Variants of Buk Poems (1 Viewer)

Recently I was struck by how different the version of "Straight on Through" I have in the poetry anthology "This is not the Titanic" is from the version published in Burning in Water....

Now, I would attach a photo of the version in Titanic, but the jpg exceeds the size limits here. So, no biggie; I'll treat this as a typing lesson, and reproduce it here, replete with returns, spacing, etc. Compare this to the BSP version on page 226 of Burning.... While there are some obvious similarities, they really are two different poems. Is this common?

This doesn't appear to be some John Martin editing. The version in Burning is a total re-write by Buk. Well, I can't even be certain of that. Both were published in 1974. I would assume that Titanic came out first, but I'm not sure why I think that; perhaps because I would assume that the version published by BSP would be the "definitive" version.

Straight on Through

I am hung by a nail
and the sun melts my heart
I am a cousin to the snake
and afraid of waterfalls
I am afraid of women
and green walls and cancer cigarettes;
the sadness drips like water beads
in a stinking and half-poisoned well;
the squirrel is as mad as the steam
whistle and the President of the
United States of America wears
black lace underpanties.

beating off, a friend tells me,
is often better than getting
maybe the whole world is beating off,
I tell him, because they sure aren't
getting it.

love, finally, with a washrag stuffed down its
pictures of joy turned to paperclips;
one need only get burned 2 or 3 times more
before they stuff you
I can walk into any bar and order a
scoth and water, pay,
and put my fingers about the glass,
they'll talk about football and the
weather and the energy crisis,
and one's hand will reach up-
the mirror watching the hand-
and we'll drink it down and in-
our father's brown leather slipper turned
upsidedown in the bathroom,
the nameless dead dogs,
tomorrow's newspaper,
water boiling out of the radiator on a
Thursday afternoon and burning your arm
not even being angry at the pain and the way,
grinning for the winners
grinning for the guy who fucked your girl
while you were drunk or away
and grinning for the girl who let him.
No, I haven't, but thanks; thanks indeed. It appears that the differences are still from unknown hands. Hmmm...I happen to be a purist (as I suspect most all of us here are), and would like to read only the words of Buk. Everyone else can cash their checks; it's always the artist who gets mis-represented.:mad:


Founding member
As I said a few times, Martin claimed that B. reworked many poems for book publication. Whether that's true or not, it's beyond my knowledge.
As I said a few times, Martin claimed that B. reworked many poems for book publication.

But these two versions of Straight on Through are almost completely different poems, yet written in a similar style. Would Martin have the guts, ability and ego to have changed them that much? I find that hard to believe in this particular case, anyway.
Well, you italicized claimed, suggesting that John Martin had a major hand in editing. He probably did at some point, but that was the only reason I responded the way I did.


Founding member
Well, I italicized that word to make it clear it was Martin's claim, not mine. I actually have no idea who reworked the poems. I've seen quite a few poems revised in Bukowski's own hand, and not a single one in Martin's hand... but I never had access to Martin's files.

As I said someplace else on the forum, B. complained about Martin's hand in editing the novels. I don't think anyone has ever read/seen/heard Bukowski complaining about Martin editing his poetry.


Founding member
He never complained about it, no. But why would Martin take liberties with the prose and not the poems?

This is a maddening question (the "editing") that we may never know the answer to, until Martin/BSP's papers wind up somewhere where they can be seen.

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