published buk back in the day

Decided to join the forum. In 1982, I published a Charles Bukowski chapbook that nearly resulted in a lawsuit by his publisher, John Martin. The chapbook was Relentless as the Tarantula. It is now online, although I don't know if this PDF version resulted in threats of lawsuits and damnation. For the record, I have nothing to do with the online version.

Get it here.

I also published a lot of Bukowski in the zine I produced back in the early 1980s, Planet Detroit. Published a whole lot of other great writers and poets, too.

I have not paid attention to any of this since the mid-1990s, so I don't know what's going on. Thought I'd jump back in and see what happens.
 
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mjp

Founding member
Relentless as the Tarantula does kind of stick out as odd in the Bukowski oevre. Maybe because there hasn't been much written about it.

I never heard of a potential lawsuit. When we scratch the surface of a lot of these Martin "lawsuits" we find that Martin made no such threats at all (see: Blowing My Hero).

Which isn't to say that he couldn't be a prick. But I'm just a little wary when I hear his name and "lawsuit" in the same breath.
 
In fact, he did. I received a phone call in 1982 from Martin. I also received a letter from Bukowski making excuses for Martin's behavior after I related the phone call to him in a letter. Martin demanded I send ALL copies of the chapbook to him and in return he sent the entire Black Sparrow line available at the time. Sorry about your wariness. It was thirty years ago, so I don't remember the exact conversation, but I do remember the tenor. I also distinctly recall Martin saying: "Go find your own Bukowski!" Very territorial. It was a chapbook printed in an addition of two hundred. Martin ended up with most of them. Interesting that you find the chapbook "odd." It was well received in the small press at the time, as were most of the Planet Detroit titles by Gerald Locklin, Steve Richmond and others.
 

Hosh

hoshomccreesh.com
Relentless as the Tarantula does kind of stick out as odd in the Bukowski oevre. Maybe because there hasn't been much written about it.

Seems like nowheresville is in exactly the right position to change this...and I, for one, would love to hear more about how the book came to be.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
Hi Nowheresville, welcome. I (David Barker) had some stuff in Planet Detroit in the 80s. If you're the guy I think you are, I've seen your name on political essays in recent years. Always wondered why (or if) you left literature behind.
 

mjp

Founding member
Interesting that you find the chapbook "odd." It was well received in the small press at the time, as were most of the Planet Detroit titles...
Odd meaning different, not odd meaning less than. It occupies a unique space between the typical fold-and-staple-job chapbooks and the standard BSP titles (or the lavish LouJon titles).

Also odd in that it was published when it was. Bukowski's "chapbook era" had been over for 15 years by then. It was pretty much only Malone doing the occasional chapbook by the mid-80s (Going Modern and some other minor/fringy things notwithstanding), since Martin had him locked up otherwise.

Relentless always stood out (as odd) to me for those reasons.
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
I definitely believe our new friend based on Harry Calhoun's account of a very similar effort with Pig in a Pamphlet in the same time period. The result was incredibly similar...

I always wanted a copy of Tarantula, but wondered why copies of it were expensive and seemingly rare. This explains it.

I wonder if Martin sent the returned copies over to Buk for signing, like he did Pig...
 

mjp

Founding member
Threatening a lawsuit and filing a lawsuit are two very different things.

I don't doubt that he bandied the threat about in some of these instances. But the bottom line is he never actually sued anyone for publishing Bukowski. So those threats could be taken with a grain of salt.

Of course he could - and did - do other things, outside of the legal system, to cause someone discomfort amongst their peers, so to speak. He handled things his own way. Like a soft, pudgy, wanna-be-gangster/coward. He just never sued anyone. A technicality, I suppose.
 
I always wanted a copy of Tarantula, but wondered why copies of it were expensive and seemingly rare. This explains it.

I wonder if Martin sent the returned copies over to Buk for signing, like he did Pig...
I bought a nice, clean copy for about $125 three or four years ago on ebay. It has Buk's signature near the bottom of the cover and I've seen pictures of two or three others with similar signatures, so it would seem plausible.
 

jordan

lothario speedwagon
the whole "i'm going to sue you, so send me all the copies, and i'll send you back some black sparrow books" seems like it was his go-to strategy. that's unfortunate, since none of the people he threatened to sue represented any sort of real competitive threat, nor did they stand to make more than a few hundred bucks off of publishing bukowski. i understand that he felt territorial, but by that point, his reward was that he had become wealthy and built a successful publishing company - it isn't as if he toiled in obscurity to develop bukowski only to see small press publishers snatch him away to the riches that only a life of publishing chapbooks can offer.
 
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It is a rather sad state of affairs. But one could argue that the books sent in remuneration might be worth more than the possible profits of a 200-copy chapbook run. Check your ego, get what you can. Especially in the face of a possible (if unlikely) lawsuit. I know, this is generally the antithesis of what the small press is about. But perhaps the outcome wasn't completely outrageous. Then again, perhaps it set a tone for future chaps. I wonder if Buk drew the line at Wormwood. I mean, Marvin didn't "get his own Bukowski." Or did he?
 

mjp

Founding member
Malone (or Webb for that matter) could have said, "Get your own Bukowski" to Martin.

Martin was just the most ambitious of the three, so Bukowski threw his lot in with him. There was a good cop/bad cop thing with Bukowski and Martin. Bukowski said 'yes' to everything and then apologized to the publishers Martin offended or threatened. But you have to believe that Bukowski was behind at least some of Martin's bluster.

But in the case of Malone there was that angry letter Bukowski sent to Martin telling him that Malone was important to him and his career and that when Martin suggested not sending so much work to Malone that he didn't know which side of his bread was buttered. So to speak. That Martin didn't understand how Bukowski built his career and how the small press/lit mag scene worked.

It seems pretty clear that Martin felt he owned Bukowski the product, and was entitled to call the shots. If that wasn't apparent when Bukowski was alive, it certainly is apparent in the utter disdain and disregard for Bukowski's work that is on display in the posthumous collections.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
It is a rather sad state of affairs. But one could argue that the books sent in remuneration might be worth more than the possible profits of a 200-copy chapbook run. Check your ego, get what you can. Especially in the face of a possible (if unlikely) lawsuit. [...]

I wouldn't make that trade willingly, as a small press publisher. You sink a lot of work and your own money in publishing something, you want to have a chance to make the profits, not to mention be the guy who's distributing it. It would feel like a chickenshit deal to me. If you turned around and sold the BSP books right away, you'd get 20 to 25% of cover price from most used bookstores. I got a nasty letter from Martin threatening a law suit when I published Charles Bukowski Spit In My Face. I think the way he phrased it was that he was having his lawyers look it over. I felt pressured, and I felt pressure from other directions, some of which may have been Martin's doings -- I don't know. As mjp says, he thought he owned Bukowski the product. It's always seemed like nothing but greed to me, wanting to have all the action.
 
Well, I hear you David. The threat of a lawsuit can run the gamut of empty words to the need to hire an attorney. Time and money. I guess what I'm saying is that it is a lousy deal from a philosophical perspective, but sometimes you have to weigh the odds and make a choice. My limited experience with attorneys (mjp's Attorney excluded, of course) is that I'd rather not get pulled into that realm. People bank on that as part of their leverage.
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
I was threatened with a lawsuit once. They could not have won, but it would have cost me 100x what I would have made from the chapbook to defend myself. If I won, I could have been awarded damages (California takes these things seriously), but I scrapped the ms and went with another one. The book was later published by a press in another country. If the person that threatened me even found out about it, they would have had a hell of a time finding an attorney to take a case across international borders with little to no chance of being able to even collect on any judgement.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
[...] I guess what I'm saying is that it is a lousy deal from a philosophical perspective, but sometimes you have to weigh the odds and make a choice. [...]

True. It could be, also, a lousy deal financially, if you have money invested in printing the book and need to get that back from sales. Suddenly, you have a box of Black Sparrow Press titles, some of which may be cool, and some of which may not interest you. I think it was Martin's way of trying to turn a bad experience into a good experience for the offending publisher, and Martin still wins.

He didn't offer me a box of books, didn't ask for all of the copies of Charles Bukowski Spit In My Face, and I ignored his veiled threat and wasn't sued. But then, I wasn't publishing anything written by Buk, just about him. What was he going to sue me for -- libel? Buk's a public figure so that might be tough to win.
 

mjp

Founding member
The bottom line is he couldn't sue anyone anyway, so they were empty threats.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but any contractual responsibility for exclusivity where an author is concerned lies with the author. If Bukowski had an exclusive contract with Martin, the contract was between the two of them, so only the two of them could breach that contract.

Since Bukowski submitted the poems to the publishers for publication, if Martin had a problem with any of those publications, the only person he could really sue would be Bukowski.

Of course that's logic, and logic and law don't always go hand in hand.
 
To clarify the previous comment, what Mr. Phillips meant to say is that he firmly believes that the law is always and has always been unerringly logical, just and equitable, and that contractual issues such as he referred to and commented upon are far outside any realm of expertise he may or may not possess, now or in the future.

Thank you.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
There's no need to praise the website. Send money instead! :wb:
 
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but any contractual responsibility for exclusivity where an author is concerned lies with the author. If Bukowski had an exclusive contract with Martin, the contract was between the two of them, so only the two of them could breach that contract.

Since Bukowski submitted the poems to the publishers for publication, if Martin had a problem with any of those publications, the only person he could really sue would be Bukowski.
As I understand it, MJP is correct. If there was a written contract for exclusive BSP publication of all Buk poetry in volume form, or first refusal of same, then Martin could only have sued Buk, not any third party. Has anyone seen such a contract? I know there was that famous agreement to pay a stipend but I can't remember what was promised in return. Can anyone help?
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
I've been wondering how Illuminati managed to publish A Visitor Complains of My Disenfranchise back in 1987 if Martin was blocking these other projects.

I just read the PDF for the first time and noticed the last poem, “I pour a drink and toast the love of my luck”

Martin republished this as broadside in 2001, butchering it with his impeccable editing.

He even renamed it, giving it a title that makes no sense in the context of the poem:
“I pour a drink and toast love”

(Sorry for the blood pressure boost, MJP)

I pour a drink and toast love.jpg
 
I've been wondering how Illuminati managed to publish A Visitor Complains of My Disenfranchise back in 1987 if Martin was blocking these other projects.
Not sure about that but City Lights published Notes of Dirty Old Man in the 70s, when Buk was "under contract". My understanding of that was that Martin passed over the material because he thought it was ephemeral and substandard and might damage Buk's rep as a poet, so Martin didn't have a deadlock on all projects. I guess Martin had first refusal on book publications. Does that sound right?
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
I've been wondering how Illuminati managed to publish A Visitor Complains of My Disenfranchise back in 1987 if Martin was blocking these other projects.
A Visitor Complains is a bootleg. It was completely done without permissions. It was not mentioned as a bootleg in Krumhansl, I got this info from one of the people who made it. Still, as bootlegs go, it is a beauty.

Also, having Buk sign bootlegs makes them a bit more official. If Buk was REALLY pissed about it, he would not have signed them. Including it in Krumhansl also helps make it appear as an official release.
 

mjp

Founding member
I would assume a good bibliography wouldn't concern itself with the "legitimacy" of the publication, but rather that it exists. There is a lot of "questionable" stuff in Krumhansl. Of course I have no idea what a bibliography is supposed to do, since a lot of bibliographers seems to make up their own rules of inclusion.
 
Not sure about that but City Lights published Notes of Dirty Old Man in the 70s, when Buk was "under contract". My understanding of that was that Martin passed over the material because he thought it was ephemeral and substandard and might damage Buk's rep as a poet, so Martin didn't have a deadlock on all projects. I guess Martin had first refusal on book publications. Does that sound right?
My recollection from reading about this was more to the point that Martin didn't condone the language/subject matter of Notes and EEEATOOM and didn't want to include it under the Black Sparrow imprint. Whether he thought it was ephemeral (I doubt it) and substandard (I guess so, but perhaps more for alleged "ethical" reasons rather than for viability of publication reasons) and might damage Buk's rep as a poet (that would be just terribly ironic, now wouldn't it?).
 
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I would assume a good bibliography wouldn't concern itself with the "legitimacy" of the publication, but rather that it exists. There is a lot of "questionable" stuff in Krumhansl. Of course I have no idea what a bibliography is supposed to do, since a lot of bibliographers seems to make up their own rules of inclusion.
There are almost as many methodologies as there are bibliographers. You also find that in fine art. There are whole discussions about how a catalogue raisonne should be compiled. What is authentic, legitimate, authorised, etc? These are philosophical and semantic issues and what the compiler thinks influences how s/he works.
Lots of iffy stuff to these. If the compiler happens to need cooperation from the estate, sometimes that estate strongarms the compiler into excluding certain unauthorised or "damaging" material in return for permissions. Sometimes the subject conceals material. There is an amusing letter from Larkin to his bibliographer asking if he is duty-bound to reveal the most turgid pieces of rubbish he published as a student or whether he can conceal this material. I don't recall what reply he got.
 

jddougher

Founding member
Decided to join the forum. In 1982, I published a Charles Bukowski chapbook that nearly resulted in a lawsuit by his publisher, John Martin. The chapbook was Relentless as the Tarantula.
Very nice to run into you after all these years. I'm pretty sure I appeared in Planet Detroit, and I still have a copy of Relentless. I no longer remember whether I received it from you or from Bukowski.

I also enjoyed reading your commentary on Mr. Martin. I remember him being quite covetous of his publishing relationship with Bukowski--perhaps deservedly so, since he invested in Bukowski when others did not, but many in the small press world would have been taken aback by Mr. Martin's aggressive stance in the face of potential publishing ventures outside of Black Sparrow.

In any case, your post brought back some interesting memories, and I must now go downstairs in the storage room of this place where I live to dig out the stash of little magazines, Buk papers, and other artifacts that I have from those years.

Thumbs up.
 
I remembered reading in one of those collections of Buk's letters when Buk had to intervene on behalf of a small press publisher to get some work in a mag. John Martin relented, which was a nice touch.
 
I just read the PDF for the first time and noticed the last poem, “I pour a drink and toast the love of my luck”

Martin republished this as broadside in 2001, butchering it with his impeccable editing.

He even renamed it, giving it a title that makes no sense in the context of the poem:
“I pour a drink and toast love”
PM,

Wow, the BSP broadside is substantially different from Bukowski's original poem printed in Relentless As The Tarantula. I wonder who made the revisions? Martin in 2001 or Buk in the '80s? The additions weaken it quite a bit.
 
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Michael, I just read your features "The senseless, tragic rape of Charles Bukowski's ghost by John Martin's Black Sparrow Press," and "The senseless, tragic rape of Charles Bukowski's ghost; the prequel."

Intriguing reportage.

I haven't read "The tragic flogging of a dead rape horse, a.k.a. locking the door on Bukowski's ghost and throwing away the key" yet.

Your conversation with Mark Terrill in the comments of the Prequel is interesting.

The Prequel shows an X-Ray Book Co. piece from 2004.

The X-Ray piece features a three-line fragment (printed in ALL CAPS) from Bukowski's original 1971 manuscript of the poem, "Song for this softly sweeping sorrow..."

Ah! I'm listening to your podcast right now and you're talking about it. You read the '71 poem, "Song for this softly sweeping sorrow..." which ends--

our bones
like stems into the sky
will forever cry
victory.

--then you note: "Here's what Martin sent out for publication:

OUR BONES
LIKE STEMS INTO THE SKY
WILL FOREVER CRY.

That's it. That's the entire poem, according to John Martin."

Michael, what stands out to me is the bottom of the X-Ray card:

X-RAY BOOK CO.
COPYRIGHT © 2004
LINDA LEE BUKOWSKI

Is it possible that Linda Lee Bukowski as copyright-holder may have submitted this "pull-quote" to X-Ray for letterpress publication purposes? Not John Martin?

Without "VICTORY." as the last line?

Yes, it is possible.

I'm friends with Johnny Brewton, who makes X-Ray with his wife, Giselle.

It is my understanding that Johnny contacted Linda Lee Bukowski direct for the submission.

Maybe Johnny proposed the three-liner to Linda Lee and she approved it?

I know Johnny enjoys printing short pieces for maximum impact.

I checked a few of the Side-by-Side Poem Comparisons from Bukowski.net.

The differences are striking.

I think what you noted about the First Printing of Women, citing Bukowski's alleged objections to the unauthorized changes that had been made--which were corrected (or restored to his original manuscript) in the Second Printing on--is significant. Haven't checked the side-by-side on Women yet.

What you're on to would make a great book or documentary. The blog is its own book or documentary, and I appreciate your work on it. Thanks for the links so I can study this in more detail when time allows.

Mike
 
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mjp

Founding member
Maybe Johnny proposed the three-liner to Linda Lee and she approved it?
Whoever proposed it or edited it completely changed the meaning by leaving out the last word of the stanza, so I'm not sure you want to give credit for that move to your friend.

For the record, Martin did send out excerpts similar to that one to other publishers, and used excerpts himself in the chapter headings of some of the posthumous books, which is why I assumed it was his handiwork. I wouldn't have suspected Brewton of making that change himself. It shows not only incredible disrespect for the work, but a complete lack of understanding of it. So again, maybe best not to lay that at his doorstep.

In any event, you're concerned with using that X-RAY card as an example because the publisher is a friend of yours, which is understandable. But in the scheme of things, that card is one slippery grain of sand on a oil-soaked beach. Only a very small handful of people will ever see it. Thousands of people read those posthumous books. Probably hundreds of thousands over the years. And as I mentioned a few times across those articles and podcast, the who and the why hardly matter. The destruction matters, and until it's made right, people should have the option of knowing that what they're reading might not be kosher. So to speak.

Thanks for reading and listening to all of that.
 
Dear mjp, the destruction matters. Your stance against it is admirable.

On my lunch hour today, I watched the video that zobraks linked above (thanks zobraks--great video). I wrote an email to Johnny Brewton. I asked: "Have you heard of the controversy about 400+ Bukowski poems appearing in his posthumous books with substantial revisions? I hadn't until this week. Only books of poetry published after Bukowski died are affected. The differences in some are major. You can see my comment on the thread and Michael's response. It wasn't my intention to 'lay that at [your] doorstep.' I wondered if Linda Lee Bukowski had submitted that part of the poem for X-Ray."

Johnny responded:

[7:13 PM]

I transcribed directly from the typed manuscript pages. No alterations would ever be appropriate!

Sent from a Portable Telefone

[7:19 PM]

Oh, I see! That's the way John Martin submitted the poem to me. He fucking left out a word? Shit! I'll reprint a corrected version.

Sent from a Portable Telefone

[7:24 PM]

Also, there was always the stipulation with John of adding copyright Linda Lee Bukowski.

Sent from a Portable Telefone


[7:26 PM]

Also, John Martin told me they were previously unpublished.

I seem to recall the book version of Poop was incomplete.

Sent from a Portable Telefone

[7:29 PM]

I'd never fuck with his poems. Please post my comments.

Sent from a Portable Telefone

[7:32 PM]

Call me:
[***-***-****]

Sent from a Portable Telefone

Michael, I called Johnny. I should have had my mini-cassette recorder ready because he had some great comments. For example: "When it's poetry, you can't fuck around with one word." Johnny was unaware that the three lines he printed as the letterpress card were culled out-of-context from Bukowski's '71 poem, "Song for this softly-sweeping sorrow..."

Was "Song for this softly-sweeping sorrow..." ever published anywhere?

(Johnny hasn't seen the full poem posted on your blog. He was away from his laptop. He's currently in L.A. doing work for Mark Mothersbaugh.)

This is the X-Ray broadside Johnny was referring to earlier when he wrote: "I seem to recall the book version of Poop was incomplete."

poop_ebay.jpg


According to Johnny, Bukowski's poem "Poop" (as it was submitted to X-RAY direct from John Martin) had been edited. Johnny said the edited poem he received felt "off" from the original. Johnny said he wanted to publish "Poop" per Bukowski's original manuscript--not the edited version. They (JB and JM) went back-and-forth on it. Despite all that Johnny did to try to get it precise, "Poop" wasn't 100% Buk.

Regarding Linda Lee Bukowski, Johnny said, "She's really cool and I don't think she would mess with things."

So Michael, you were right. I was wrong.

Johnny said: "Hey, thanks for letting me know about that stuff. It's disturbing."

Mike
 
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