of the darkness into the light. Line 16 reiterates the first line. This time, the line seems like a reminder and an affirmation that the only person who has any semblance of authority over one’s life is he/she, himself/herself. He requests us to recognize that the life we lead is ours and that we need to recognize it to fully realize its potential. He ends the poem with a single, powerful thought. Although the ending encompasses three lines, they represent a unified motif: you, meaning us, all human beings, are marvelous, and the gods are waiting to revel in us, come alive in us, if only we give ourselves the chance.