The stack of poems in the closet

mjp

Founding member
Something that's always made me go, "What?!" is Martin's story of his first visit to Bukowski's apartment on DeLongpre in January of 1966, where he said he saw a two or three foot high stack of manuscripts in a closet.

I was reminded of this because I just read it again somewhere: "He had a whole closet full of unpublished poems. Literally, they were stacked up on the floor leaning against the wall two or three feet high. So I went through and picked out ones I thought were especially good..."

Now a ream of paper is about two inches thick, and that's 500 sheets. So a two foot high stack of paper would be 6,000 sheets, and a three foot high stack, 9,000 sheets. Let's assume that typing on the paper makes it slightly thicker, what with the indentations from the typewriter keys and whatnot. And let's say it was a two foot stack, staying on the conservative side of Martin's claim.

A two foot stack, even if we increase the thickness of the pages due to being typed on, is still 5,000 sheets. And that two inches, by the way, is for modern 20# bond. Bukowski used typing paper that was thinner than 20# bond, but let's not think about that.

From his very first magazine publication in 1944 through the year 1999 - a 55 year span - Bukowski published 1,973 pieces. We know of 4,314 titles, and there are probably another 500 we don't know about, so let's just round up and say 5,000 unique poems and stories written during his lifetime. Probably half of those are more than one page, etc., etc.

Well this is even boring me now, and I'm typing it. Anyway, what it all boils down to is Martin is asking you to believe that Bukowski had about 25 to 40 years worth of work in that closet.

In 1966.

Seems...unlikely.
 
First of all, there's no doubt some hyperbole there, but also consider that Buk likely ripped sheets out of the typer when moving on, so in addition to your "indentations from the typewriter keys and whatnot" I'd add curling/crinkling (although that may be covered by whatnot). But in no way is that statement believable.
 

Johannes

Founding member
myth-making

I always thought that's exactly what it is. It sounds great.

Like with the 100$/month and bravely quitting his job at 50, "being on the bum", bleeding to death in the charity ward, marrying a millionairess unseen, having been a "pimp" and so on. It's all part fact and part fiction.

Bukowski himself mixed the two most artfully, of course. But other jumped on easily, because you want to believe the narrative.

It's pretty sure to guess that there were unpublished poems "in his closet" in 66 when John Martin came to visit. Probably a lot of them.

Were they

stacked up on the floor leaning against the wall two or three feet high

Most probably not.
 
absolutely right.
That's also what Benjamin Lauterbach said in 2001 in an address (sorry that the video is in German):


(ca. at second 32 to 45)
 

Johannes

Founding member
Niceee. That's Falko sitting there, isn't it? With the Bukowski-T-Shirt?

Thanks for sharing, Roni!
 
don't forget to add in the dimensions in your paper math dependent on the fact that he meticulously carbon copied and kept a copy of all his poems... haha
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
Have you guys factored in the thought that many of those papers could have been hand written stories, as well as the carbons for the typed poems? Also, when you stack paper that's been used, it doesn't settle like brand new paper does in a ream. There's air between them.

However, I still don't believe Martin! Ha ha!
 

mjp

Founding member
Yes, 500 sheets of used paper will be thicker than a fresh ream, but still. He wasn't making carbons at the time, he didn't start until 1969.



Don't miss my new show CSI: Santa Rosa. Premieres in the fall.
 
Has anyone around here written enough to try out an experiment? If you put it on youtube it'll be an overnight sensation...well, if you get some failed actress dressed as a Disney character to perform it it will.
 

Hosh

hoshomccreesh.com
If and when I get all of my scraps organized, I can report back. I have a fair amount. But in there will be little scraps of paper quickly jotted down at work or on the go, duplicate print-outs of scraped novels, old screenplay stuff, terrible short stories, probably stacks of rejects, unsent letters, and maybe a few hundred poem manuscripts. On a first pass, I often typed on the same page, at times in 2 columns, working through ideas -- and then, later, pulled out chunks here and there that fit, so that original material for multiple poems could be found on the same sheet.

Even still, we're talking about 20+ years worth of accumulation...much of it worthless...and I don't think it would hit 3 feet. Might hit 2.
 
oh, c'mon, kids! isn't it just as simple as that:

500-sheets.jpg


quod scire per demonstrationem, right?
 

mjp

Founding member
little scraps of paper quickly jotted down at work or on the go, duplicate print-outs of scraped novels, old screenplay stuff, terrible short stories, probably stacks of rejects, unsent letters, and maybe a few hundred poem manuscripts.
Let's remember that in the myth they were all poems: "unpublished poems. Literally, they were stacked up on the floor leaning against the wall two or three feet high."
 

esart

esart.com
Founding member
I should have come back onto the thread to tell you guys that you've convinced me.
 
I'm prepared to believe Buk had a giant stack of papers in a closet but not prepared to believe these were unpublished MSS. Manuscripts, letters, chapbooks, bank statements, a few tins of beer....
 
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