The senseless, tragic rape of Charles Bukowski’s ghost by John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
Founding member
well, all i can say - again - to that is if you don't mind or notice the changes and think there's nothing
wrong with tampering with an artists work after they're dead and unable to do anything about it - approve
or object, and it's hard to imagine bukowski approving all or any of the changes - then there's nothing really
to discuss.


Founding member
sorry to ruffle feathers.
You're not ruffling anyone's feathers. You should say what you believe. You're wrong, but it's okay to be wrong. We're all wrong about something. And you're not alone in your belief that a non-artist taking a knife to art is okay.

Personally, I find no joy in watching the movie like Goodfellas when every "fuck" in the dialog has been changed to "golly" by some television network. Did the movie change? By your standards it didn't, because the storyline still makes some kind of sense. By my standards, the intentions of the people who made the movie have been completely subverted and perverted and it's no longer the movie they made.

For the same reason, I take no joy in Martin's clumsy attempts at whitewashing. I'm always a little surprised when someone defends them. Even if you don't believe they're harmful, they're utterly unnecessary. In every case.
I've spent most of the day trawling through them and I do hear you. Some of them are total howlers! Or just weak. Deflating. Cumbersome.
So yeah. I am tending towards 'view them as duds' what is interesting though is my first full collection of Bukowski's was 'What matters most is how well you walk through the fire' and I fucking loved it. And totally 'capture' Bukowski through in that sense maybe, just maybe Martin's interference, though shit, doesn't completely murder Bukowski. I also own 'Sifting through the madness...' which I think suffers more from Martin's editing than 'What mattes most...' thankfully those are the only two I own that have 'Martin's stink' on them. :)

p.s. I just re-read the timeline after many years having never looked at it. You guys are excellent. That is a feat of dedication and loyalty to someone's life! So much fucking detail! loved it.
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Reading this makes me pine for the rest of the Back to the Machine Gun series (stuck at vol 3 of a planned 8) but there are plenty of manuscripts on this site to hunt down poems, plus the many books published when he was alive...
Shoot even his early books are not entirely untouched... for example in Mockingbird there is a poem titled "get the nose."

The manuscript differs from the published version in 2 places:

The addition of "I said" on line 12... and the removal of the last 2 lines of the poem:

"kill him, he makes me

Now, maybe Bukowski made these edits before publication. But they smell like Martin edits -- the needless schoolteacher nature of the "I said" and the prudish effort to sanitize by removing a violent conclusion.

These are minor edits, I know... compared to the posthumous stuff it's nothing at all. Still, makes me wonder...
I'm thinking about getting Bone Palace Ballet because of some rather powerful poems but would greatly appreciate if someone could chime in concerning how badly it has become Martinized. Any input is more than welcome!
Sorry for the brevity.

In the database you have access to a lot of manuscripts from that collection, and the manuscripts usually differ from the collected versions.
Having said that, I‘ve never read Bone Palace, so I don‘t know how painful the changes are.


Your host
Founding member
You can have my copy.

I've been storing it in a fire pit on the back patio. It's been too hot to have a fire, so it's still mostly there.


But here's the rundown. 176 poems, 74 of which we know have been "edited."

I'm quite sure that if we had manuscripts for the other 102 they would be marked as "differs from Black Sparrow book version" too.
I think that settles it then. Thanks for all the input. I leave it and never look at it again. Similarly to the other of the dirty dozen posthumus Sparrow books. Martin, be damned.

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
After Bukowski died, these posthumous books were something we all could look forward to at the time. It sounded like a great promise. And as they came out, one after another, the overwhelming response was that Bukowski's writing had declined in his later years. But the truth is, most of these poems were written many years prior and were not weak. It was only after the great editor decided to add his own creative touch that they became unrecognizable. "Watered down" doesn't even come close to describing what actually happened.


"The law is wrong; I am right"
And the Great Editor who edited (cough-cough) the poems sure did´nt like Buk using profane words so out they went.
these posthumous books [...] a great promise. And as they came out, one after another, [...] the overwhelming response was [...] decline
Yes, the lack of quality and decency and style was so obvious, even though we didn't know then, what had happened.
When I ran the bukowski-shop, I didn't consider offering any of the posthumous books. They were never in my program, not even in the years before we found out what was going on.


Your host
Founding member
Yes, it has, and no she isn't.

She's limited in what she can do about it though. Only the publisher can "fix" the problem, and there is little no financial motivation for them to do that.

If someone can figure out how to make money doing it, it will be done. Otherwise, it's an uphill battle.
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