Charles Bukowski's Posthumous Edits: As the Spirit Wanes, Shit Happens

Let me put down, that the REALLY important thing has been said by Abel:

"Martin was entirely responsible for selecting and editing Bukowski’s poetry, including the posthumous collections."

That's all that really matters.
I don't care for anyone, who likes to play around with another person's poems on their home-desk. Let them have their fun.

Who really is in charge is the person who's going to actually PUBLISH such a thing under the name of the original author.

There you have it.


p.s.:
I feel immodest enough to remark, that I have said just that a couple of years ago in 'BJUK 2011/12/13' on p.28:
"... vielleicht auch war es jemand anderes aber nicht John Martin (in diesem Fall müsste er sich zumindest den Vorwurf gefallen lassen, als Herausgeber für die publizierten Varianten verantwortlich zu sein)."
Translation:
"... maybe it has been someone else but John Martin (in this case, he would still have to face the accusation, that he, as the editor, was in charge for these published variations)."

.
 
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so, That's where we happily agree all together.

Now, what's our next step?
Could and can we join forces to progress for the sake of our purpose?
Can we try?
 
As for proving who made the edits, remember the situation for Ezra Pound. The Italian radio technicians heard him make the broadcasts but as they didn't understand English so they couldn't confirm he committed treason. So if no one saw Martin martinizing the poems then it would be tough to get a conviction....
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
The Roominghouse Madrigals is what finally changed my mind forever. I complained on the forum that the poems sucked. And they do. But that's because Martin fucked them up. When I finally started reading the original appearances in magazines, there was no doubt what had happened. The poems in Madrigals are watered down versions of the originals.
 
There you go, Roni:

"Now, what's our next step?"

Looking back on things, that's what I should have said. It's the futility of it all, that gets me going, ranting. Call this an apology for hijacking a part of this thread. Please keep fighting the good fight, Abel.

This, too:
"Could and can we join forces to progress for the sake of our purpose?
Can we try?"
 

mjp

Founding member
An "editorial" without a name attached to it is meaningless and I might suggest, cowardly. I guess I'm supposed to know - we're all supposed to know - who the editor of PNR is, but I'd never heard of it until now, so forgive me, I don't.

"The poems Martin is accused of vandalising were those rejected from the books Martin and Bukowski assembled in the poet’s lifetime. Black Sparrow tried to keep faith with the ghost of Bukowski by sifting and re-sifting the manuscript remains, panning the dross."

If you say so.

sure.png



"fundamentalist in its hostility to editorial intervention in creative work."

Well isn't that wonderfully reductive and wildly inaccurate. I'm discussing poetry, specifically, when I discuss Martin's destruction. The articles are quite clear about that.

At least s/he/it got the "hostility" part right.

More dusty, measured apologetics from the intelligentsia. I'd yawn, but it doesn't deserve that much effort.
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
"The poems Martin is accused of vandalising were those rejected from the books Martin and Bukowski assembled in the poet’s lifetime. Black Sparrow tried to keep faith with the ghost of Bukowski by sifting and re-sifting the manuscript remains, panning the dross."

I think that's fairly accurate in my opinion. And I think we have enough scans to prove it.

I tried to bring this up before (and didn't respond to the answer I got because I was too tired to produce some data), but if you look at the poems on Bukowski recordings, a very high percentage of them NEVER appeared in BSP books (until he was dead). I don't have time to do a thesis around it, but trust me, I have seen it one poem at a time.
 

mjp

Founding member
I guess that makes sense. If you believe that Bukowski only wrote 48 or 49 poems a year that were worth collecting.

There were 12 poetry collections published by Black Sparrow during Bukowski's lifetime. 1,311 poems over 27 years. So when you do that math, what Martin is saying (because the notion that the posthumous poems were all previously rejected could have only come from Martin) is that Bukowski wrote less than 50 poems every year - about one a week - that were worth collecting.

Before you say, "That sounds about right," consider what that would mean. It would mean - wouldn't it? - that there aren't any "substandard" poems in any collection published during Bukowski's lifetime. It was all the cream of the crop, the best of the best.

Is there anyone who wants to make that claim? I don't.

Isn't a more logical assumption that far from rejecting two-thirds (or more) of Bukowski's work as substandard, Martin was concerned that publishing too many collections would dilute the market? In fact, didn't he say just that? And didn't Bukowski complain about it?

I don't believe that the idea that all of the posthumous poetry was originally rejected as substandard adds up. Especially when you read many of the posthumously published poems in their original form. It just looks like more revisionist history produced by Martin to justify what he did.

if you look at the poems on Bukowski recordings, a very high percentage of them NEVER appeared in BSP books (until he was dead).
I don't think there are enough recorded poems to draw any conclusion from what Martin did with them.
 

cirerita

Founding member
That PNR piece is full of inaccuracies. If you know your Bukowski, then you know that "the books Martin and Bukowski assembled in the poet’s lifetime" is simply not accurate because Bukowski never assembled a single book nor contributed to assembling a single collection in his lifetime. For better or for worse, it was all Martin's doing.

The posthumous collections are not made up of originally rejected material entirely--some poems in the posthumous collections could have discarded back in the day, but certainly not all of them.

Martin found "new" poems all the time, either in private collections, eBay, auctions, libraries, and so on. For instance, I know that he specifically went through all the early little mags to put together The People Look Like Flowers at Last. For that collection, he used poems he had largely ignored until then.

It's true, though, that a large portion of Bukowski's best poems was published during his lifetime, at least that's how I feel. But there were quite a few subpar poems in the collections published in his lifetime, and there were quite a few subpar poems that were never used in his lifetime for one reason or another. Some of those never-used-before subpar poems came out in the posthumous collections; some of them remain in the vaults.

Likewise, some strong poems were left in the editing room over the years. Either Martin discarded them while Bukowski was alive or he never saw them. Martin used some of those strong poems in the posthumous collections; there are other strong poems yet to published.

Bukowski was extremely prolific; Martin only used one third --or even one sixth, as Bukowski said in the early 80s-- of Bukowski's output. That one third, or one sixth, was Martin's selection based on his own criteria. Bukowski didn't necessarily agree sometimes, and he often complained about Martin not using his "wilder" poems.

So I wouldn't say Martin rejected two thirds --or five sixths-- of Bukowski's output. It's just he felt one book a year was more than enough. He selected the strongest poems (to him) and put aside the remaining poems. That doesn't mean he "rejected" them, it simply means he couldn't publish them all back then. Say Bukowski wrote some 500 poems in 1981-1984. Say 300 of those poems were pretty good. Say Martin used 100-150 in War All the Time. The remaining 150-200 strong poems were not rejected, it's just there was no room for them at the time. As simple as that.

So the story that Martin used only previously rejected subpar poems for the posthumous collections is bullshit to me-- and the story that Bukowski put some good poems aside when he was alive to be published posthumously is bullshit to me, too.
 

mjp

Founding member
he felt one book a year was more than enough.
If we're just talking about poetry, it was one book every 27 months. If you include novels, screenplays and letters, it was still less than one book per year.

Considering his output, I don't think Bukowski was unreasonable when he complained that Martin didn't publish enough poetry. As far as what was "great," "good," "not so good," or "bad" are concerned, that's completely subjective, and you could argue that when it comes to Bukowski, it's not only subjective but almost unimportant. I think fans of Bukowski's poetry would have easily absorbed more than one collection every 27 months. The same way fans of The Beatles or Beyoncé absorb the good and the bad together, and will gladly take everything they can get.

Off-topic from the idea that all of the poems in the posthumous collections were previously "rejected" somehow (which is indeed bullshit), but worth pointing out.
 
Bukowski never assembled a single book nor contributed to assembling a single collection in his lifetime
Reading this I remembered something that was published in the German letter collection Schreie vom Balkon. The subject matter was Dangling in the Tournefortia, and Bukowski wrote, re-translated: 'I like this book because it's the first one in many years that has been put together by myself, and not by the publisher.'

The funny thing is that there isn't such a statement in the original letter. What Bukowski wrote is "I like this book because it's HOT."
So did Weissner make the other parts up or did he slip something into the translation that he got to know on another occasion?

dangling.jpg
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
If you know your Bukowski... Bukowski never assembled a single book nor contributed to assembling a single collection in his lifetime
It's in your own damn research Able (and others as well), but I guess it comes down to your definition of "book." COLD DOGS IN THE COURTYARD... (Do you know your Bukowski, Able?)

(Honestly, not trying to be a dick, but can we all take a step back and digest what we have learned -- or not learned)

Martin found "new" poems all the time, either in private collections, eBay, auctions, libraries, and so on. For instance, I know that he specifically went through all the early little mags to put together The People Look Like Flowers at Last. For that collection, he used poems he had largely ignored until then.

It's true, though, that a large portion of Bukowski's best poems was published during his lifetime, at least that's how I feel. But there were quite a few subpar poems in the collections published in his lifetime, and there were quite a few subpar poems that were never used in his lifetime for one reason or another. Some of those never-used-before subpar poems came out in the posthumous collections; some of them remain in the vaults.
Ok. maybe I have lost my mind or Martin has his dick inside you with a .45 against your temple, but can you just re-read your quote above? The folks here in this place called "reality" have read what you call "subpar" poems in BSP books. We've compared them against the originals, and we now know the subpar factor was Martin. Don't you bother to look at the work being done around here?
 

cirerita

Founding member
If we're just talking about poetry, it was one book every 27 months. If you include novels, screenplays and letters, it was still less than one book per year [...]
The same way fans of The Beatles or Beyoncé absorb the good and the bad together, and will gladly take everything they can get.

I think he meant a book (of any kind) a year, which is pretty much what he did. Now, I'm no publisher, but I did notice that what the ON series first came out in 2015-2016 (On Writing, On Cats, On Love), by the time Essential Bukowski was published in late 2016, there seemed to be less interest in that book that in the previous ON collections. So maybe publishing two books a year is not a good business strategy after all... or perhaps the ON series are more appealing than an anthology. Who knows?

And that makes me wonder about the life span of art now. Back in the day, I remember when a new movie, book or LP came out, people talked about them for a looooong time, usually a year or so. I remember many bands used to publish an LP a year--prolific bands, that is. That might be one of the reasons Martin thought a book a year was enough.

In the digital age, everything seems to vanish into thin air way faster, though. What's the life span of a new movie or "album" these days? A couple of months at best? Because of their nature, books might be different as it takes longer to finish them. But I have the impression they come and go way faster nowadays.

Bukowski's case is kind of different because publishers see him as a "steady seller" now, and that's why all his books remain in print.

So did Weissner make the other parts up or did he slip something into the translation that he got to know on another occasion?

Weissner made up some pretty good shit for the German blurbs of some Bukowski books, and Bukowski himself said he liked them. I read somewhere --maybe Roni can help here-- that Weissner took a lot of liberties when translating Bukowski into German. That might explain that bit about Dangling. For the looks of it, and Bukowski's correspondence, the poems in Dangling were selected by Martin.

It's in your own damn research Able...
Wish I could be Able to be Abel!

Cold Dogs was a chapbook, not a book or a full collection of any sorts. I would never compare it to the BSP/Ecco collections. Again, apples and oranges.

Not only that, in that PNR piece, they said that "Martin and Bukowski assembled...", but Cold Dogs was before Martin's time, wasn't it? I obviously wasn't talking about pre-Martin times.

The folks here in this place called "reality" have read what you call "subpar" poems in BSP books.

Bukowski wrote quite a few crappy aka shitty aka substandard aka subpar poems in his life. Some of them made it to the BSP collections when he was alive. Some of them were posthumously published (and edited). Some of them remain unpublished.

Unless, of course, you're one of those folks who, unlike Bukowski himself, believe that Bukowski never wrote a subpar poem.
 

mjp

Founding member
I remember many bands used to publish an LP a year--prolific bands, that is.
In ye olden dayes it wasn't uncommon to see bands put out an album every six months. Bob Dylan released 2 albums in both 1964 and '65, Led Zeppelin's first two albums came out in 1969, Alice Cooper put out 7 albums in 4 1/2 years...they didn't wait for the moss to grow in those days.

I don't know if books or art have a shorter lifespan now though. The period of time where you can get a lot of attention for something new may seem to be shorter, but back when music magazines and papers were the only way to learn about what was going on, you didn't really read about 4 or 5 month old albums either. They were on to the new stuff.

People talking about a record for a year - sure. But there wasn't as much to choose from back then as there are now. And to listen to a record back then you had to actually buy it (or tape your friend's copy). Music may have a shorter shelf life now just because it's been devalued in general. When you pay for a record you're a lot more likely to listen to it over and over.

But really, I think the Internet does more to keep things alive than it does to quickly kill them. The "long tail." I mean, look, we're debating the virtues of 50 year old books...
 

cirerita

Founding member
But really, I think the Internet does more to keep things alive than it does to quickly kill them. The "long tail." I mean, look, we're debating the virtues of 50 year old books...

That's because we're freaks :D

When I talk to younger people about art, they don't even remember whatever came out a couple of weeks ago.
 
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Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
Bukowski wrote quite a few crappy aka shitty aka substandard aka subpar poems in his life. Some of them made it to the BSP collections when he was alive. Some of them were posthumously published (and edited). Some of them remain unpublished.
I agree on that point. For some reason, New York Quarterly would publish anything he sent. And some of those littles in the late 80s and early 90s were so happy to get anything from him, that they'd include the smallest non-poem thing Buk sent (an ordinary envelope without even 'Air Mail").

Having said that (and old Stick would disagree with me on this) I think there were some really great "Fuck You Death" poems that Buk wrote in the 1990s. Those were sooo much better than the depressing poems in "You Get So Alone..."

In the digital age, everything seems to vanish into thin air way faster, though. What's the life span of a new movie or "album" these days? A couple of months at best? Because of their nature, books might be different as it takes longer to finish them. But I have the impression they come and go way faster nowadays.
I started out as a reporter, but gave it up in the early 90s to chase the Internet money -- which was good. My first job was overseeing a bunch of internet copy for selling online merchandise. Around that time I realized that no Sears Catalog would be around to document this ever existed. And whatever journalism I was still doing would never be in the microfilm collection in the library basement. The idea of your words living on in some form was gone. These days I help build applications that will be gone 2 tears from now -- no one will ever know they existed. I guess it just takes more these days to leave a scar on the planet or history. Maybe that's why fuckers shoot up schools...
 
I'm with you on the fugitive nature of consuming art digitally. I feel like art reviews really have to be printed to be real. I have back issues of art journals and they are great cross-sections of history - the great, average and weak all mixed up in a slice of time. Even skimming back in a website or blog you don't get that absolutely unchanging selection: links always go dead, images get removed, websites disappear. Even the cruddiest printed material can last 80 or 120 years - sometimes longer. Plenty of websites never last even 8 years....

People talking about a record for a year - sure. But there wasn't as much to choose from back then as there are now. And to listen to a record back then you had to actually buy it (or tape your friend's copy). Music may have a shorter shelf life now just because it's been devalued in general. When you pay for a record you're a lot more likely to listen to it over and over.
Amen!
When you only had the money for 2 LPs and 6 singles per month you made damn sure you wanted them. No refunds. You had to think and commit. And if you didn't like the records you still listened to them 6 times a year because you wanted to give them a chance to grow on you. I wanted to persuade yourself you hadn't wasted your money. Also, you only had 80 records so to vary things you had to listen to even the bad ones again...
Even the bad LPs (sorry, In Living Colour) were burned into your memory.
 
What a convoluted fucking mess.

The guilty parties are dead now, so all that is left is he said/he said bullshit. I wonder now of the current agendas involved in this travesty of "righting wrongs" & of their purpose...... I know, probably an unpopular opinion, but flogging a dead horse will NOT get you more glue.
Jus' sayin'....
 
To Abel:

Earlier, you said: "I did all I could in the objective realm, and the subjective arena has been covered quite well."

Is there hope for the "objective" approach? A pipe dream, perhaps? Read below. Methods of quantification helped to prove Lennon's authorship of "In My Life" beyond a shadow of a doubt (in mathematical terms). The analysts used data (such as what you have in your digitized Buk archive).

Question: is a further quantification of the data totally out of the question?

"A mathematician has solved a 50-year-old Beatles mystery"

"The mystery of who wrote a 50-year-old Beatles song is solved, thanks to math"
 

mjp

Founding member
Nothing has been "proven" by mathematics in the case of The Beatles, and nothing could be "proven" by forensic scientific analysis as far as Bukowski books or any other kind of art.
 
Pipe dream? Sure. But it is something. Something that I addressed to Abel, and not you, mjp, as your opinions on such things are well-known (as well is your general dismissive-ness when it comes the utility of science/mathematics).

*general dismissive-ness when it comes the utility of science/mathematics (or of "forensic scientific analysis as far as Bukowski books or any other kind of art).

mjp:

...which coming from a web-designer and computer programmer is perplexing. You don't have to drink any kool-aid or anything, you don't need to stop being an artist of a writer. You could think of this an alternative approach, an alternative approach, that, in the case of the Beatles bore interesting fruit. The process started with a rabid fan (and mathematician, to be fair) who handed things over to "a pair of mathematicians from Harvard" who were able to shine light on things in a new way. Now, can these results be criticised? Of course. So, are their conclusions totally authoritative? No, but neither is the following pronouncement: "...nothing could be "proven" by forensic scientific analysis as far as Bukowski books or any other kind of art." (Actually, "forensic scientific analysis" has helped to uncover forgeries. Very often, in fact, the problem is that people don't want to believe what the experts and science tell them; take for instance the Getty Center there in LA.)

I also like how you took care to put the word proven into quotes. Twice. In the same sentence.
 
Ah, fuck. I shouldn’t laugh, I guess, but that was pretty funny...

I don’t mean to be a dick, but I can’t help but feel that we’re leaving something on the table, so to speak. Why pull up short from pursuing every avenue?

Now, have I made anywhere near the contributions to buk’s legacy as compared to others on this forum? No, I’m not delusional. I just don’t understand the reticence to quantitative analysis. It can be done—there are tech-savvy people, here connections to academia, etc. Would we get “Harvard,” probably not, but who gives a shit about that. It’s something, and case could be made for getting an analysis like this done.

One thing does have me worried, though, hence the “dickish” posts: if the reticence to statistical analysis has anything to do with an informed suspicion by some people that the results of a statistical analysis might not produce “statistically compelling” results, and that it then makes more sense to these people to minimize objective approaches, well, that would be really fucking disappointing.
 

mjp

Founding member
You seem to expect or want us to believe that you are a scientist of some kind, but your apparently impossible-to-overcome habit of posing negative hypothetical questions and going on to supply your own negative answers (then attributing those answers to others) kind of flies in the face of scientific method, doesn't it? I mean, what do I know, I'm not a scientist. Maybe that's how science works.
 
That's pretty snarky--they call stuff like that a shortcut to thinking, I think.

Anyway: I haven't been trying to prove anything (like "negative hypothetical questions"), haven't been applying the scientific method, etc. Looking for answers? I suppose I am. I do not have them, though. The hypothetical questions? A failed strategy. A poor attempt at politeness, I guess.

I am not a scientist. But, sure, in contrast to MJP, I must look like the head cheerleader for Science. But I'm not doing science here, not trying to look like a scientist. I'm hoping science will be done.

My repetitive and sometimes indirect inquiries (my "apparently impossible-to-overcome habit of posing negative hypothetical questions and [then] going on to supply [my] own negative answers (then attributing those answers to others)") were my way of being polite while treading through a community that I am far from central to. I'm not so sure about the "attributing those answers to others" part, but I'll apologize if anything like that coming from me irked you.

Anyway: my source of frustration--long before I started linking to or referencing anything--was that I found one reference to objective analysis in Abel's work (which was the subject of the thread I initially posted to on these matter), having to do with finding a single word out of place. It seemed like more could be done given the digitised archive he'd created. Now, I am not to say what should be done with his archive. That's his work. But the question of "could more be done?" keeps coming back to me. If I'm repetitive in mentioning it, I'm sorry. I hate to sound righteous or shrill or fuck all.

Anyway, I said something at first a while ago. Then I backed off. I read the forum without participating. Then I decided to jump back in. Apparently, when I did jump back in, I did a shitty job of selling my idea. But I've never been good at selling myself. That's always been (one of) my problem(s).

As for "the work," I am not a scientist. I can't do it. But, sure, in contrast to MJP, I must look like the head cheerleader for Science. But I'm not doing science here, not trying to look like a scientist. I'm hoping science will be done.

Can I Do it? No, I'm a filmmaker working odd jobs outside of my field to support myself and my daughter. I've been reading Bukowski for 20 years, and think that Abel pulled up short with respect to his research. (MJP has been a good bullhorn, though, I should say.) I'm aware that many people on this forum are real Buk authorities, and that many are friends. My habitual and repetitive and sometimes indirect inquiries were my way of being polite while treading through a community that I am far from central to.

Here’s the link: https://ww2.amstat.org/meetings/jsm/2018/onlineprogram/AbstractDetails.cfm?abstractid=329336

Also: I don't know how to merge threads, if that's what they call it.
 
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