Changes in War All The Time

I have a Black Sparrow edition (8th) from War all the time, which was reissued in 1996. And I'm looking at the manuscripts in your database to compare with my book. And I'm thinking, is one of you had compared the editions of this same book ? I mean my edition was after Buk's death. It had been clearly "edited" (martinized?), how about the first edition in 1984 ? Is it the same as reissued books after Buk's death, like my 1996 edition ? In order to know if it was already edited during his lifetime.


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The text in the first edition of War all the time is the same as a copy you would buy today. The books published during Bukowski's lifetime were not re-edited after he died.
Thanks. So how can we explain the changes in this book ? Bukowski made the changes himself, or maybe he didn't pay attention to changes from his original manuscripts ?


Founding member
There are changes by Martin in all of the poetry collections. In all of the books he published, not just Bukowski.

The issue with the posthumous Bukowski poetry collections is the changes became (much more) destructive and pervasive. It's a clear line.
Well publishers usually makes changes, but with the agreement of the author ... So I'm wondering about the books from his lifetime. Either he agreed on the changes, or didn't care, or didn't know ... (I have read he noticed about his novel Women that was soften).

Yes, I have read some of the posthumous changes, and it's a total disaster.

From where the manuscripts on the website are coming ? For instance, in Mockingbird wish me luck, there is only one according to your database. Where does it come from ?

I'm sorry to ask a lot of questions. I'm just trying to understand this mess. I would like to read Bukowski, not John Martin. I just hope some day we'll have access to all the non-edited manuscripts, and that it will reprinted as it was. To me that's crazy to learn about all this. Nobody in France knows about this. None publisher (for the story I have heard that a french publishing company is planning to translate one of the posthumous poetry book ... I'm 99,99% sure they don't know anything about all this). And what about Linda Bukowski ? She never said anything about all this tragic changes ?


Founding member
Whether Bukowski cared about changes to his collected poetry during his lifetime is a question that only he could answer, but he stopped doing interviews a long time ago, so we will never know.

As has been well-documented, he was quite angry when he did notice the changes in the first edition of Women, which he made Martin revert in all future printings. So my assumption, and I have to believe the assumption of John Martin, is that he would have cared. Why else would Martin wait until Bukowski died to begin his methodical campaign of destruction?

And if Bukowski could see what Martin has done since his death, we can only imagine that he would not be pleased (to answer your question about Linda, she has been made aware of what happened, and she is also not pleased).

You say you see changes in War All The Time, and I'm sure they are there. There are changes in all of the books. But those changes are nowhere near the scale and stupidity of the changes made to the posthumous collections. But yes, they have always been there, and you can find them if you look for them.

I don't imagine Bukowski sat down with the book galleys that Martin sent to him and sharpened a bunch of pencils and spent days comparing the printed versions to his manuscripts. There's nothing in his letters or writing or interviews that suggests that he spent a lot of time dwelling on his past work. That doesn't mean he didn't revise and rework poems, he did. But he didn't (often) revise them years after he'd written them.

As for where the manuscripts came from, there are 1500 in the database now, and another 1,000 waiting to be added. So I'm afraid I couldn't tell you, in most cases, where a specific manuscript came from. They came from people, universities, museums, even John Martin, who sold more than a thousand manuscripts to a bookseller in the 1980s, almost all of which eventually ended up on eBay. So they come from all over. We've been gathering them for 20 years.
I don't picture Bukowski with the pencils either ... He said a couple of times that life was about movement, and that he was always thinking about the next move, the next book. That he forgot about what he wrote in the past. That's why I'm guessing he didn't spent time to re-read his printed books. Though he read some of it to his public poetry readings. So maybe he was reading much from his manuscripts than from Black Sparrow books. I'm sure he would have noticed even minor changes if they weren't from him. In the Barbet Schroeder tapes, he's reading some poems from a book, so ... I don't know. Perhaps he revised some from the manuscripts to the books during his lifetime.
I'm not arguing here about the posthumous books, which is clear that they had been "murdered".

I don't get why it didn't came out publicly, as John Martin is not anymore the publisher. I guess Harper/Ecco don't want to assume the fact that a lot of their books are good to put in the garbage ... They must republish it without the changes.

Thanks again for pointing all that out. And for the amazing gathering in here.


Founding member
Perhaps he revised some from the manuscripts to the books during his lifetime.
He never mentioned doing that. Not once, in over 30 years that covered dozens of poetry collections large and small, did he talk about revising for collection. There's no manuscript evidence that suggests that he did it either.

That we've seen, anyway. I should add that caveat.

reading [...] from Black Sparrow books. I'm sure he would have noticed even minor changes if they weren't from him.
I don't know. To notice minor changes he would have had to commit literally thousands of his own poems to memory, every line and every word of them. But he never gave any indication that he committed any of his own poems to memory, so it doesn't seem surprising to me that he could read from an altered version of a poem and not notice any problem.
So he was giving all his manuscripts to Martin and assuming that they'll be published without any revising ? That's really unusual (but everything seems to be unusual with all this), because usually author and editor are working together on the manuscripts before publishing anything.

Anyway, he must at least have rework some poems. For instance, there is one poem in Mockingbird, called "style" (p.156), and he read a longer version of this poem in a poetry reading that we can see on youtube.


Founding member
He reworked a lot of poems. I mentioned that, and we have plenty of evidence of it.

But I think it's safe to assume that there's a difference between a writer revising something they wrote to improve it or change it, and revising it for the purpose of publication. There's no indication that Bukowski revised for publication. Certainly not on the scale that would have been necessary for the Black Sparrow collections.

If an editor and writer were collaborating on those Black Sparrow collections (1,311 poems in 12 books over a span of 25 years during Bukowski's lifetime) you would expect to see written evidence of collaboration. A lot of back and forth discussion about the work. But you don't see anything approaching collaboration in the Bukowski/Martin correspondence. You see Bukowski suggesting titles, sometimes art, but he wasn't even involved with poem selection, let alone poem revision.
As I'm reading the book On Cats, I discovered a change in the poem "the mockingbird". There is one line different (uncensored) from the poem collected in Mockingbird wish me luck :

feathers parted like a woman's legs in sex,

(in Mockingbird wish me luck, it is : feathers parted like a woman's legs, )