Acid Heroes

March 30, 2015

Charles Bukowski and John Martin

One of the oddest collaborations in the history of literature is Charles Bukowski and John Martin.  Martin had never published anything in his life.  But in 1965 he became so enamored with Bukowski’s poetry (which at the time were only published in obscure chapbooks with print-runs of about 100 copies) that he told Bukowski:  “I’ll pay you $100 a month for the rest of your life if you quit your job and write full-time.”

Even odder, John Martin was a straight-laced Christian Scientist and a tea-totaler who never drank.  And here he is publishing Charles Bukowski, the patron saint of Skid Row drunks.

You could say it was a successful collaboration.  Eventually, Martin would be paying Bukowski $20,000 every month.

Bukowski was a compulsive writer; a man who had a powerful need to write.  “Writing saved my ass,” he’d often say.  Anyways, for whatever reason, John Martin got it in his mind that he wanted to publish Bukowski.  So he made arrangements to meet Bukowski in person at his hovel so they could discuss matters.  “Do you have any new poems I could publish?” asked Martin.

“Yeah,” said Bukowski.  “Look in the closet.

Martin opened the closet door and was dumb-founded to find that the entire closet was full of poems. Stacks and stacks of paper piled practically to the ceiling.  Martin scooped up a bunch of them and started publishing them.  And they never looked back.

Bukowski used to like to sit at the type-writer every night, drinking red wine, listening to classical music on the radio and writing poetry.  “It’s the best party in town,” said Bukowski.

When he finished a new batch of poems he’d send them off to Martin, his editor-publisher.  Martin would go through the poems.  They’d usually start out really good, and then get better and better.  Until they’d start to trail off.  Bukowski would just be babbling gibberish.  Writing just to write without really having anything to say.  Probably those poems were from the end of the night when Bukowski was too drunk to make sense.  Martin wouldn’t print those poems.

Bukowski never asked Martin about that.  He just sent the poems to Martin and let him pick whatever he felt like publishing.  The whole thing seemed to work out pretty well.



1 Comment »

  1. Their venture almost went bankrupt right before it began turning a profit, plus Buk wrote the Post Office in two weeks, which helped.

    Comment by Jon — March 31, 2015 @ 11:20 pm | Reply

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