published buk back in the day

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.


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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”

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

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


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:


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

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.

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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."


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."

Update: Spoke with Johnny. "Poop" as published by Johnny Brewton for X-Ray Book Co. (pictured above) was printed true to the original manuscript. The version later published in a book was slightly edited.

Johnny recently communicated with John Martin by email. Johnny will soon be posting clarification to above comments.

Hello, I think I better weigh in here.
Of course I'd never tamper with the integrity of Charles Bukowski's work, make edits or excerpts.
Correction: "POOP" as it stands (letterpress broadside) was 100% as received and never altered or edited. Any minor discrepancy was ironed out before the plate was ordered to print and I left it as received. I heard the book version was slightly different but cannot confirm. John Martin was always very generous and kept in the loop. As far as the missing word from "Our Bones" is concerned; this may have been a decision made between John and Bukowski. Of course I was shocked to know there was a word missing that changed it to a optimistic piece and that there was an entire poem beforehand missing that I never knew about.... But, that being said, it doesn't mean it was tampered with. We don't know what was agreed upon and we cannot know the inner workings of their author publisher relationship. I believe they trusted each other and made some really great books. I imagine poems at various stages of form may have been fine tuned. That would explain variations and inconsistencies. Anything put under a microscope would reveal the details not intended for the human eye. The John Martin I know has great deal of integrity and without proof I don't see the point of accusing him or any publishers of tampering. Without John Martin you'd probably be posting about Rod McKuen here!
-- johnny brewton


Founding member
You're coming at us with all of the same stale arguments people have been using for years. But we aren't talking about "variations and inconsistencies," and when you trivialize a serious issue without really knowing anything about it, you only make yourself look foolish. Your point of view isn't uncommon though. A lot of people believe Martin couldn't possibly be anything other than the kind, benevolent, wise old pure-of-heart publisher they believe him to be. That the evidence suggests otherwise is just an inconvenient truth. So to speak.

And forgive me, but there is absolutely no possibility that Bukowski had anything to do with your version of bones like stems. Do you really believe that any writer would voluntarily gut their work and utterly change its meaning like that? Do you really believe there is a scenario where Bukowski is sitting in front of his typewriter cutting lines out of old work and saying, "Here, use these little excerpts for something." That's what you're suggesting. I'm suggesting that what you have there is the damaging effect of Martin's grubby little red pencil right in front of your face, the "proof" you say is lacking, but you choose not to believe your own eyes. If that's not enough for you, there isn't really anything anyone here could say to convince you otherwise.

Finally, "without John Martin" we'd all still be here discussing Bukowski. Martin didn't make Bukowski. Bukowski made Bukowski. And he made Martin and Black Sparrow. Everyone who uses that tired line, "without Martin there's no Bukowski" has it backwards. Without Bukowski no one would have ever heard of Black Sparrow or John Martin. It was a symbiotic relationship, and to suggest that "without Martin" Bukowski wouldn't have somehow died unknown is quite a stretch.
mjp: Can I rent you a sense of humor? Of course you'd still be super obsessed with Charles Bukowski. Sure, it looks bad and it's easy to assume the worst. Who's to say? You'd have to ask the source to truly get to the bottom of this caper. Best luck!
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Aside from the hilarious Rod McKuen reference, I didn't realize that your post was meant as a joke and that the appropriate response was humor. Now look what I've gone and done. This is so embarrassing.

Well, thanks anyway for weighing in with a printer's point of view. That's always crucial in any discussion about art.

See what I did there? Humor!


Founding member
And as if to bring this thread full circle, the original poster sent me this today:


Funny how our memories work. See if you can spot anyone calling him a liar in this thread.

I believe he's referring to me, but doesn't realize that I'm the same guy who so callously branded him a big fat liar. But if seeing Amber's correspondence with Martin taught us anything, it's that our memories and impressions of things don't always line up with the reality of things.

Which is why life was so much better pre-Internet.
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).
Not explicitly. But stating Martin made no such threats is essentially calling me a liar after I said he in fact did so. My question is, why do you assume I am not telling the truth?
there's a revealing letter from Bukowski to John Martin from August 29, 1978 (now published in 'On Writing').

Not exactly about this matter, nor the other discussed here, but connected in a way.


Founding member
stating Martin made no such threats
I said I never heard of a lawsuit around Tarantula, and I hadn't until you showed up.
why do you assume I am not telling the truth?
I'm not saying you aren't telling the truth, I'm saying that Martin never sued anyone in the small press, and the threat was just that, a threat. Of course it worked on almost everyone, because, who want's to be sued?

But also, human memory is faulty. You don't have any correspondence, you have a 30 year old memory of a phone call and your impressions or what was said. The author of Blowing My Hero told a similar story to yours, but then when the actual correspondence became available we learned that Martin never told her she couldn't sell the book, he simply told her never to reprint it with Bukowski's letters in it.

So, again, I'm not saying you're lying. We have other people's stories of similar things happening to them, so we know it was one of the tactics that Martin used to bully people into doing what he wanted them to do (and not incidentally creating new "rare collectibles" for him to sell to his collectors along the way). What I am saying is based on your memories alone I don't trust the details of the story. Because memory is fallible. And seeing how you put an evil twist on innocuous comments here makes me doubt your memory in particular even more.

And the way that you took what was said in the initial responses to your post and spun it into "THOSE PEOPLE IDOLIZE JOHN MARTIN!!!!" makes me question not only your memory, but your grip on reality in general. Anyone who spent more than five minutes here could see that's definitely not the case.
Rather typical you resort to an ad hominem attack in response to an incident that happened when you were in diapers. Since you consider libertarianism kooky, I am assume you are a Democrat or liberal. However, politics have nothing to do with the incident and it is rather disingenuous and vicious of you to insert such in the conversation. Despite your insistence I am suffering from memory issues, I can assure you Martin in fact did threaten a lawsuit. I never said he actually initiated one. I am not in the habit of recording telephone conversations as you might be, being a self-proclaimed "podcast" blogger. You did insinuate I am a liar, and that's why I responded, as anybody would. I should have realized, knowing the reputation of the Bukowski fawners that this would be the outcome, particularly the ad hominem bullshit inserted merely as an insult. I am impressed, however, that you did spend time Googling my name and scanning my political articles. Of course, you didn't bother to research anything I wrote and merely adopted the liberal mantra that anything outside of the mainstream is a conspiracy theory. Considering your penchant for adopting the opinions and attitudes of the herd, you might want to close down this forum and start one fawning over Stephen King or Danielle Steele.


Art should be its own hammer.
Founding member
The Danielle Steele forum I run is already highly successful. I think starting another one would be a huge waste of time. But if you want to try, that's your right as a liberal democrat. I won't tread on that.

Almost forgot: ad hominem.
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