Thoughts on Editions and Editors

mjp

Founding member
Well, what can I say? If you think Martin is responsible for the changes in poetry as well, that's certainly up to you.
If I didn't know any better I would say you were dismissing my opinion as cute but irrelevant.

Abel, I believe that your research into Bukowski's work is unprecedented, and I respect you greatly for that. When all is said and done I believe we will see your name up there with Dorbin, Cooney, Fogel and Krumhansl as one of the people who really worked hard to shed light on Bukowski's work. In fact, knowing a bit of what you have up your sleeve there, I feel quite certain that your work will eclipse those others in the end.

But with all due respect to that research, as a poet whose native language is English, I believe that my opinion on the subtle nuances of his work are valid.

I think you would agree that we have concrete evidence of a very free hand by Martin in the first edition of Women. So when I say that I suspect that changes were sometimes made to the poems by someone other than Bukowski, I am not pulling a wild guess out of my ass. My suspicions are based on the style of changes made to Women.

Martin's changes to the first edition of Women are glaringly obvious. His language is identifiable. I invite anyone to sit down with the first edition and read it. As you get to a word or sentence that just doesn't sound right, find the passage in a subsequent edition and you'll see the words and phrases that just don't seem to fit were inserted by Martin. Every time. Understandably this may only be apparent or obvious to a native English speaking person, since these are linguistic subtleties we are dealing with.

So when I see things like "in the thrall of a senseless moon," or "streets of pain" substituted for "streets of blood," in the crunch (2) it does not ring true to me. And this:

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
the hands of a clock


is absolute poetic perfection. While this:

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movement of
a clock's hands.


is downright clumsy. How many of you poets out there would make that change?

It is impossible to say that Bukowski never complained about changes to poems because we haven't read every letter that he ever wrote, or sat in the room for every conversation he ever had. Only two people know the extent of Martin's changes to any of Bukowski's work, and the only one of them I would trust to tell me the unvarnished truth is dead.

If you think Bukowski's work is important, then making an issue of seemingly incongruous alterations is valid. That is what I am doing, and will continue to do, even though I know that a definitive answer is unlikely.

Wait, let me take that back - the definitive answer is almost certainly contained in Martin/BSP's archives. You can see Jon Webb's changes to Bukowski poems written on the manuscripts, and I believe you would find similar kinds of clues in Martin/BSP archives. But who knows if they still exist, or if we will ever have access to them.
 

cirerita

Founding member
Good thing you know better, and thanks for the nice words re. my research. I know you're not usually publicly lavish with your praise, so I guess you really meant that.
And since we're no longer trapped in "cute" territory, I might be able to offer a coherent reply. As a non-native English speaking person, that "cute" territory sometimes is simply beyond me.

-Everybody knows Martin changed Women for the worse. Martin was the first one to acknowledge that and he righted that wrong when the second edition came out, and alsowhen he published the Bukowski letters where B. said as much. He could have not published those letters, but he did. That should tell us something. Where are the letters where B. complained about changes to poems? I have probably read 85% of all the letters B. ever wrote and I haven't seen a single mention in that sense. Again, that should tell us something.

-You said that Martin changed Women and then you quoted a poem to prove your point, but you're simply extrapolating your conclusions from the one fact everybody knows: Martin did fuck up Women. Ok. So far so good. But where are the facts to support your idea that the poem was also changed by Martin? I don't need to be a native to feel those nuances you mentioned. The second version sucks big time because the rhythm is gone. Ok. But there's no evidence at all that Martin changed those lines. There's a great danger when one says that, because the underlying assumption is that Bukowski couldn't have written such a bad line and that it had to be someone else's doing. Well, do you want me to quote here a few dozen poems with very bad lines by Bukowski? No need, right? B. wrote an awful lot of shitty poems, we all know that.

-I'm not saying that Martin didn't change that poem, I'm just saying that I don't know who did it, and that it could have been Bukowski's doing. I've learnt quite a few things while doing my research on Bukowski, but I think that the most important ones (bibliographically speaking) are NOT to extrapolate things and NOT to take anything for granted. Anyfuckingthing. Believe me.

-Bukowski complained about Martin changing Women and Post Office (yes, he did). He even told some people to read the stories which appeared in Adam as they were the raw versions which Martin then "polished" for book publication. Martin never hid that, why should he hide the fact that he also changed B's poetry? It does not make sense to me. In Jules Smith book, Martin is quoted as saying that it was Bukowski himself who changed his poems for book publication. I've read quite a few unpublished letters -especially to Corrington- where he acknowledges as much: many rejected poems were reworked by Bukowski and submitted again for publication. Bukowski revised much more than what he claimed, and many early MSS confirm that.

-I guess we're never going to agree on this one -not that we have to- but I'm sticking to my guns and, to partially quote Bukowski here, I'll give you $5 for each instance that you find where Bukowski complains about Martin changing his poetry. Get rich, babe ;)

Take a look at the poem I posted here:
It's All a Matter of Entertainment - 1975 poem with MANY revisions

And compare it with the version which you have online in the MSS section. Who made the changes? Martin? Uncle Howard?

Bukowski crossed out a lot of lines here, and Martin (or Bukowski) could have easily "restored" them for book publication, though this poem was never published.

See below another example of a bad poem with a lot of discarded lines. I'm uploading the last page of the poem only. This was written in 1964, when Bukowski was at "his lyrical best", blah, blah, blah. The poem was originally titled "The Man with the Dirty Shirt" and then "The Death of the Poetry Writing Machine" and Bukowski used another title in his correspondence -to Corrington?- saying he had submitted it to Evergreen Review. The poem was never published. No wonder, really. It's a bad poem. Try to read the crossed out lines as well. As with the other poem, someone could have used the discarded lines and then you would have 2 or 3 versions of the very same poem.

00643.jpg
 

mjp

Founding member
...thanks for the nice words re. my research. I know you're not usually publicly lavish with your praise, so I guess you really meant that.
I did and I do.

the underlying assumption is that Bukowski couldn't have written such a bad line and that it had to be someone else's doing.
The changes between the Second Coming version and the Love is a Dog From Hell version are completely believable and reasonable Bukowski changes. But then, after he has been conveniently dead for five years, we get the crunch (2). But the crunch (2) has some problems that can only be explained by the assumption of tampering (or I suppose they could be seen as proof of it, if you were so inclined).

But even if we assume that Martin never altered any of the poetry, which I am willing to do from here on out, what are we left to believe? That Bukowski rewrote the crunch, which he had already "polished" for Love is a Dog From Hell? Aside from the fact that parts of it were made worse rather than better in the crunch (2), it defies logic that he would rewrite the poem after BSP publication (for use in another BSP publication).

Anyway, even if we view Martin as an objective, transparent vessel through which Bukowski's work flowed, the troublesome fact remains that someone ruined that poem, and if it wasn't someone at BSP, then the only suspect remaining is Bukowski himself. If that is the case, I would like to see someone come up with other examples of poems he "polished" much of the quality out of. That will make a believer out of me.

I've learnt quite a few things while doing my research on Bukowski, but I think that the most important ones (bibliographically speaking) are NOT to extrapolate things and NOT to take anything for granted. Anyfuckingthing. Believe me.
I agree with that completely. A bibliography should be factual, and where facts are not present, assumptions should not be made.

But many times, outside of the creation of factual documents or lists, it is reasonable - even necessary - to make assumptions, because facts cannot be found or no longer exist.

If we only accept known, provable facts about Bukowski and his life, three-quarters of his persona - literary and personal - falls away, and we see that much of what was considered autobiographical is not so at all. But people don't want that Bukowski. They want the Bukowski of legend and assumption.

I just want to read the words.

And your bibliography, of course.
 

cirerita

Founding member
But even if we assume that Martin never altered any of the poetry, which I am willing to do from here on out, what are we left to believe? That Bukowski rewrote the crunch, which he had already "polished" for Love is a Dog From Hell?

Or that Martin used an early, discarded draft. Take a look at the two poems I mentioned in my previous post. If you use the discarded/crossed-out lines, then you would have a "new" (poorer) version of that poem. Is that "editing" a poem?

Quite possibly, Bukowski rewrote that poem for book publication -the Love Is a Dog from Hell version seems truly "bukowskian" to you- and that means that Martin probably had the early (revised) version [Second Coming one] and the reworked (and also revised) version [Love Is a Dog from Hell one]. He could have used any of the discarded versions or blend them somehow and come up with "the crunch (2)".

Anyway, even if we view Martin as an objective, transparent vessel through which Bukowski's work flowed...
That's certainly not my view.

But people don't want that Bukowski. They want the Bukowski of legend and assumption.
In that case, they should read Uncle Howard's book.
 
Bukowski's Posthumous Publications

Hi, to All of you Fine Folks! I really wasn't sure about creating a new thread for this, but it seems to fit well enough here. I wonder if alot of editing was done to Bukowski's postumous writings. It dosn't SEEM so. I mean, I've read a good ammount of the works contained in 'Sifting Through The Madness...', 'The People Look Like Flowers...'; and the uncollected works in ,'The Pleasures Of The Damned'. & they read like Bukowski to me. Martin is listed as editor in 'Sifting...' but no editor is listed in the other two, (& yes, I could be missing it somehow). So, any-hoo, anybody out there care to help me expand my thoughts in this regard? Thanx, CRB:)
 
It is a source of much conjecture. Being the owner of several small-published mags or chapbooks/poetry anthologies, I can personally attest to differences. In the handful of different editions I have, in each case, the small press version is far better to me than is the BSP version.

mjp has cited several major differences in the first and subsequent editions of Women. Where those differences, and those in the poems, came from is the $64,000 question. It is well known that John Martin had a certain disdain for the dirty side. I'll leave it here, since most of the differences I've seen are more related to word structure. Again, it is the source of much conjecture.
 

Digney in Burnaby

donkeys live a long time
beef tongue from The Outsider

Here's how beef tongue looked in The Outsider back in 1969. Seems to be many differences, starting with the removal of the "...for J.T" dedication below the title onward.

Maybe it's just that I copied the thing back in 1977 and have read it few times since then, but it feels natural and like a Bukowski poem to my untrained ear.

beef tongue doesn't reappear, as far as I'm aware, until The People Look Like Flowers At Last in 2007, 38 years after it first appeared, 30 years after I first read it and 13 years after Bukowski died. Who made the changes, and when?

It's on page 10 of the book. Edited by John Martin.

beef tongue outsider 1.JPG beef tongue outsider 2.JPG beef tongue outsider 3.JPG
 

cirerita

Founding member
Digney,

I think I have a copy of the MSS that B. sent to the Webbs. I'll try to find it to see if there are any hand-written changes there... Jon changed quite a few things in B.'s poems AND letters...
 
Wow! Quite a difference in comparrison. The original, albeit a tad rough, is so much more concise. Less is more, as they say, and it becomes so much more 'wordy' with the edit. Changing the line;"and we didn't shake hands, a thing neither of us had to do"-to-....'a thing neither of us liked to do'... Well, that's huge IMO. Thank You, Purple, Digney and Criteria, I look forward to what you might find.CRB
 

mjp

Founding member
I think I have a copy of the MSS that B. sent to the Webbs...Jon changed quite a few things in B.'s poems AND letters...
Yes he did. And he left behind evidence.

You can also compare different versions of Bukowski's manuscripts to see his own changes.

The only editing paper trail that would seem to be unavailable is BSP's.
 

Digney in Burnaby

donkeys live a long time
kaakaa and other immolations also appeared in The Outsider, volume 2, number 4/5 (1969) and in The Days Run Like Wild Horses Over the Hills. No changes that I can see.

Of course, Jon Webb might have made changes to the manuscript that Bukowski sent. But whoever put Days together (Bukowski thanks Sanford Dorbin for helping in the selection of the poems) must have trusted the decisions of the original editor.
 

Gerard K H Love

Appreciate your friends
I thought it was pre Black Sparrow Press. It was-according to our wonderful timeline- published Dec 1969 one year before Martin got him to quit the US Postal service. J. Martin did do a broadside for him in 1966. These guys will clear this up. I like that collection of poems it has one of his best titles.
 

cirerita

Founding member
Days was published by BSP in 1969 but it was entirely edited by Dorbin. According to him, the poems were copied from the magazines verbatim... but a few poems seem to indicate otherwise (see "I Think of Ships...")

The only editing paper trail that would seem to be unavailable is BSP's.

The BSP archives are available here and there, but not at the usual places with an important Bukowski collection.
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
Yes, BSP started publishing Buk in 1966 and starting as was his major publisher starting in 1968 with Terror Street, but it was not until Post Office that Bukowski was a professional writer without any other means of support (except for readings and the track....)

Bill
 
In 1971 Seamus Cooney compiled and had published by BSP A Checklist of the First One Hundred Publications of The Black Sparrow Press. Imagine a small fledgling press with 100 publications in its first five years (1966-1971). An amazing feat! Yes, it did include the publication of Days... among many other Bukowski works during that five year period. John Martin, the founder of BSP, is a publishing genius among independent publishers which many have attempted to emulate, but none have succeeded. Imagine again, a highly profitable American publishing house publishing almost exclusively avant-garde literature. Again, an amazing feat!

Johns' detractors are many, his peers are few if any.
 

Hosh

hoshomccreesh.com
I have absolutely nothing to offer the exchange save this:

I have never read the SECOND COMING version of the poem until just now...& it might be my favorite Buk poem of all time. I liked (& had noted) the 2 different book editions, wasn't sure why changes were made...but this "original" (or at least earliest) version TORCHES the latter 2...& I agree that the changes are weak...so whoever made them--be it Buk or JM or whoever...bad form. They should've left every blistering word untouched.
 

mjp

Founding member
...but this "original" (or at least earliest) version TORCHES the latter 2...& I agree that the changes are weak...so whoever made them--be it Buk or JM or whoever...bad form. They should've left every blistering word untouched.
+1 on that.
 

Hosh

hoshomccreesh.com
I agree, cirerita--like I said, I liked the first 2 versions I'd read...until I read the Second Coming Version. Man...that is just a BEAST of a great poem.
 
This site has been archived and is no longer accepting new posts.
Top