The Tragic Flogging of a Dead Rape Horse, A.K.A. Locking the Door on Bukowski’s Ghost and Throwing Away the Key

I have another long post here that I have been waiting to publish. It’s called, The Senseless, Tragic Rape of Charles Bukowski’s Ghost: John Martin Speaks. It was meant to be the final part of the series (which was never meant to be a series in the first place) but I can’t bring myself to post it, so I think I’m going to mothball the thing.

It quotes extensively from an email correspondence Martin had with a Bukowski scholar, and that correspondence says about what you would expect it to say. A contradictory, “Hey, it was my job to edit the work,” in the same breath as, “I didn’t edit the work, Bukowski did.” And he caps it all off with a dismissive, “It’s none of your god damned business anyway.”

Okay, I’m paraphrasing. But that is the gist of it.

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As I see it there’s nothing to be gained by continuing with the posts, so that’s that. It frustrates and saddens me to think about and write about the situation. As it does to see that while a lot of people care about the issue, and are shocked to learn what has happened, another group continues to trivialize the problem, or deny anything bad has happened.

But something bad has happened. Half of the poetry that’s still in print under the name of one of the 20th century’s most influential poets has been altered and degraded. By someone. As far as I’m concerned, that is an undeniable fact.

You can hem and haw and go search for some sort of academic proof, but anyone with one good eye and half a soul can see it on the page. I’ve done enough comparisons, I can’t do anymore. I can’t do anymore because they are depressing. Seeing the gutting and destruction of the work makes me angry, and it should make you angry.

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Or maybe you shouldn’t care. Either way, the world keeps spinning, right? I’ve said my piece, made my point and now I’ll just do a little soft shoe off into the sunset. Soft shoeMothball? Is anyone under 100 years old going to understand any of this?

No one cares about poetry anyway, and we’re here on the Internet, an Internet that seems itself to be overwhelming evidence that people no longer care about the truth of a thing. Which is one of the reasons the academics disparage and dismiss anything that springs forth from its horrible, unverifiable, non-footnoted depths. I can’t blame them, but it smacks a bit of throwing the baby out with the bathwater (in keeping with the antiquated references).

Untitled-1I would wrap this up by saying it’s a beautiful day here in Los Angeles, but you already knew that. It’s always a beautiful day here. Everyone is happy and nothing bad ever happens. It’s really quite amazing, this paradise.

But for Christ’s sake, don’t move here. Really. Stay wherever you are. They need you there (which is a polite way of saying we don’t need you here).

Now carry on. There’s work to be done.


8 Responses
  • frank Reply

    thank you, may the gods give you joy.

  • Ooana Trien Reply

    I had no idea….and I’m mad as hell. I never thought about his daughter until now….if she has his DNA she must find this nasty, perhaps too much so to consider. (I can’t consider the alternative.) The genius of the crowd is forces us into the survival business…ironically managed always by the work of the few until that’s done I suppose. But rarely do we have reason to come together that’s so clear. Rarer that lil’ ol’ me would get the chance to lend a real hand.

    Or fuck all that,….I could use a way to say “thank you, Charles.” It’s that simple.

  • Michael Phillips Reply

    > I could use a way to say “thank you, Charles.”

    You just did.

  • Calvin Lee Reply

    You haven’t done any of this for a word of thanks yet I feel compelled to leave you a message to that effect. As someone who’s arrived latterly to Bukowski’s work through his posthumous collections (among them, the Martinized “Bone Palace Ballet”), I will say that I’m grateful for stumbling upon your series of articles. They give me a sense of satisfaction; that I now know the reality of a thing which moments ago I did not. This will allow me to focus on Bukowski’s originals and experience his work the way it was intended.

    • Michael Phillips Reply

      You’re welcome. “This will allow me to focus on Bukowski’s originals and experience his work the way it was intended.” That is the main thing.

  • Smig Reply

    Since reading post office in 1992 when I lived in sun valley Idaho, I’ve been a fan of his work. I met an x-junky there from Australia who put me on to him, he also said in some schools in Australia it is required reading, imagine that, I’d loved to have been in that class as a boy. I now sit with a shelf full of all his books including the dirty dozen rapes that I’ve now separated from all the other books. Anyway, just to say I’m in the bukowski camp, he was unique in the literary world, and someone threw away the mold when he died, and it appears that someone was John Martin. Do you think Martin edited all that stuff just to tame it, to make it more publishable and palatable to Harper Collins/Ecco when he sold black sparrow. Much thanks, and a handshake.

    • Michael Phillips Reply

      > Do you think Martin edited all that stuff just to tame it, to make it more publishable and palatable to Harper Collins/Ecco when he sold black sparrow…

      I don’t think the sale of the company was on his mind when he made his changes to the Women novel in the 1970s. As for what was on his mind, we’ll never know, and to me, it’s irrelevant. What he did was just what was in his nature to do.

 

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