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

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
I honestly don't believe that anything can be done (on a large enough scale) to restore the integrity of Bukowski's posthumously published poetry.

It's probably wishful thinking, but if there's money to be made by publishing the un-edited posthumous poems then Ecco might be interested in doing so at some point. They could easily make a big thing out of it ("Ecco presents, for the first time ever, the un-edited posthumous poem collections by Charles Bukowski bla-bla-bla").
 
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Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
But when a researcher here on the site asked Martin a series of questions about the changes, one of the things Martin said was, “When Hank would revise his poems, he would retype them, not simply correct them by hand, before sending them to me. I have no idea what he did with any hand-corrected typescripts (assuming he did correct some by hand).”

When Bukowski got his computer, he alludes to this approach in a few places. This one is from page 39 of "The Captain is out to Lunch..."

With a typewriter it's like walking through mud. With a computer, it's ice skating. It's a blazing blast. Of course, if there's nothing inside you, it doesn't matter. And then there's the clean-up work, the corrections. Hell, I used to have to write everything twice. The first time to get it down and the second time to correct the errors and fuckups. This way, it's one run for the fun, the glory and the escape.

It is also worth reading his letter to Jon Cone on page 274 of Reach for the Sun.
 

mjp

Founding member
Hell, I used to have to write everything twice. The first time to get it down and the second time to correct the errors and fuckups.
Yet, according to poet Mark Terrill in his comments, "Almost all of the poem" manuscripts in the Black Sparrow files were extensively re-written; "with many words and even entire lines crossed out, with alternative words written in the margins, and with entirely rewritten stanzas scribbled in hand at the bottom of the pages, making it somewhat difficult to read the actual poem... I had in my hands and saw with my own eyes pages and pages of Bukowski's typewritten poems with extensive handwritten changes, virtual palimpsests, made by Bukowski himself. No question, no doubts whatsoever."

So I guess Bukowski was lying, and only Mark Terrill knows the real truth, that Bukowski did not re-type poems before he sent them to Martin. Instead he sent his publisher manuscripts so riddled with hand corrections that they were barely legible.

Yet in Martin's own words, “When Hank would revise his poems, he would retype them, not simply correct them by hand, before sending them to me. I have no idea what he did with any hand-corrected typescripts (assuming that he did correct some by hand).”

So maybe, just maybe, Mr. Terrill was in dumbfounded awe of John Martin "palimsests." All signs (from Bukowski and Martin) would seem to confirm that. Terrill has tried to make a case for the posthumous work all being revised by Bukowski, but what he's probably done instead is provide an eyewitness account of Martin's revisions.

It is also worth reading his letter to Jon Cone on page 274 of Reach for the Sun.
[To Jon Cone]
January 19, 1993 11:40 PM

I don't know about the price because I got them as an Xmas present, a Macintosh IIsi computer and a Personal Laser Printer. Once you get in to these things you'll hate a typewriter if you ever have to go back to it, such things as ribbons, carbons, white-outs and hand shifting, etc., will seem stupid and galling. You correct your copy right off the screen. The computer even corrects your spelling for you. And you can save all your work on disks which can be filed into a small space, any portion of which can be reprinted in as many copies as you wish. And the copy just looks so much better than typewritten copy. Everything saves you hours and those hours can be used as you wish sleep, drink, go to a movie, pet your cat, walk your dog, take a bath, muse. For me, actually, it has doubled my creative output and somehow strengthened it.

I'd advise you to go for a computer and a printer, doubt you'll ever regret. In the beginning there might be some minor frustrations but as you continue to go along these will vanish. Go for it, if you can. You'll be delighted, damned delighted.​
 

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
Founding member
interesting!

thanks for finding that. looks like the fire's spreading. 8-))
 

PhillyDave

“The essential doesn't change.” Beckett
Burroughs fans, collectors, and such are pretty wordy and web savy it seems. I can feel the heat and yes i believe "the fire's spreading" too.
 
So John Martin is a cynical genius who post 1970 decided to create an evil empire of manufactured collectibles whose prices would ebb and flow depending upon Bukowski's current standing in the zeitgeist. He knew that poetry was the literary avenue on which he would drive his armored car to the Bukowski Bank. Maybe.
What matters is the quality of the work which was clearly diminished post Betting due to John Martin's necrophilic tendencies.
While there are some salient points about editing, intent and the business of publishing in general, I feel slightly nauseous after digesting that bloated self-contradicting fish.
 

PhillyDave

“The essential doesn't change.” Beckett
"What matters is the quality of the work which was clearly diminished post Betting due to John Martin's necrophilic tendencies."

There you go. In a nutshell.
 

mjp

Founding member
It doesn't matter if anyone else who writes about the issue agrees or disagrees. It's always good to spread the love! People will make up their own minds.

For what it's worth, I don't see any traffic at my blog from that site (0 referrers), so I don't know how popular it is. It's certainly thoughtful, and I've read a lot of their articles.
 
As for a "satisfactory resolution," I think that should be obvious. I don't think it will happen at HarperCollins/Ecco because there's no financial incentive for them to restore the work.

Unedited collectible versions? Cha-ching.
It's about damn time that the publishing industry realize something car manufacturers and software developers have long known: release a broken product then force consumers to pay for the fix.
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
I just came across this one while researching something else. This is why MJP's fight is worth the cause... And why it's worth all of us to pursue the cause.
Unfortunately, the posthumous poetry collections have been patchy at best. In an indisputable act of necrophilia, Ecco has been exploiting the dead poet's odds and ends for years now, mercilessly sullying the back catalogue of one of America's greatest contemporary poets. But since - thankfully - this new collection supposedly marks the end of such acts of desecration, maybe it is time for the Bukowski-doubters to calmly reappraise the man's work, laying aside all former prejudices. Go on. I think you might be pleasantly surprised ...
I have read lots of Bukowski poems in magazines from 1990 - 1993 and in my opinion, he never gave up the ghost. His shit was even angrier and sharper towards the end in a lot of cases. Sure, he was dieing and there are some poems where he is dwelling on that and it is very somber. But he also gets pissed at some points during these years and the switchblade he writes with is classic. He's as mad and angry as when he was much younger... He never became completely soft. Here's one very simple, but very funny example near the end...
 

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Those whoreson dog poems are absolute proof that not only had he not lost his magic, but that his work was deepening right to the finish.
In regards to that, does anyone know or have a reasonable guess as to what his final poem was? Not his last published, but his last written. Maybe this has previously been discussed in a thread.
 
So that's where he keeps Hank! Very convenient for a necrophiliac. Driving to the morgue/boneyard leaves too big a carbon footprint.
 

jddougher

Founding member
It's curious that a lot of people who disagree with the facts regarding the of mangling of Bukowski's work would prefer that the subject not be discussed at all. I honestly don't understand that.

Side by side poem comparisons and dissection of Bukowski's work habits aside, this is an interesting issue because the most damning evidence isn't mechanical or technical, but literary. And as such, is open to interpretation.

I can offer one interpretation for the muted response to your work.

I don't know you at all, so I'm not sure how well you take criticism. Let's assume you want to hear honest opinions, though. I read your blog post, and I feel that your very good observations could be delivered in a way that is less inflammatory, less accusatory, and therefore more effective. The title of the blog post alone is distracting, as it draws attention to your own vulgarly-stated conclusions without first allowing the reader the opportunity to participate in the methodology that led to your conclusions. At this point we are all scholars of Bukowski, and I feel as though we need to approach the understanding of this man's work carefully, taking all sides into consideration before we draw conclusions. Certainly we all owe Mr. Martin a great deal of gratitude for allowing Bukowski to write full-time, and I have to imagine that Bukowski himself, in his gratitude toward Mr. Martin, would have afforded the man ample latitude in editing his work. What I'm missing from your analysis is the perspective of Martin himself--or perhaps the perspective of Ecco. I would like to see all sides presented objectively, and I would like to see a more measured tone in your work. Then, I think, your observations would actually be more valuable and would be better received.
 
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Hosh

hoshomccreesh.com
...and I have to imagine that Bukowski himself, in his gratitude toward Mr. Martin, would have afforded the man ample latitude in editing his work...

I don't think that's true...at least not beyond the run-of-the-mill misspellings, and grammar, etc -- which he didn't seem to mind having polished up.

Was it the novel Women that Buk was so upset over how it had been changed that he demanded BSP return to the original manuscript for the 2nd printing? I feel like there are a few letters dealing specifically with how Bukowski felt about being editied so heavily...
 

mjp

Founding member
I can offer one interpretation for the muted response to your work.
I'm not sure how you extrapolated a "muted" response to the articles from anything I've said here. Perhaps you are projecting. The response has been far from muted. What it has been is polarized. People are either sickened and outraged, or they scratch their professor beards and say "You used curse words and there's no academic evidence here! Therefore everything you say is invalid! Invalid!"

Which misses the point. I'm not interested in academia or convincing scholars of anything. As I said in the last article, "anyone with one good eye and half a soul can see it on the page." I leave the academic masturbation to those who find value in such things. I am not one of those people.
I have to imagine that Bukowski himself, in his gratitude toward Mr. Martin, would have afforded the man ample latitude in editing his work.
Yes, I'm sure Bukowski was so indebted to Martin that he would gladly sit aside and watch as Martin mangled and destroyed half of his work and all of his legacy. Why not? Of course Martin waiting until Bukowski was dead to make his wholesale changes kind of contradicts your assumption.
I would like to see a more measured tone in your work.
I would like to see a lot of things. Bukowski's actual writing, a viable American middle class, a Mexican donkey fucking John Martin in the ass - but you know we can't always get what we want. Sometimes we have to make do with what we have.

I hope the preceding met with everyone's standards and expectations. God bless you all.
 
What Mr. Phillips meant to say was that he agrees with those who believe that more academic research should be done, and he fully supports those who engage in such noble endeavors. Furthermore, any references to "Mexican donkeys" are likely the result of nefarious underworld figures "hacking" or "hijacking" Mr. Phillips' account here on the bulletin board, and should be ignored, stricken from the record and reported to authorities.
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
I think that there is a genuine hostility going on, but it's a very touchy subject. We live in an age of horrible conspiracy plots with mad men taking advantage of the ignorant mass of humanity out there. It's so much easier thanks to social media than when Jim Jones had his day. Is MJP a modern day Jim Jones? No. Unlike 911 and the World Trade Center or TWA Flight whatever, you don't need to rely on the opinion of some engineer or an "expert" of some kind to present the evidence and convince you. All you need to understand MJP's argument is a first grade reading ability and a little common sense. It's all there. No one needs to drink the Kool Aid to see it. Sure MJP is pissed off and it comes through. But that's because it's so fucking obvious how much damage has been done and it's hard to take.
 
I was a Martin apologist for a minute because I wanted to find value in the posthumous works, but of
course there is none (except for Betting). But Dougher' s assertion that we are all now Bukowski scholars
is ludicrous. I would never stoop to scholarship regarding Hank' s work, it means too much to me.
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
As much as I wished this wasn't real, it's real. And the reason I wish it wasn't real is because I gave up on my hero and dismissed it as old age and end of life. I dimissed the angriest mother fucker on the planet because I thought he got soft. I now know he never got soft. He may have not been raped, but he was fucked. And I hold Linda accountable every bit as Martin, if for nothing else but being lazy. Rich and lazy...
 

mjp

Founding member
Well, one man's "rich" is another man's "just getting by," isn't it.

But I wouldn't lay any of the blame for the posthumous clusterfuck at Linda's door. Is it her job to compare the finished books to manuscripts? I don't think it is.

We don't know what she knows or doesn't know, but ultimately, editing and publishing the books isn't her responsibility. The responsibility for those lies with one person.
 
Damn. I just saw that comparison and Buk's voice was just gutted. Sad to see. Martin may be putting his two cents in Buk' purse because he's basically the one who sparked Buk's rise to fame. So therefore, he feels he can slice and splice any way he wants. Thanks for bringing this to light, mjp. Now I'm going to go through my Buk books and sort the stupefied ones out.

Now I'm wonderin which of his novels may have been cut up.
 
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