A.D. Winans on Bukowski (1 Viewer)


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Hey guys, I thought I should post this here. AD posted this as a bulliten on his myspace. I'm gonna pick up a copy of the holy grail but until then, this will keep me company. Enjoy!

p.s. I have to post it in halves because it's too long.

The below prose is from my book: The Holy Grail: Charles Bukowski And The Second Coming Revolution (Dustbooks). Hardback copies can still be ordered from the publisher for just $l5, which includes a center photo section with photos of Bukowski and other small press literary figures. As usual, with cut and paste, threre may be glitches in the sections that were copied. I tried to clean them up, but am not sure what will happen once I save them here at myspace. I gave up trying to correct the line breaks, where a new paragraph might appear when it should in fact not be a new paragraph. Myspace has a mind all its own.

Charles Bukowski (known to his friends as Hank) and I were friends for over seventeen years. We became friends in 1973 when I was editing and publishing Second Coming Magazine/Press, and continued our friendship over the long years. In 1974 we became closer friends after I published a Special Second Coming Bukowski issue. In letters, in telephone conversations, and in personal meetings, Hank and I discussed the small press world, and the role the poet has played in its development and history. Hank spent decades writing for the "small" magazines before he became an established literary and financial success. It has been more than a decade since his death, and his books continue to sell throughout the world.

There are people who believe you have to break bread or drink with a person on an on-going basis before you can call that person a friend. I don't subscribe to this point of view. I never met the late William Wantling, arguably one of the best poets to graduate from the U.S. penal system, but we corresponded regularly until his death in 1974, and I considered him a close friend

. I met Hank less than a handful of times, but he too was a friend of mine. Friends are there when you need them; at a low point in my life, when friends are never more important, Hank wrote me and said: "I know you are down and out, low on coin, spiritually molested like the rest of us; little chance but to hang on by the fingernails, work a line or two down on paper, and walk down the street and breathe the air of this shit life they've put upon us and that we've put upon ourselves."

This statement says a lot about who Hank was. He was a man who shot straight from the hip, the same way I have tried to do my entire life. I believe this is what helped make the two of us form a bond. There weren't any game between us. No need to wear masks.

He wasn't the personification of Jesus, nor was he the reincarnation of Satan. He was to put it simply, a damn fine poet and writer, but there is more to life than writing about whores, pimps, drunks and Sunday morning hangovers. Hank was a man of many virtues and admirable qualities, but to see him (as many do) as the Robin Hood of literature, a man whose motives and actions are in the best interest of the down and out, simply ignores the fact that he also betrayed and tore apart many former friends, both in short stories and in vindictive poems, frequently breaking off friendships whenever someone got to close to him, and often on brutal terms. As the late Marvin Malone and I learned, the less personal contact you had with him, the more he respected you, and the fewer attacks you faced

It's possible his inability to deal with love was largely the result of an unhappy childhood. He suffered from a skin condition resulting in disfiguring boils that left his face a road map of scars, and because of this, he often found himself cruelly taunted by his peers. At home, he received little or no comfort, often finding himself subjected to beatings by an ill-tempered and abusive father, who when he wasn't beating his son, took out his anger on his wife. If a person has never known love, it can be a frightening experience, for love requires trust, and I don't think Hank trusted many people, and there are many documented examples of his turning against former friends. I myself would later suffer the same fate. But the fact remains that Hank was an important part of Second Coming. He represented what Second Coming was all about. I have yet to meet another poet or writer who possessed the talent Hank had. To be sure, there were many bad poems and short stories that should never have seen print, but what writer among us can truthfully say he or she hasn't suffered the same fate?

No one moved me as deeply as Hank, or had the ability to bring tears to my eyes, as Hank did in his "Poem For Jane," and let there be no doubt he had few rivals when it came to humor. His first book, "Post Office", was written in nineteen days. The book is filled with laughter that shines through the pain of working at a dead-end job that kills a man's spirit and physically breaks him down. I know! I worked for the San Francisco post office for over five years, some of thee very same years that Hank was employed at the Los Angeles post office. On his death, he left behind a body of unpublished poems and short stories, which are still being published today, assuring his legion of fans that he will be with us for years to come.

It was now March 1994, and I was sitting in my apartment, in Noe Valley, San Francisco, reading the morning newspaper, and enjoying my first morning cup of coffee, when I turned to the entertainment section, and was shocked to find the obituary of Charles Bukowski. I thought it odd finding an obituary in the entertainment section of a newspaper; however, in retrospect, there was nothing odd about it at all. Hank had carefully scripted his reputation as a hard drinking, womanizing hero of the unfortunate and the down- trodden. The same people who bought his books and identified so strongly with him. In the end, he became as much an entertainer as he was a poet and writer. This is evidenced by the fact that in his last years, the actor Sean Penn became one of his closest friends. Entertainer or not, I was stunned to learn Hank was dead at the age of seventy-three.

Hank is on record as having said he never expected to live a long life. It's also a matter of record that in his mid-thirties, he lay near death, from a bleeding ulcer, in a Los Angeles hospital charity ward, the direct result of long years of hard drinking and even harder living. I had been aware for some time that he was battling a series of ailments brought on by advanced age and abuse of his body, but had not dwelled much on the matter. Most people tend to avoid thinking about death until it stares them straight in the face, as if not thinking about it will delay the inevitable outcome. In reality, death was a re-occurring theme in many of Hank's poems, especially over the last several years of his life. And it stalked his mythical character, in his final novel (Pulp) published shortly before his death.

I was saddened we had not corresponded with each other for several years. He was angered over a poem I wrote, which I do not believe was a put down poem (Small Press Poet Makes It Big). At the time I felt he might even find it humorous, given the fact he had poked fun at so many poets and writers over the long years. I may not even had written the poem, had he not told me early on in our friendship that one day I would read about him going cat fishing with James Dickey and Norman Mailer, and when that day came, I could write about it, and he would understand. However, It was not Dickey or Mailer who inspired me to write the poem, as much as it was the presence of actor Sean Penn and other Hollywood luminaries who came into his life after he gained a measure of fame. Even in his wildest dreams, he could never have imagined that some day he would have Hollywood movie idols paying him homage; movie Stars who visited his home, bringing with them what Hank felt were "God awful" poems.

I was hardly the only one to experience his wrath. Hank and Doug Blazek, the former editor and publisher of Ole magazine, whom Hank corresponded with for years, developed a strong kinship between them, which ended shortly after they met in person. And John Bryan, a fringe member of the Beat generation, and the former editor and publisher of Open City, who first paid Bukowski for his column, "Notes From A Dirty Old Man", is yet another small press luminary who had a falling out with him. The list is lengthy, and includes well-known small press figures like Harold Norse, Linda King, and Jon and Gypsy Lou Webb, from LouJon Press. Other poets like Steve Richmond and Neeli Cherkovski, also found themselves in disfavor with Hank, only to later be brought back into his good graces. However, the fact remains Hank was hurt by the poem I wrote about him. I believe in his heart, he felt I had betrayed him. He responded by writing a poem titled "Poem for the Poet up North," which was published in Impulse, a small Southern California literary magazine. The gist of the poem was that he had once shared a few drinks with me (Before he became successful), and because he later gained literary fame that this somehow "gnawed" away at me. He couldn't have been more wrong. I responded with a poem of my own ("Poem For the Poet Down South"), which Impulse magazine also published. As far as I'm aware of, this ended the feud between us, and the attacks went no further. Hank went about his life doing what he did best, writing his poetry and prose, while I went about my life as an Equal Opportunity Specialist for the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, investigating claims of discrimination against minorities, women and the disabled, while writing my own poems, prose, and essays when time permitted.
I told Hank that that Seider had been one of the few white jazz musicians who had frequented the North Beach jazz joints in the Beat days. He had played at all the small jazz clubs, at the beach, charming the regulars with his smile and friendly manner. If you weren't lucky enough to catch him playing his sax at the North Beach clubs, you could watch him perform free on the street, near Washington Square Park, where he liked to hang out. Then one day he pawned his sax and quit playing forever.

We walked to the Cafe Trieste, where Hank stopped and peered in at a small group of men and women sitting at the intimately close tables. Without warning, he said in a loud voice: "Look at all these people waiting for something to happen, only it never will." He hurried away before waiting for a response, leaving me behind to over hear a skinny woman with glasses make an insensitive remark. "God, did you see all that acne?" "And what a drinker's nose. He'll be dead before you know it." The remark was met with a smattering of laughter, as the young woman continued drinking her espresso. She was dead wrong! Hank's scars weren't from acne, but childhood boils, and he would live a relatively full life for a man who abused his body as much as he did. I managed to catch up with him, a half block down the street.

We didn't talk about what he said to the crowd at the Cafe Trieste. I somehow sensed this wouldn't have been the appropriate thing to do. Hank was under the impression the Beat movement began with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Cassady and the long list of Beats that the media helped make famous. There are others who would disagree. John Pyros, a writer friend, argues that the Beat movement could be said to have evolved on August 6, 1945, when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and to have ended in 1967 with the Human Be-in in San Francisco, during the last days of the Hippie Generation. Perhaps the single most important thing Kerouac, Ginsberg and Cassady did was to make other rebellious young people throughout the land aware that there were others out there who felt the same way they did. I know this was the case with me. Diane Di Prima, (after reading HOWL) is quoted as saying: "I sensed he (Ginsberg) was only, could only be the vanguard of a much larger thing. All the people, who like me, had hidden and skulked...All these would now step forward and say their piece. Not many would hear them, but they would, finally, hear each other. I was about to meet my brothers.

" John Pyros, perhaps put it best: "To state that Kerouac and Ginsberg, et al began the Beat movement is like saying that Rosa Parks started the Civil Rights Movement...In fact, the land was fertile and awaited only the seed, only the spark to be kindled."

While Hank seemed curious about the neighborhood the Beats frequented, he did not particularly seem interested in learning the history of the Beat movement. I tried to get him to have a beer with me at the Vesuvio Bar, located adjacent to City Lights Book Store, which had been a favorite hang out of the Beats, but he declined. As we continued our walk through North Beach, I clued him in on the history of City Lights Book Store, which was founded in the fifties by Peter Martin (who later sold his interest) and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In the beginning, the bookstore was frequented mostly by Italian anarchists, people Martin was familiar with, being the son of an Italian Anarchist, Carlo Tresca, who was assassinated in 1943. Ferlinghetti too associated with the anarchist writers, many of whom were friends or acquaintances of Kenneth Rexroth, referred to by many as the father of the Beats.

City Lights began as the first all-paperback bookstore in the U.S. Even in those days cloth copies of books were relatively expensive and out of the reach of many Working-class people. It wasn't Ferlinghetti, but Martin who named the store City Lights, taking the name from a Charlie Chaplin film. Who knows where City Lights would be today (if even in existence), if on March 25, 1957, the San Francisco District Attorney's office hadn't decided to take City Lights and its owners to court. This after Allen Ginsberg's "Howl and Other Poems" (printed in England) was seized by the U.S. Customs in San Francisco; whose criminal division decided the book was obscene. The case never went to court after the U.S. district attorney refused to prosecute, forcing Federal Customs officials to release the books. However, the San Francisco Police Department refused to ignore the matter. Ferlinghetti and Shig Muro (who at the time managed City Lights) were arrested and charged with selling obscene literature. The American Civil Liberties Union stepped in and furnished free legal representation, providing the famed attorney Jake Ehrich to defend them. Prominent writers and critics testified in court, on behalf of City Lights, and Judge Clayton Horn set the legal precedent that if a book has the slightest redeeming social importance, it is protected under the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. and the California constitutions and therefore cannot be declared obscene. This legal precedent allowed D.H. Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover" and Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" (long banned in the U.S.) to be published by Grove Press. The San Francisco police had unwittingly put City Lights and Lawrence Ferlinghett on the map. Not learning their lesson, the police would later return in the sixties, focusing their attention on Zap Comics and Lenore Kandal's Love Poems, which only served to sell out both publications. However there are some who question how courageous Ferlinghetti's act was, in his willingness to challenge the establishment in court.

Charles Plymell, a member of the sixties Beat writers, claims the battle would have been for nothing more or less than challenging the right to use the word "fuck", a word Lenny Bruce, the greatest comedian of his era, was arrested over and over again for using in his night club act. Plymell put the matter in perspective, in a lengthy interview, which appeared in Chiron Review, and challenged the establishment version of this historic event. "Lucky that he (Ferlinghetti) probably had good coaching from his attorney brother, so he wasn't really a poor Beat poet. He knew what was happening, but why didn't he just go in the courtroom and say that he was Lieutenant Commander Ferlinghetti in World War Two, who had just fought for this country's freedom, and besides this is the way sailors talk all the time. It was still close enough to WW 11 that the judge would have dismissed the case instantly Plymell compares the happening with the "old downtrodden intellectual class millionaires tromped on by society," adding the "ploy" sold a lot of books, in what was really nothing more than a "thinly disguised capitalistic marketing approach" by the late Allen Ginsberg, whom Plymell describes as an "ex-market researcher cum poet", while at the same time describing Ferlinghetti as an "ex-Navy officer cum bohemian proprietor." "P.T. Barnum couldn't have done better," says Plymell. "It was like the famous hyperbole, I saw the best minds of my generation...If he (Ginsberg) was looking at reality, he would have saw the best minds of his generation at Alamogordo, New Mexico, playing out the old fashion myth of power, changing the world forever.

The outspoken but straight talking Plymell sees what happened as another case of elitist capitalistic intellect at work, "screaming at the press for publicity, while building a lasting enterprise on old bohemian sympathies." It's hard to argue against what Plymell says. Ferlinghetti owns an expensive piece of property (City Lights Books and Publishing) in one of the most desirable real estate locations in San Francisco, with a home in Virginia, and Ginsberg sold his archives in excess of a million dollars.
Great article! - thanks for the post, HC.
So Carlo Tresca was Martin's father! Wow! I've read about the murder of Tresca by the mafia many times in mafia literature. The Tresca murder was a part of a mob movie released in 1998. It was called "Bonanno - a godfathers story". I saw it on tv and it tells the background of the murder.
Btw, what's Winans myspace site called?
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you can find it on there easily. just search for it. at first, he wouldn't add me because he said he had too many friends. then i told him i was fond of his writing and I think he felt a little bad and told me to send him another request.
Maybe it would be simpler to copy/paste the full text to a .txt file and add here as an attachment? Just a suggestion, for what it's worth...
I like the easy, modest way that Winans comes across in his writing,
and he deserves coin for his book on Hank and the small presses.
I will be ordering one the first chance I have and feeling good about
it. Who could have been more involved, and supreme, in the small
presses than Bukowski? Conquering that literary world was his first
major triumph as a writer, and it would be fun to follow his progress
from there... all the way to the top. And it's true what Winans
says"”that Bukowski could turn on his friends... Anyway, thanks to
HenryChinaski for bring this to everyone's attention. This forum is
a treasure-trove of all things worthwhile & human. "”Poptop.
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I was trying to be helpful posting the link above but the devil on my shoulder just wont let me go without saying it....
I read the book about a year ago and found it dull and generally poorly written.

A.D. told me that you can still get copies from Dustbooks for $15.

a hardcover 1st ed with a dust jacket for fifteen bucks? That sounds more than reasonable.

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