The senseless, tragic rape of Charles Bukowski’s ghost by John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press (1 Viewer)

It would be like standing in the middle of the forest that John Martin burned to the ground and marveling at the beauty of the single tree that somehow managed to survive.

haha! Don't mince words and tell us how you really feel :) Yes, I suppose you're right. Just me trying to find a silver lining. Even if only a sliver of silver.

Like I said, I find it both unnecessary and wrong myself. What I didn't say was thank you for bringing it to the world's attention and the work you've done showing specific examples has been really helpful. I was lucky to have read a lot of books by and about CB when I worked at Cornell, and was later gifted Sifting Through the Madness for the Word, the Line, the Way, which I found sub par. Now I know why, and it's a relief, if that makes sense. I mentioned I've been away from these forums for a long time so this scandalous news had excaped me 'til now.
I think it can be plausibly argued that Like a Dolphin is a far superior, stronger title than Stone Tiger, Frozen Sea. Martin did have his moments of brilliance.
The first collection I read was 'what matters most is how well you walk through the fire' (one of the first books to allegedly be 'edited' a little bit too much) and I still loved the book. The Bukowski tone, attitude and tone had not been butchered out of the writing at all. I came to that book without knowing because in-depth and it totally sucked me in and encouraged me to go on to read him and become engrossed in him. Sometimes the idea of his writing being 'raped' is overstated?

Interestingly, I was one of the readers who noticed some of the early edits, particularly the poem 'the crunch' in the collection which read me to discover more edits etc. The thing is you can read the different versions and the differences are so slight it is hardly worth mentioning. It literally doesn't kill the poem or the tone.

The idea a few edits make something inauthentic is pushing it for me. I do see some of the tone shifts. Some of the edits are too clean but the meat remains. You can't neuter Bukowski out of the poem with a few edits and it does seem it would be hard to distinguish between the edits Bukowski made himself and some of the changes Martin made.

Maybe it does make sense to 'stay away' from the recent collections....I understand the desire to do that...but I can only recall that it was by reading 'What matters most is how well you walk through the fire' that I first met the great spirit of Bukowski's writing, so surely that is evidence that it wasn't tampered with too much? Or that the tampering wasn't actually detrimental.

I suppose we could argue back and forth like Biblical scholars debating the authenticity of Biblical tests. Ultimately, I don't think the edits smother the fire at all.
Thanks. That's a lot of work to find.

Take for example 'So you want to be a writer' originally titled 'Do you want to be in the arena?' There are some edits however they don't actually change or destroy the meaning of the poem at all. So there really isn't anything 'wrong' with the edits. Arguably, the title' So you want to be a writer' is better than 'Do you want to be in the arena?'

Even the edits to 'the old anarchist' are tiny and don't change anything at all. They read the exact same. They really are the simple work of an editor. Not the carless butchering of an amateur butcher. The changes don't 'change' the meaning or distort the writing in any significant way. I will read on though....

I just think maybe people are being a bit too precious about the changes. If they were out and out lies then maybe I'd understand the annoyance. I first noticed some of the changes way back in 2006! And although they can be a bit weak or 'too tidy' ultimately they don't jar that much. Like little words here and there, that's just editing, not historical revisionism gone bad, surely? Happy to hear opinions.
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Reaper Crew
There are some edits however they don't actually change or destroy the meaning of the poem at all. So there really isn't anything 'wrong' with the edits.
For me it's not a question of whether JM's "edits" make original poems better or worse (although I strongly believe they turn the original poems into muck): I like Bukowski and I want to read Bukowski, not anyone else (let alone some office supplies manager who thinks he could write better than him).

One word changed in a poem manuscript without the author's consent is one edit too many, no matter whose poetry it is.
I first noticed some of the changes way back in 2006!
And I appreciated it.

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
Founding member
olaf! - oh my god i forgot how exasperating that guy was.

well, if your don't notice or mind the changes that says more about you than the work.
It doesn't say that much, does it? That it is OK to edit? Bukowski edited a lot anyway.

I'm not being puritanical? It is OK to edit a work and it still retain the whole of its meaning? Literally changing a verb or a noun here or there, is normal editing. It doesn't corrupt the poem or commit some editorial sin.

I have been reading some of the other edits and they are shit and unnecessary, yet in the end the poem isn't actually mutilated, i.e. the meaning is still retained.

It is a subject that always interested me and only now during lockdown giving it a bit more time. I guess to many of the Bukowski fans on here it can seem like a perversion of the original. And, i get that and in some cases agree. Yet, I don't know, who knows what goes on behind closed doors. All writers have editors etc. Can you really know the extent to which an editor helps? Is it really a cardinal sin to have an editor make some changes?

I don't mean to be a dick. Genuinely. Maybe I am in denial. I don't want to believe all the books published after Bukowski's death are essentially 'duds' - that seems so harsh. I think it is possible to read those duds and still get the full flavour of Buk!

I'm torn. It has been so long since I've been here, sorry to ruffle feathers. I type and think out loud.
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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.
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.


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.


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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