Candidate Middle of Left-Right Center - some revisionist history

This one has been collected but not by Black Sparrow. I post it for the edification and enlightenment of those who have wasted their energies damning Martin for his supposed revisions to Bukowski's work.

Here we have a poem published in 1961 in San Francisco Review No. 8 (on the left). It next appeared just one year later in Longshot Pomes for Broke Players. Some significant edits were made. Entire lines were expunged. Punctuation was altered. Some of the line breaks are different. This took place long before Bukowski was a gleam in Martin's eye.

Undoubtedly, this isn't the only pre-Black Sparrow instance where Bukowski's work was significantly altered. My point is that it is unfair and, more importantly, an irrelevant waste of time, to make Martin a whippin' boy for there being more than one version of any one poem floating around out there. Fair or not, it seems it was standard operating procedure. To my knowledge, Bukowski raised only one objection with Martin's editing and that was with Women. One objection in almost 30 years. An acceptable ratio.

Candidate.jpg
 

mjp

Founding member
This is cute, but as you know, the issue isn't what Martin may or may not have done when Bukowski was around to complain. The issue is the whitewashing of the work after Bukowski was safely in the grave, and unable to protect himself.

Is it cowardly to wait until an author is dead before you begin gutting their work? Boy, I don't know. You tell me. I can't help but see it as a pussy move. Hence, Martin is a pussy. And ipso facto, a coward.

That's all. It's simple.

It's not my fault or my opinion that Martin is a coward and a pussy. It's the only conclusion that can be reached based on the facts. Like science, yo.

Glad I could clear that up.
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
Good find Nymark.

But: Are you preposing that the obvious and numerous edits to the posthumous collections be ignored?
OK, so JM did a good job when Buk was alive, knowing that Buk was there to correct him.
Acknowledged.
But the collections put out after Buk's death, well, the edits there are BAD, to put it mildly.
Surely you can see this.
No need to whip anyone - we just want the poems as Buk wrote them BEFORE his death.
I don't care WHO edited them. I want the edits called for what they are. Thats all.
The edits will, sadly, live on. I just want to give the originals a fighting chance as well.
Don't you?

And have you read JMs edits to Women?
They are very,very bad...
And they resemble the posthumous edits.
The posthumous collections need to be restored.
I'm sure you agree.

And if JM did the edits, well, I hope he someday understands and admits his mistake.

But hell, my mom is 85 and her memory is shot. She does a lot of strange things she never did before. Not her fault, but she does them.

Oh well...
 
Well, color me schooled. Fortunately, Madonna is about to perform at halftime. That should lift my spirits considerably.
 

hank solo

Just practicin' steps and keepin' outta the fights
Moderator
Founding member
@nymark: Yes, the two versions are different.

So perhaps Bukowski altered the poem before it reappeared in Longshot, or perhaps Carl Larsen altered it, or maybe the earlier version (which seems to be the more sanitised version at first glance) was altered by one of the SFR editiors. We'll probably never know.

Whatever case may be true in this (and any similar) instance - none of those situations would prove that the posthumous collections haven't been seriously weakened by someone other than Bukowski.





Still, many thanks for sharing.
 

cirerita

Founding member
If B. edited poetry in his lifetime, chances are that Martin might have used some of the poems B. edited while alive in the posthumous collections .

There's no way to prove who changed what. It's all based on our poetic instinct. If B. wrote quite a few crappy poems -and he said as much- he could have made quite a few crappy edits as well.
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
So, Cirerita, you think that perhaps, late in life, Buk starting removing references to drink in his poems?
OK, why not...
He did stop drinking & smoking didn't he?
I bet he stopped swearing too.
Maybe he even started praying.

Whatever - the question is: Would you like to see the posthumous collections/poems in a restored version?
Because "whoever" edited them did a crappy job.
I for one sure hope revised editions sometime will appear.
 

cirerita

Founding member
What you say about the changes above is unlikely, but possible. When it comes to this subject I rather stick to facts rather than what my gut tells me. I'm not writing a poem, I'm triyng to find out who changed what.

I don't like extrapolating conclusions unless there are facts to support them. We have a saying in Spain which goes along the lines of: "He once killed a dog, and now they call him dog-killer" (meaning he enjoys killing dogs). I'm sure there's a similar saying in English.

Did Martin edited some poems? Sure.
Did B.. edited some poems? Sure.
Do we know who changed what? Nope.

And, sure, I'd like to read poems as Bukowski wrote them, shitty changes and all. Whenever I write something about Bukowski, I try to quote from the magazine or manuscript versions, not the books. I'd love to see a posthumous collection with poems taken from B's mss or the littles.
 

hank solo

Just practicin' steps and keepin' outta the fights
Moderator
Founding member
Do we know who changed what? Nope.

Of course we don't know, but there's a noticeable style (or absence of style) in the posthumous edits that can only flame our suspicions. Many changes are glaring and clumsy. I don't see many ante mortem changes that stick out so. Sure a word here, a line here, but the awkward sanitising isn't there.
...I rather stick to facts rather than what my gut tells me.

Of course, your academic examinations require fact rather than opinions, but...
I'd love to see a posthumous collection with poems taken from B's mss or the littles.

...like Bryan Adams says, 'Listen to your heart'. :aerb:
 

mjp

Founding member
If all of this happened during his lifetime, you could say, "Hey, who knows who made the changes?" But it didn't, it happened after he died. Which everyone reading this knows, but some people chose to continue to ignore.

If anyone is suggesting Bukowski edited his work from the grave, I would suggest that is highly unlikely. Just as unlikely as him spending the last years of his life editing poems he'd already written and submitted, removing references to drinking and madness and generally making the work pedestrian and boring.

If you think he did that, you're wrong too. You don't need evidence to prove that, just common sense.
 

cirerita

Founding member
Many changes were made in his lifetime but published when he was gone. The changes in the posthumous collections were not necessarily made posthumously. There are quite a few poems at The Huntington library (oftentimes 2 or even 3 drafts of the same poem) that were heavily edited/changed by B. in the early 80s and published posthumously.

Some of those poems were further edited (probably by the Public Enemy N° 1), which really complicates things. If an early 80s poem turns up on eBay -and it's a first draft signed by Bukowski- and we compare it against the posthumous version, we'll find quite a few changes. Some of them were made by Bukowski in the 2nd or 3rd draft of the poem. Some others were probably made by Martin. But there's no way to know who changed what... unless someone goes to the Huntington and compares the different drafts of that poem vs. the postuhumous version. That would be the only way to factually establish which changes were made by Bukowski and which ones by Martin.

But if common sense is enough then there's no need to waste time making those tedious comparisons.
 
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mjp

Founding member
But there's no way to know who changed what...
If you believe that Bukowski edited his own work to make it more pedestrian and duller than it was originally, then yes. There is no way to know.

But if you don't believe that, then it becomes more difficult to believe that he made any of the changes that degrade the work.

Of course degradation of the work is an artistic judgement, not a scientific one. But it's art we're discussing after all, isn't it?
 

cirerita

Founding member
I don't think B. degraded his work deliberately -although he would now and then write a crappy poem just for kicks- but I'm not sure all his changes/edits did always improve his work. Let's allow him some room for imperfection.

There's an early poem I'm almost sure B. never edited/changed. "Bayonets in Candlelight" was utterly raped in The Continual Condition, and I know for a fact that was not B.'s doing. But then in that same book you have "I Saw a Tramp Last Night," which is identical to the magazine version -save for a typo.

It's all very slippery.
 

mjp

Founding member
That's a red herring, to say "let's allow for some imperfection." It suggests that because I'm saying Martin fucked up a great deal of Bukowski's work it naturally follows that I believe Bukowski never wrote a bad poem, or that his work is sacred and should never be edited. I've never suggested any such thing, so we can leave that non-angle out of the mix.

But you have provided a perfect example of cowardice at work.

Martin couldn't change Tramp, could he, since Bill had recently published it. Bayonets was from a dusty, 45 year old poetry magazine. It was safer to ruin that one. Who's going to notice? Some nerds on eBay?

I would only ask of anyone who wants to engage in Martin apologetics, that they come up with one manuscript from any of the posthumous books that was edited by Bukowski to remove references to drinking and to replace living, evocative language with dead, crap language.

Do that and I'll retract everything I've ever said on this subject and build a solid gold monument to Saint John Martin in my bathroom (bronze or chewing gum may be substituted for actual gold).

Just one manuscript.

How hard could it be to find one example?

I'll wait here.
 

cirerita

Founding member
How hard could it be to find one example?

Quite hard, actually. You would need to go to several libraries and compare different drafts of the same poem against the posthumous version. I'm not gonna do that to save Martin's ass and have his monument in your bathroom.

Yeah, "I Saw a Tramp Last Night" was not changed, but are you sure other recent poems (such as the X-Ray broadsides) were not changed?
 

cirerita

Founding member
Because if you want to stick to facts
You would need to go to several libraries and compare different drafts of the same poem against the posthumous version.

Similary, it's hard to find one example of a Martin (or a secretary) edit in those books. If you have found them, I'd be glad to see them.
 

mjp

Founding member
If your neighbor was lying dead on their kitchen floor with a meat cleaver stuck in their back, you might want proof of who did it. But the fact is, they're dead.

The fact is, a disturbing number of poems have been altered - to their detriment - in the posthumous books. Who did it is ultimately irrelevant. Who is responsible is not irrelevant, and it is also not in question, since all of those books have an editor: John Martin.

If he is not responsible, I would suggest removing his name from the books. They can credit the typesetter, or "secretary" as editor if that's more accurate and factual.

Either way, the poems are dead on the kitchen floor. Fact.
 

cirerita

Founding member
Martin published all those posthumous books and he is indeed responsible for the awful changes that ruin those books. If you have found changes to your liking, I'm afraid he's responsible for that, too.

That does not mean he did the changes, does it?

But you do raise a valid point: that's ultimately useless. What would be the point of finding out who made those changes? Even if Martin showed up here and said: "I did all those changes, suckers," would that restore the poems to their original form?

If Ecco or any other publisher wants to put out a new collection based on B's mss (even if such collection includes some of his less accomplished first drafts), all I can say is that I'm all for it.
 

Erik

If u don't know the poetry u don't know Bukowski
Founding member
OK!
A point of agreement!
jm IS responsible, as editor, even if he didn't make the changes.
The fact that there were 100s of changes made, in the books he edited, DOES beg the question if he or the type-setter/butler did it, but ok, let that lie til its "proved".

Any way, the responsibility for the bad editing IS jm'S.
He failed in properly editing Buk's posthumous books.
He failed.
Failed. Failed. Failed.
New editions are needed and we need scholars like you, C, to help dig up and edit the original manuscripts.
Not in order to point fingers, but in order to raise poems from the dead.

Now stop bickering and get on with the important work - resurrecting dead poems!
 

mjp

Founding member
Maybe if this was a Harper Lee forum you wouldn't be so emotionally detached and bemused.

Or maybe it's just funny to you that anyone would care about such an unimportant issue. That's cool, baby. You know I love you, even when you are blinded by emotional ties to someone you don't even know.

I've been shopping for stereo equipment lately, and the parallels to book buying are interesting. Meaning you have people who are enchanted with the technical specifications and the numbers and the knobs and the lights, and then you have people who love music. Rare book collectors are like that. Very few of them (none of them, actually, but I'm trying to be generous) actually love words. They love books. Big difference.

But I digress.
 
I'm not wanting to blame anybody. That's useless. The reason I've asked JM about that matter was, he would be the person who knows best what happened.

I don't care for subjective criteria like "this version is better or that version is worse" as that's a matter of taste - there are different tastes.

I also don't care for "common sense" since the hard sciences have proven thousands of times, that common sense isn't valid. Even in soft sciences like literature we should look for proof and evidence - not the way, a court or jury would accept 'evidence' but in the way, the hard sciences would do. Seeing the original manuscripts would make proof.
.
.
As a fan AND literary scholar, I am interested in the question:

what did Bukowski really write? If there ARE different versions by his own hand - fine! Let's get to know them all and publish them side by side: that's what critical editions (and more so historical-critical-editions) are for.
Just as we did here with the 3 versions of 'The crunch'.

If I then prefer an earlier version to a later one (given both are legit, i.e. from Hank), that's back to matters of taste and my own business or mjps business or JMs business, if the latter prefers later versions. So what.

What I want (and what literary scholarship has a right to demand) is:
Make sure, WHAT WAS REALLY WRITTEN BY BUKOWSKI and eliminate everything else.

Different versions from the same author don't bother me as long as I know they're legit.
But from the posthumous versions in question - it's at least VERY LIKELY that they are NOT by Bukowski. Maybe (there's always a slight chance) we all are wrong assuming this - that's why I insist in proof rather that taste or common sense. And that's why I'll keep asking this (and only this) until the answer is undeniable clear to any one (like the fact that the earth isn't a flat plate).

And then let's go on from there and MAKE a critical edition of Bukowski's work at last.
 
Here's my take and a snippet from the link

http://htmlgiant.com/behind-the-scenes/n-word-removed-from-huck-finn/

A new edition of Huckleberry Finn will be released next month from NewSouth where all 219 instances of Twain's use of the word "nigger" have been removed. "We recognized that some people would say that this was censorship of a kind," says the publisher, "but our feeling is that there are plenty of other books out there"”all of them, in fact"”that faithfully replicate the text, and that this was simply an option for those who were increasingly uncomfortable, as he put it, insisting students read a text which was so incredibly hurtful." Ugh. Really? Is this the beginning of a national clean-me-so-we-feel-better literature trend?<
What would Twain have done or said? We don't know but it completely changes the whole fucking point of writing the piece in the first place.
To make posthumous changes without acknowledging that they were not approved by Bukowski is not respecting the words the writer or the reader
"consider every man colored until proven white,"
 
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cirerita

Founding member
But from the posthumous versions in question - it's at least VERY LIKELY that they are NOT by Bukowski...

I'm not so sure about that. In my opinion, most poems published posthumously have changes made by B. when he was alive as well as changes made by someone else. Problem is, there's no factual way to easily find out who changed what.
 
that's exactly the reason, why I've been asking the only person who could give that proof.

(except the people at HarperCollins maybe who produced the books from these manuscripts - if they did. I find it more likely, that they've got a finished script ready-to-publish.)
 

mjp

Founding member
You will never have proof while Martin is alive.

What motivation could there possibly be for him to make public the manuscripts that show his changes? All that would do is cause (justifiable) criticism to be rained down on him like buckets of blood at Carrie's prom.

Don't hold your breath waiting for him to make that happen. He will not.
 
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