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on February 6, 2009
With "2666," Roberto Bolano is now a sensation in the United States. "2666" is a remarkable book, full of engrossing narratives; however, I find "The Romantic Dogs" in some respects more satisfying.

It is common knowledge that Bolano considered himself first and foremost a poet and I believe he is right, although his fame here in America will derive from his fiction.

Many reviewers have spent all their time talking about Bolano and Chile, as if "The Romantic Dogs" is only a political book. However, I wonder if the reviewers made it past the first poem. Yes, there are poems that make reference to political events but how can a Latin American not be political. However, politics are only a part of the soup of existence. Bolano writes about being in the sense that a philosopher writes about being.

"The Romantic Dogs" is an amazingly cohesive work. This is not a collection of poems written as one-offs. Instead, the poems hold together through various rhetorical devices: repetition of images, symbols, and themes.

The overall theme of the work is the shortness of life, the cruelty of illness, the fragility of existence, and the the beauty of poetry.

Unifying images are dreams, blackness, white worms, snow, cars, motorcycles, burros, films, detectives.

Bolano announces in the first poem of the collection that the dream of poetry opened up the void of his spirit and accompanied him through his life.

The first poem of the collection, "The Romantic Dogs," announces this theme. "I'd lost a country/but won a dream." He adumbrates the importance of poetry in the penultimate poem of the collection "Muse:" "she's the guardian angel/ of our prayers./ She's the dream that recurs."

"The Romantic Dogs" presents a brave story--because ultimately Bolano is a dramatic poet--of a dying poet fighting to remain here in being "with the romantic dogs."
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on June 7, 2009
While I disagree with Bolano about him being a better poet than a novelist, I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. I didn't read this because I like poetry, I read it because I like Bolano.
If you're like me, where you're not a huge reader of poetry but a huge fan of Bolano nonetheless, you should definitely pick it up. Most of these poems are excellent, and even the not-so-great ones are still worth reading. Here is one of my favorite poems from the collection:

I dreamt of frozen detectives, Latin American Detectives
who were trying to keep their eyes open
in the middle of the dream.
I dreamt of hideous crimes
and of careful guys
who were wary not to step in pools of blood
while taking in the crime scene
with a single sweeping glance.
I dreamt of lost detectives
in the convex mirror of the Arnolfinis:
our generation, our perspectives,
our models of fear.

These poems show an emotional level you generally don't encounter in his fiction, from creepy paranoia to stripped down poems of love and thankfulness. This deserves to be checked out by fans of Bolano and poetry in general.
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on June 13, 2010
God this book is heavy. We are talking 30 years of poetry from a man who has often been called the most important voice in Latin American literature. This book is like great sex on a humid night in Chile. The poems take you deep into the longings, painful memories, joyous highs and becomings of a young poet who uses language to do holy miracles.

Roberto Bolano's Romantic Dogs is intoxicating throughout and resists the despair that plagues most poets of his generation. Indeed Bolano never loses his sense of humor or zeal for life. His love for the world's vagabonds parallels works by North American poets Saul Williams, Said the Shotgun to the Head, and Eric Wilkinson, Black Through A Distortion Pedal. I see these three poets as a holy trinity of sorts. Each poet is situated within the historical context and culture of his own artistry but the common thread in all three is the enduring ability to believe in and love humanity in all its incarnations.

I often find the cliche that "good poetry is timeless" to be absurd but Bolano actually tempts me to make such a claim. His poems illuminate the wonderful dignity of people and the artist's eternal push to redeem our majesty.
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on January 26, 2009
Roberto Bolano the novelist/fiction writer is often wordy, ambiguous, lengthy (in the cases of The Savage Detetives and 2666), obscene, and utterly lacking resolution. He also wrote some of the best fiction of the past twenty years and is fantastic in his portrayal of the human condition.

Bolano took to writing to writing fiction as a means to support his family, but his greatest love was always poetry. He died considering himself a poet. In one interview he said, "I blush less when I reread my poetry."

After reading this collection, I understand why he always preferred poetry as an art form. Bolano as novelist is good, but Bolano as poet is everything good about his fiction plus his raw, emotive poet voice.

In short, this is some of the best poetry I've ever read. Get this. Although short, only 77+ pages (the side of the page is in Spanish, for the bilingual people), each poem in this volume stands up to repeated readings.

Highly recommended.
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on July 6, 2010
In fact, I regard several of Roberto Bolaño's highly original prose works as major masterpieces of our times. There are passages in "Distant Star" and "By Night in Chile" that could be clipped and recast as 'found poems', and that would resonate more poetically than any of the pieces in this collection. Bolaño's prose, I have to say, is more musical than his poetry, and a lot more "thought-provoking," yet Bolaño himself is supposed to have declared more satisfaction with his poems than with his novels. Of course, writers aren't always the best judges of their own works.

This is a bi-lingual edition, by the way. If you are able to read Spanish, you'll find that "much is lost" in the translations of his complex prose to English. Hardly anything is lost in the translation of these poems. For sure, there are lines that sound better in Spanish, but curiously there are also lines that sound better in English. Bolaño eschews any and all forms of beautification of language in his verse. His style is remarkably close to that of the Beat poets of the American '50s, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, Peter Orlovsky, and others, though Bolaño is even grimmer and deliberately coarser and never approaches the 'fireworks' of language that Allen Ginsburg achieved in 'Howl' and other poems. I'd say he's a second-tier Beat poet at best. Of course he had "other fish to fry" and other traditions to defy. Whereas Kerouac as a poet had Robert Lowell to try to dethrone, Bolaño had Pablo Neruda as his poetic antithesis, and it's clear that a love/hate obsession drove Bolaño to attempt above all to besmirch and scarify the Apollonian beauty of Neruda's lyricism.

Obviously I don't much favor Bolaño's poetic intentions, but I could overcome that prejudice and admire his craft, as I admire the craft of Cavafy, for instance, without much enjoying the poems, but for one large problem: I don't find much craft in these 'canine' yelps. Bolaño's defiantly 'rough' poetry seems pathetically juvenile and petty to me.
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on January 8, 2016
Bolaño is in his true form in this book of poems. The Chilean poet turned fiction writer crafts each poem with surprise, humour, desire and a sense of dislocation only achievable by his masterly touch. If you are not familiar with his writing, then this is a good place to start and become acquainted with his world and his unique 'voice'.
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on March 7, 2014
It is in the exact condition it was described to be in, it is easy to read, yet still is educational on an adult level.
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on November 20, 2012
The coolest part to me about Bolano's poetry, imagery aside, is how characters and ideas and themes that spill from one poem into the next. You can see how he was already creating narratives. This serves as a stepping stone to "Antwerp" which is the beginning of Bolano's fiction-verse.

I don't know how much I like this translation, though. One, I'm a poet. Two, I've studied Spanish. I'm no expert, but I know the basic grammar rules. I just don't agree with a lot of the translator's line breaks. And I think some of the words are too...on the nose? But you get the essence of Bolano, which is enough. This makes me want to study Spanish more and release my own translation.
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on February 14, 2010
He was a great writer. I wonder how long would it take him to get the Nobel.I prefer him as a novelist, but there are some poems I read aloud, several times, just for my pleasure. Worthwhile, indeed, but, not for everyone...
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on September 16, 2014
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