mjp

Founding member
Bukowski was so mighty he could revise from his grave!

There's no other explanation for this.
 
Thanks for taking the time to set up this comparison, mjp. I had no idea things got so bad after Buk's death.

Someone at BSP actually managed to kill it when no one was watching. The flow, the rhythm of the line . . . butchered. And dropping the "I guess" after "they are the best" completely changes the meaning and alters the intent in a tragic fashion.

Why?

I simply cannot comprehend the motivation behind such changes, and it makes me wonder if new editions based on the original manuscripts will be necessary at some point in the future.
 
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Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Geez, another altered poem. "Broken glass", becomes, "idiocy", and, "difficult", becomes, "frustrating", not to mention all the other changes and additions. I wonder how many poems have been changed the same way...
 
Nicely said, Gunn. A naive type might surmise that Bukowski himself retooled a poem such as another day and thus the vast differences - troll types come on this site and often say Buk would hate all this. They just don't get it.
 

mjp

Founding member
it makes me wonder if new editions based on the original manuscripts will be necessary at some point in the future.
Well, they are necessary now, aren't they, but probably not financially viable. Small market for such an ambitious task. But when it does happen (and I'm sure it will) it will be after Mr. Martin and Mrs. Bukowski are both safely in their graves. And maybe longer than that, depending on how Marina feels about it. I assume (but have no idea if it's really so) that she will inherit the rights that Mrs. Bukowski now exercises.

At some point someone will undertake the job. It seems like an obvious thing to do, since so many of his manuscripts are available. I don't think any of us will live to see it though.

I wonder how many poems have been changed the same way...
Too many to count.
 

cirerita

Founding member
A naive type might surmise that Bukowski himself retooled a poem such as another day and thus the vast differences -

No naive type here: B. did rework a large number of poems, and some of those reworked poems were published posthumously. If you ever have the chance to visit the Huntington's collection, you'll see what I'm talking about.
 
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Just to be clear, no one is actually suggesting that Bukowski himself made the changes on display above, right? If so, I don't believe it.
 

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
Founding member
maybe some day someone will get to the bottom of this mess.

i'm turned off of reading the posthumous stuff now. can't trust it.

shitty.
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
If he did it himself along the years, which is possible in some cases, but if it is JM, it is f....... awful !
 

mjp

Founding member
I know he revised poems, you can see evidence of that everywhere. But I have to question some of the changes - whether they are in Bukowski's voice. Many are not. I have written a poem or two, so I think I know how revision works, and I can see how his revisions worked on the revised manuscripts. So I think I have a pretty good idea of what he might have changed himself and what he likely did not change.

I think it's safe to assume he wouldn't have done anything to make part of a poem worse, and I think it's safe to say that some of them are worse in their collected form. At least in comparison to earlier versions. The questions arise when you can compare. And there are a lot of questions there, as far as I'm concerned.

The poem linked from the first post in this thread is an example of another glaring inconsistency. Can anyone reasonably explain why he would revise something that was already in a collection? He wasn't busy enough writing new poems I suppose. He went through his old books and revised, just for the hell of it, then said, "Here John, if you ever reprint this, make these changes." Sure, that's probably what happened.
 
I don't know if this possible explanation is logical or not, but he did rewrite several stories/encounters; both as stories and in some poems. The Wilbur Oxnard scene comes to mind, and there are several others. But that doesn't really get to why he would revise a perfectly good, if even slightly flawed, poem. I don't get the sense that flaws (unless they were typos or just drunken non-sequiters that needed a bit of fixing) bothered Buk too much, given his point of view and his self-directed lot in life. The edits in the manuscript DB suggest that much.

What bothers me is that we can suppose all we want, offer theories about which poems were altered by someone other than Buk, but we don't get the answer for sure. Damn, mjp, you've done so much research, and you've compared your manuscripts to the various published versions, I can't think of anyone else I know of who could offer a better opinion. What bothers me even more is that I had been perfectly happy with his poems, including the posthumous ones, until I'd been here for a year or so and I discovered this issue. Now, I'm hacked off about it and my only solution has been to buy up Wormwoods, NYQs, etc. Hardly a feasible approach.

Certainly most writers need an editor, but poetry editing, especially for someone as ingrained as Buk, should consist of typo correction and little else unless truly justified.
 

Hosh

hoshomccreesh.com
To me, it's a question of permission and consent. Most any reasonable writer should have no problem working with an editor to tighten/fix/axe bad work--especially if the editor "gets" the work. But I have serious problems with an editor unilaterally deciding to change things without the author's say so...especially if it had already been published. It feels disingenuous to change stuff years later...even if it's done to "hide" mistakes/poor writing. I'd say early work should almost never be changed--so the integrity of a writer's technical and chronological growth can be preserved. As much as I cringe to look at earlier work--I just can't change too much about it, and risk losing something important about the early stuff.
 

mjp

Founding member
What bothers me is that we can suppose all we want, offer theories about which poems were altered by someone other than Buk, but we don't get the answer for sure.
We probably will get the answer at some point. There have to be working manuscripts in the BSP archive, and assuming a collection was sent to Bukowski in manuscript form, we could see his corrections on it. But I don't even know if Martin sent the collection manuscripts to Bukowski for a final revision. We know that early on he did not; Bukowski (or Francis or whoever he could get to type) transcribed the poems from the little magazines and sent them off. But later I'm sure Martin did send a manuscript copy, Bukowski says as much when he's talking about the first edition of Women, which he admits he did not proofread very carefully:

"I tell John Martin to go ahead and correct my grammar but this time he went too far. I should have read the proofs more carefully but am lazy. But when the book came out I read it. Shit, man. I guess he thinks I can't write. he threw shit in. Like I like to say, "he said," "she said." that's enough for me. But he threw stuff in, like "he retorted," "he said cheerfully," "I shrugged," "she seemed to be sore." Shit, it goes on and on...There's even one place where a woman had on a green dress and he put her into a blue dress. At least he didn't change her sexual organs. Think of playing with Faulkner like that?"

Earlier:

"yes, Martin has me worried. I'd prefer Post Office in its original raw form. of course I was a little bit out of my head when I wrote it, but it wasn't sloppy or lazy writing; it was written as it fucking well came out, and that meant turds and blood and the rest of the wash. I'm told that parts of it are in the present tense and parts in the past. that's all right with me. I know most of the rules of grammar but I'm not interested. he has inferred that he doesn't want to detract from my style, so there we are on the merry-go-round. he's a nice guy but he does treat me too much like an idiot."

"Martin claims that very few changes were made grammatically in Post Office, and I believe him, but I wish the few changes had not been made."

I think it's reasonable, taking quotes like these into consideration, to assume that Martin made changes to the poems as well. Once Bukowski was safely underground Martin was free to make his improvements, unhindered by the wishes or complaints of the author.

The problem is the changes we do know about, or can be relatively sure of, cast doubt on a much wider range of the published work. So even if Martin didn't change anything in the posthumous collections, or made insignificant changes, the knowledge that he did freely make changes while Bukowski was alive makes you wonder about everything. That doubt is reasonable.
 
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cirerita

Founding member
The poem linked from the first post in this thread is an example of another glaring inconsistency. Can anyone reasonably explain why he would revise something that was already in a collection? He wasn't busy enough writing new poems I suppose. He went through his old books and revised, just for the hell of it, then said, "Here John, if you ever reprint this, make these changes." Sure, that's probably what happened.

What sometimes did happen is that Bukowski sent Martin a poem and later on -usually a month or two- a revised version of the same poem (without a word of warning). Martin used one of the versions while B. was alive and then used the second version (which Bukowski had revised years ago, probably changing the title) in a posthumous collection. Martin did not have a reliable database of the published poems, which explains the many dupes in the posthumous volumes, especially The Continual Condition.
 

Johannes

Founding member
It's a slippery subject, especially since we have to expect that Martins (or "the typists") editing made things worse everytime he decided to "get bored and throw something in". I still can't believe that sentence.

The position of the editor is a slippery one itself in most cases. It needs a good eye, the willingness to butt-kick your own ego in revising, the purpose of helping the text instead of ass-raping it with your own dull creative-writing-class believes how writing should be done ... etc. etc.

I am no editor and would hate to be one. Martin wasn't one either, he was Bukowskis publisher. He probably meant well, tho. But looking at these changes ... well.

Not directly related, but has anybody followed the discussions about Raymond Carver and his editor Gordon Lish? There was some strange and heavy shit going on as well. Look at this:

--> http://www.newyorker.com/online/2007/12/24/071224on_onlineonly_carver?currentPage=all
 

mjp

Founding member
What sometimes did happen is that Bukowski sent Martin a poem and later on -usually a month or two- a revised version of the same poem (without a word of warning). Martin used one of the versions while B. was alive and then used the second version (which Bukowski had revised years ago, probably changing the title) in a posthumous collection.
Indeed, we have examples of the same poem - in sometimes quite different form - in two separate manuscripts. I intend to put up a page of examples of those when I finish the latest manuscript additions (a long time from now).

But in comparing those different versions I think you'll find that though they may have been different, they were still Bukowski. This co-opting of big grey balloon things, heavy, is most definitely not Bukowski:

elephants in the zoo

in the afternoon
they lean against
one another
and you can see how much
they like the sun.

Pleasures of the Damned - 2007


That is simply, and undeniably, the diminishing of his work. The dumbing down of his genius for laying out a scene and making the reader feel something. Even if that something is trivial.

Shit like elephants in the zoo is inexcusable and should be pointed out and dismissed for what it is: Martin's ham-handed bullshit.

Let me be clear here; my intention in building the database and making these manuscripts available in one place was never to prove or disprove anything about Martin. My opinion on what Martin did is a result of the work, not the reason for it. I did not go into it with the intention of bringing what I can only describe as carnage to light. That just happened by itself.

And at this point in time, I'm afraid that I'm way beyond being able to give Martin the benefit of the doubt where these differences are concerned. Quite the opposite; now I assume that the changes were made at Black Sparrow. If not by Martin himself, by someone who worked for him. Someone who was not Bukowski.
 

cirerita

Founding member
And at this point in time, I'm afraid that I'm way beyond being able to give Martin the benefit of the doubt where these differences are concerned. Quite the opposite; now I assume that the changes were made at Black Sparrow. If not by Martin himself, by someone who worked for him. Someone who was not Bukowski.

I learnt a while ago to double-check each and every manuscript before saying who wrote what, and who changed what. Bukowski wrote quite a few shitty poems and I'd say some of his revisions could be shitty as well.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
[...] I am no editor and would hate to be one. Martin wasn't one either, he was Bukowskis publisher. [...]

I agree. Martin was not a good editor. He was a genius publisher, having the vision to bring out Bukowski's books, promoting them, but his work as an editor, line by line, was mediocre at best, and poor at times. He just didn't have a way with words and should have left that work to someone more talented.
 
Not to dredge out the old "what is a genius" concept again, but if Martin had been a genius, he would have known not to edit Buk's work beyond typos (yeah...assuming he did). His personal beliefs about what is proper are enough to label him something less than genius; a genius must shine despite whatever exists; personal choices about what is or isn't right and genius do not go hand in hand in any universe. I would call him a publisher of great foresight with a fair bit of guts and he executed his vision very well. No matter what edits were made, it really wasn't an issue while he was realizing the fruits of his efforts (save the letter from Buk about Women).

Yes, it's my opinion, although I needn't have said that.
 

number6horse

okyoutwopixiesoutyougo
Damn you Johannes - you beat me to the Carver/Lish comparison.

And I am of the opinion also (based in part upon what I've read here) that there is a similarity between what Martin and Lish did. Way-too-eager editing advice and 'revisions" that just fuck things up rather than extend or explain.

"Watch me take a diamond and polish it even MORE sparkly for the audience ! I'm an EDITOR ! You can thank me later !"
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
Purple Stickpin, I stand corrected. I was using "genius" in the cheap business sense: "the guy made millions, so obviously he's a genius!" Not in the true sense of the word. He's a very good business man -- as a publisher -- because he made millions and his product has become very popular. His choices as an editor are not even smart, let alone genius. It's like once he picked Bukowski and ran with it (and that was brilliant), he stopped thinking.
 
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