there is enough treachery, hatred violence absurdity in the average
human being to supply any given army on any given day

and the best at murder are those who preach against it
and the best at hate are those who preach love
and the best at war finally are those who preach peace

those who preach god, need god
those who preach peace do not have peace
those who preach peace do not have love

beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone
beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody
not wanting solitude
not understanding solitude
they will attempt to destroy anything
that differs from their own
not being able to create art
they will not understand art
they will consider their failure as creators
only as a failure of the world
not being able to love fully
they will believe your love incomplete
and then they will hate you
and their hatred will be perfect

like a shining diamond
like a knife
like a mountain
like a tiger
like hemlock

their finest art

Analysis, meaning and summary of Charles Bukowski's poem The Genius Of The Crowd


  1. Ez says:

    This is a phenomenal poem, I really resonated with the message of anti-radicalization and anti-“well we’re the good guys here because we’re fighting the bad guys/things”. One thing I just found kind of funny though is that Bukowski is kinda hypocritical. He is preaching to beware of the preachers… Thats boarderline a paradox analogous to reading “don’t believe what you read” or “this statement is a lie” lol. If we shouldn’t follow preachers just because they put up this world peace facade, how, then, should we feel about following a preacher just because they seem educated and poetic on the surface?

  2. Heather says:

    I believe this poem echoes Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said something along the lines of “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” In other words, you can preach peace & Love, but if you do not demonstrate those virtues, your words are BS. Like the people who gang up to attack & humiliate people while preaching they “deserve” it for some perceived moral lapse, etc. I believe Bukowski would be revolted by the dogmatism of many on both sides of today’s political spectrum but perhaps most disgusted by those who call themselves “against hate” while spending their lives hating.

  3. carol says:

    I absolutely love this poem. I have never read anything more real in my life.

  4. Alison says:

    This is not a message of love, as some have interpreted, but one of disgust. He’s talking about the horror of mob metality and warning us against it. Those who preach peae and love yet have none of it themselves are those who protest something and hypcritically support it simultaneously. An example would be ‘peace protesters’ using violent means to make an example. They are so angry at what they stand for,they gather in crowds and together their hate disturbs them and makes them best at war. The line about bewaring those who read books and detest/are proud of poverty means that the narrow-minded mass of semi-educated people merely demonstrate their lack of involvement with the real world- the tough, no-nonsense world of Bukowski. The goes on to condemn that middle class crowd of the average and describes the tyranny of the masses, the hatred of those who group together “not wanting solitutde not understanding solitude” and blaming the world for their failures when truly, they are the incomplete ones. The majority is tempting like a shining diamond, and large as a mountain, and as dangerous as the knife, tiger, and hemlock he concludes the poem with. It is their hatred that is their “finest art”.

  5. mari says:

    those who detest poverty will never do anything to fix the problem and those proud of it are just, well, twisted.

    bukowski is poetry. the best kind of poetry.

  6. brittany McKallagat says:

    bukowksi is not condemning people in this poem, he is telling people to beware, or question their surroundings. by saying beware of people who detest poverty he is saying question them– why do they detest poverty? i think bukowski is saying that we must QUESTION things, not take them for their surface value. most people are filled with hate because they don’t understand other people or where they are coming from. this is why we must beware of others so we don’t end up surrounded by a bunch of average people who hate their lives doing a bunch of average things.

  7. eloise says:

    I adore this poem.
    I think that this poem speaks of the lack of control we have as people of our emotions and therefore actions. we can be extremely unpredictable.
    the preacher of peace is the best at war because he knows how damaging it is. The preacher of love is so good at hate because he understands how important love is to survive.
    average hate is stronger than the average love because for most people its so much easier to hate.
    People who detest poverty understand how such little money can be so useful to people, and can therfore take it away. The people who are always reading books are probably those who want to learn more. and with knowledge comes more power.
    beware the knowers.

  8. Laura says:

    To be fair, there are things I like about this poem. Though it isn’t always the case, there are indeed many hypocrites who don’t practice what they preach; and I thought the next-to-last stanza (starts with “like”) was beautifully worded. However, I just don’t like this poem. “Beware those who are always reading books?” That makes no sense to me. Neither does bewaring “those who detest poverty;” is poverty a good thing now? Perhaps I’m missing something, and all the poetry experts reading this will laugh at me, but this poem seems as hateful and vitriolic as those it condemns.

    • nora says:

      100& AGREE

    • L. says:

      I’ve always taken the line “Beware those who are always reading books” to mean be wary of people who lack experience and are simply “book smart” rather than “street smart”. As for “those who detest poverty;” I think he means those in high places who disregard the needy or look down upon the poor.

  9. Jane says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you, Jim. I’ve loved this poem and the genius who wrote the poem since I was first introduced. I would definitely shout it from rooftops to remind the people of ourselves.

  10. jim says:

    watched a documentary on B. last night. heard part of this poem read during it. i had never heard or read anything by him before although i was familiar with his name. it blew me away, truth wielded like a razor in the hand of a madman. then i heard Bluebird. i plan to read everything i can find by him. i want to shout the genius of the crowd from the rooftops because it describes the world we live in. the posts here that discredit the man and his art are committing “their finest art” for all of us to see how right B. was.

  11. Mike says:

    I saw a Bukowski novel in a bookstore 20 years ago and did not buy it because it looked mindlessly vulgar and negative. Finally, after really looking at his work now it looks completely honest and unpretentious. Almost coolly objective about a guy who refused to conform….

  12. Nicole says:

    His crudity and shame and disgusting attitudes, all the cranky stuff that he has done in his life, and all the filth that he would have done if he were still alive is not enough to hide neither His genious nor his romance

  13. Adam Gauthier says:

    simly put, there is an ammount of truth inside the poem ‘The Genius of the Crowd’ that Bukowski had realized and figured out. This is not some drunken poem or a Laytonesque prophecy.

    The words of this poem speak a truth that has needed to be said for a long time. (ie: those who preech god, need god) that statement alone isn’t saying anything negative or ‘anti’ anyone, he is merely pointing out a fact, ergo, The Genius of Bukwoski for doing so in this talented way.

  14. sokratis says:

    ..and your are not poetry either,arent you..

  15. E says:

    Bukowski isn’t poetry.

  16. Jo says:

    This man got it all right. Cheers, Buk!

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