Charles Bukowski

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)

Born: August 16, 1920
Andernach, Germany
Died: March 9, 1994 (aged 73)
San Pedro, California
Occupation: Novelist
Nationality: American

Henry Charles Bukowski (August 16, 1920 – March 9, 1994) was an influential Los Angeles poet and novelist. Bukowski's writing was heavily influenced by the geography and atmosphere of his home city of Los Angeles. He is often mentioned as an influence by contemporary authors, and his style is frequently imitated. A prolific author, Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short-stories, and six novels, eventually having more than fifty books in print.


  • 1 Life
    • 1.1 Early Years
    • 1.2 Early Writing
    • 1.3 1960s
    • 1.4 Black Sparrow Years
  • 2 Work
  • 3 In popular culture
    • 3.1 Music
    • 3.2 Film and television
    • 3.3 Literature
    • 3.4 Miscellaneous
  • 4 Bibliography
    • 4.1 1960s
    • 4.2 1970s
    • 4.3 1980s
    • 4.4 1990s
    • 4.5 2000 and after
  • 5 Criticism and biographies
  • 6 References
  • 7 Notes
  • 8 External links


Early Years

Charles Bukowski was born in Andernach, Germany, in 1920 as Heinrich Karl Bukowski. His mother Katharina Fett, a native German, met his father, a Polish American serviceman, after the end of World War I. Coincidentally, Bukowski's paternal grandfather had also been born in Germany.[1] Bukowski was fond of claiming that he had been born out of wedlock, but Andernach records show that his parents were in fact married a month prior to his birth.[2]

After the collapse of the German economy following WWI, the family moved to Baltimore in 1923. To sound more American, Bukowski's parents began calling him "Henry" and altered the pronunciation of their last name from Buk-ov-ski to Buk-cow-ski. After saving money, the family moved to suburban Los Angeles, where Bukowski's father's family lived.[3] During Bukowski's childhood, his father was often unemployed, and according to Bukowski, verbally and physically abusive (as detailed in his novel, Ham on Rye). During his youth Bukowski suffered from extreme acne and shyness.[4] After graduating from Los Angeles High School, Bukowski attended Los Angeles City College for two years, taking courses in art, journalism and literature. In the documentary Born Into This he speaks of losing his virginity at age 24 to a "300 pound whore" and breaking the bed in doing so.

Early Writing

At 24, Bukowski's short-story "Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip" was published in Story Magazine. Two years later, another short-story, "20 Tanks From Kasseldown," was published in Portfolio III's broadside-collection. Bukowski grew disillusioned with the publication process and quit writing for almost a decade. During part of this period he went on living in Los Angeles, but also spent some time roaming around the United States, working odd jobs and staying in cheap rooming houses. In the early 1950s Bukowski took a job as a letter-carrier with the United States Postal Service in Los Angeles, but quit after less than three years.

In 1955 he was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer that was nearly fatal. When he left the hospital, he began to write poetry. In 1957, he married writer and poet Barbara Frye, but they divorced in 1959. Frye insisted that their separation had nothing to do with literature, though she often doubted his skill as a poet. Following the divorce, Bukowski resumed drinking and continued to write poetry.

Bukowski at home in San Pedro in 1990, with writers Mary Ann Swissler and Mat Gleason
Bukowski at home in San Pedro in 1990, with writers Mary Ann Swissler and Mat Gleason


By 1960 he had returned to the post office in Los Angeles, where he continued to work as a clerk for over a decade. In 1964, a daughter, Marina Louise Bukowski, was born to Bukowski and his then live-in girlfriend Frances Smith. Bukowski lived in Tucson briefly where he befriended Jon Webb and Gypsy Lou, two people who would be influential in getting Bukowski's work widely published.

The Webbs published The Outsider literary magazine and featured some of Bukowski's poetry. Under the Loujon Press, they published Bukowski's It Catches my Heart In Its Hand (1963), and A Crucifix in a Deathhand, in 1965. Jon Webb bankrolled his printing ventures with his Vegas winnings. It was at this point that Bukowski and Franz Douskey began their friendship. They argued and often got into fights. Douskey was a friend of the Webbs, and was often a guest at their small E. Elm Street house that also served as a publishing venue. The Webbs, Bukowski and Douskey spent time together in New Orleans, where Gypsy Lou eventually returned after the passing of Jon Webb.

Beginning in 1967, Bukowski wrote the column "Notes of A Dirty Old Man" for Los Angeles' Open City underground newspaper. When Open City was shut down in 1969, the column was picked up by the Los Angeles Free Press.

Black Sparrow Years

In 1969, after being promised a monthly stipend of $100 "for life" from Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin, Bukowski quit his job at the post-office to make writing his full-time career. He was then 49 years old. As he explained in a letter at the time, "I have one of two choices -- stay in the post office and go crazy. or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve." [1] Less than one month after leaving the postal service, he finished his first novel, titled Post Office. As a measure of respect for Martin's financial support and faith in a then relatively unknown writer, Bukowski published almost all of his subsequent work with Black Sparrow. In 1976, Bukowski met Linda Lee Beighle, a health-food restaurant owner. Two years later, the couple moved from the East Hollywood area, where Bukowski had lived for most of his life, to the harborside community of San Pedro, the southernmost district of the City of Los Angeles. Bukowski and Beighle were married by Manly Palmer Hall in 1985. Linda Lee Beighle is referred to as "Sara" in Bukowski's novels Women and Hollywood.

Bukowski died of leukemia on March 9th, 1994 in San Pedro, California, at the age of 73, shortly after completing his last novel "Pulp". His funeral rites were conducted by Buddhist monks. His gravestone reads: "Don't Try".


Bukowski published extensively in small literary magazines and with small presses beginning in the late 1950s and continuing on through the early 1990s, with the poems and stories being later republished by Black Sparrow Press (now HarperCollins/ECCO) as collected volumes of his work.

Bukowski acknowledged Anton Chekhov, Franz Kafka, Knut Hamsun, Ernest Hemingway, John Fante, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Robinson Jeffers, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, D.H. Lawrence, and others as influences, and often spoke of Los Angeles as his favorite subject. In a 1974 interview he said, "You live in a town all your life, and you get to know every bitch on the street corner and half of them you have already messed around with. You've got the layout of the whole land. You have a picture of where you are.. Since I was raised in L.A., I've always had the geographical and spiritual feeling of being here. I've had time to learn this city. I can't see any other place than L.A." [2]

One critic has described Bukowski's fiction as a "detailed depiction of a certain taboo male fantasy: the uninhibited bachelor, slobby, anti-social, and utterly free." [3] Since his death, in 1994, Bukowski has been the subject of a number of critical articles and books about both his life and writings. Despite the fact that he has become an icon and heroic role-model for many of the disaffected, his work has received relatively little attention from academic critics. ECCO continues to release new collections of his poetry, culled from the thousands of works published in small literary magazines. According to ECCO the 2007 release The People Look Like Flowers At Last will be his final posthumous release as now all his once-unpublished work has been published [4]. Bukowski: Born Into This, a film documenting the author's life, was released in 2004.

In June 2006, Bukowski's literary archive was donated by his widow, Linda Lee Bukowski, to the Huntington Library, in San Marino, CA. Copies of all editions of his work published by the Black Sparrow Press are held at Western Michigan University, which purchased the archive of the publishing house after its closure in 2003.

In popular culture


The band Hot Water Music is named after one of Bukowski's books.

The band Lydia Vance is named after a character in Bukowski's book, Women.

Punk band A Radio With Guts is named after a Bukowski poem.

The British rapper Jehst name-checks Bukowski in his track "Alcoholic Author".

The album War All The Time by Thursday shares its title with a Bukowski volume.

Modest Mouse produced a song titled "Bukowski" in their album Good News for People Who Love Bad News. Modest Mouse also released a track titled "Long Distance Drunk", on their Lonesome Crowded West CD, which shares its name with a short story in the book Hot Water Music.

Senses Fail produced an album titled Let It Enfold You, from the title of one of Bukowski's works.

A Bukowski quote appears in the booklet for the Propagandhi album Potemkin City Limits.

The post-punk group The Fall wrote a song called "Dr. Buck's Letter," thought to be a tribute to Bukowski.[5]

On the song "Got up this morning" from his 2007 album Human the Death Dance, rapper Sage Francis muses "She dangled that carrot, then asked me, 'What would Bukowski do?' / Don't go there, he'd make you his Mom / And then completely lie about it in a book later on".

He is mentioned in the Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Mellowship Slinky in B Major" on the album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He is also referenced in the Razorlight song "In the City" from the album Up All Night, the 311 song "Feels So Good" on the album Music as well as "Stealing Happy Hours" on Transistor and "Salsa" on Grassroots, and by UK hiphop artist Jehst on the track "Alcoholic Author" from his 2001 album Return of the Drifter. He is name checked in the titular song on The Good Life's Album of the Year. He is also mentioned in the Jon Bon Jovi song "It's Just Me" on his solo album Destination Anywhere and in the Anthrax song "Fueled" from the album Stomp 442.

Bukowski's work has also been used in the music of Tom Waits, The Ataris, Jawbreaker, Sage Francis, U2, and Buck 65.

Creator and frontman for The Ataris, Kris Roe cites Bukowski as one of his greatest influences.[citation needed]

Gary McDaniel former bassist of Black Flag went by the stage name Chuck Dukowski, a homage to Bukowski.

Chiodos is releasing a new album in fall of 2007 titled Bone Palace Ballet, which shares its name with a book of poems written by Bukowski.

Mike Williams, vocalist for the New Orleans band Eyehategod has cited the works of Bukowski as one of the primary influences in his writing.[citation needed] Williams named the band's demo tape and a subsequent song after the title of a poem by Bukowski called "Lack of Almost Everything". While not being a direct copy of the works of Bukowski, his influence is undoubtedly felt in Williams' book of poetry and prose titled Cancer As A Social Activity.

Folk/country singer/songwriter Tom Russll released Hotwalker, an album of spoken word with Bukowski as one of the main focuses. Frontman Al Jourgensen of the industrial-metal band, Ministry, has a Bukowski tattoo.

British rock band The Cult named their eighth record Born Into This.

The early Anthony Green band, Audience of One, has a song on their album I Remember When This All Meant Something entitled "Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wall".

Bukowski inspired song "To All My Friends" is track 10 on Adam Snyder's "Across The Pond" [hti 2001]

Film and television

Bukowski and his work have been the subject of several films, such as his own autobiographical screenplay for the 1987 film Barfly. 2005 saw the release of the movie Factotum starring Matt Dillon; the movie is based on the novel of the same name, which centers on Henry Chinaski, the fictional alter-ego of Bukowski, as he struggles from one job to the next, all the while pursuing his true interests: alcohol, women and writing. In February 2007, it was announced that Gabor Csupo will be producing How the Dead Love, an animated film that will use four of Bukowski's short stories. There rumors that Johnny Depp will voice the film's main character and will also produce the film with Csupo via Depp's production company, Infinitum Nihil.

Bukowski is also mentioned in a scene in the movie Glory Daze, starring Ben Affleck.

He is mentioned in Peep Show; while Jeremy is buying items from a supermarket, drunk, he claims he must look like Bukowski.


Lily Burana references Bukowski ("You're in Bukowski country") in her 2001 novel, Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America.


A pair of taverns bearing his name opened in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, some three years after his death, decorated in paintings and quotations from Bukowski and others. It hosts a Dead Author's Club of mugs engraved with a patron's favorite dead author.



  • Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail (1960)
  • Poems and Drawings (1962)
  • Longshot Pomes for Broke Players (1962)
  • Run with the Hunted (1962)
  • It Catches My Heart in Its Hand (1963)
  • Grip the walls (1964)
  • Cold Dogs in the Courtyard (1965)
  • Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live with Beasts (1965)
  • Crucifix in a Deathhand (1965)
  • All the Assholes in the World and Mine (1966)
  • The Genius of the Crowd (1966)
  • Night's work (1966)
  • At Terror Street and Agony Way (1968)
  • Poems Written Before Jumping out of an 8 Story Window (1968)
  • A Bukowski Sampler (1969)
  • Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills (1969)
  • If we take -- (1969)
  • Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969)


  • Another Academy (1970)
  • Fire Station (1970)
  • Post Office (1971) ISBN 0-87685-087-5
  • Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness (1972)
  • Me and your sometimes love poems (1972)
  • Mockingbird, Wish Me Luck (1972)
  • South of No North (1973)
  • Burning in Water Drowning in Flame: Selected Poems 1955-1973 (1974)
  • 55 beds in the same direction (1974)
  • Factotum (1975)
  • The Last Poem & Tough Company (1976)
  • Scarlet (1976)
  • Art (1977)
  • Love is a Dog from Hell (1977)
  • Legs, Hips and Behind (1978)
  • Women (1978)
  • You Kissed Lilly (1978)
  • A Love Poem (1979)
  • Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit (1979)
  • Shakespeare Never Did This (1979)


  • Dangling in the Tournefortia (1981)
  • Ham On Rye (1982)
  • Horsemeat (1982)
  • The Last Generation (1982)
  • Bring Me Your Love (illustrated by Robert Crumb) (1983) ISBN 0-87685-606-7
  • The Bukowski/Purdy Letters (1983)
  • Hot Water Music (1983)
  • Sparks (1983)
  • Going Modern (1984)
  • Horses Don't Bet on People and Neither Do I (1984)
  • One For The Old Boy (1984)
  • There's No Business (illustrated by Robert Crumb) (1984)
  • War All the Time: Poems 1981-1984 (1984)
  • Alone In A Time Of Armies (1985)
  • The Day it Snowed in L.A. (1986)
  • Gold In Your Eye (1986)
  • Relentless As The Tarantula (1986)
  • The Wedding (1986)
  • You Get So Alone at Times It Just Makes Sense (1986)
  • Luck (1987)
  • Barfly (film) (1987)
  • Beauti-Ful (1988)
  • The Movie Critics (1988)
  • Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems 1946-1966 (1988)
  • Hollywood (1989)
  • If You Let Them Kill You They Will (1989)
  • Red (1989)
  • We Ain't Got No Money Honey (1989)


  • Darkness & Ice (1990)
  • Not Quite Bernadette (1990)
  • Septuagenarian Stew: Stories and Poems (1990)
  • This (1990)
  • In the Morning and at Night and In Between (1991)
  • In The Shadow Of The Rose (1991)
  • People Poems (1991)
  • Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992)
  • Now (1992)
  • Three Poems (1992)
  • Between The Earthquake (1993)
  • Run with the Hunted: A Charles Bukowski Reader (1993)
  • Screams from the Balcony: Selected Letters 1960-1970 (1993)
  • Those Marvelous Lunches (1993)
  • Pulp (1994)
  • Confession Of A Coward (1995)
  • Heat Wave (1995)
  • Living on Luck: Selected Letters 1960s-1970s, Volume 2 (1995)
  • Shakespeare Never Did This (augmented edition) (1995)
  • Betting on the Muse: Poems & Stories (1996)
  • The Laughing Heart (1996)
  • Bone Palace Ballet (1997)
  • A New War (1997)
  • The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship (1998) ISBN 1-57423-058-1
  • To Lean Back Into It (1998)
  • Reach for the Sun: Selected Letters 1978-1994, Volume 3 (1999)
  • The Singer (1999)
  • What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through the Fire (1999)

2000 and after

  • Open All Night (2000)
  • Popcorn In The Dark (2000)
  • Beerspit Night and Cursing: The Correspondence of Charles Bukowski and Sheri Martinelli 1960-1967 (2001)
  • The night torn mad with footsteps (2001)
  • Pink Silks (2001)
  • The Simple Truth (2002)
  • Sifting Through The Madness for the Word, The Line, The Way: New Poems (2003) ISBN 0-06-056823-2
  • as Buddha smiles (2004)
  • The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain: New Poems (2004) ISBN 0-06-057701-0
  • Slouching Toward Nirvana (2005)
  • Come On In!: New Poems (2006)
  • The People Look Like Flowers At Last: New Poems (2007)

Criticism and biographies

  • Hugh Fox - Charles Bukowski A Critical and Bibliographical Study - 1969
  • Jory Sherman - Bukowski: Friendship, Fame & Bestial Myth - 1981
  • Neeli Cherkowski - Bukowski - A Life - 1991
  • Russell Harrison - Against The American Dream - 1994
  • Amber O'Neil - Blowing My Hero - 1995
  • Gerald Locklin - Charles Bukowski: A Sure Bet - 1996
  • Steve Richmond - Spinning Off Bukowski - 1996
  • A.D. Winans - The Charles Bukowski/Second Coming Years - 1996
  • Gay Brewer - Charles Bukowski, Twayne's United States Authors Series - 1997
  • Jim Christy - The Buk Book - 1997
  • John Thomas - Bukowski In The Bathtub - 1997
  • Ann Menebroker - Surviving Bukowski - 1998
  • Carlos Polimeni - Bukowski For Beginners - 1998
  • Howard Sounes - Charles Bukowski. Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life - 1998
  • Jean-Francois Duval - Bukowski and The Beats - 2000
  • Gundolf S. Freyermuth - That's it. - 2000
  • Daniel Weizmann (editor) - Drinking with Bukowski - Recollections of the Poet Laureate of Skid Row - 2000
  • Aubrey Malone - the hunchback of east Hollywood - 2003
  • Jon Edgar Webb Jr. - Jon, Lou, Bukowski and Me - 2003
  • Ben Pleasants - Visceral Bukowski - 2004
  • Michael Gray Baughan - Charles Bukowski - 2004
  • Enrico Francheschini - I'm Bukowski, and then? - 2005
  • Barry Miles - Charles Bukowski - 2005
  • Tom Russell - Tough Company - 2005 .
  • David Charlson - Charles Bukowski: Autobiographer, Gender Critic, Iconoclast - 2005
  • Linda King - Loving and Hating Charles Bukowski - 2006
  • An Introduction to Charles Bukowski[5]
  • The Hunchback of East Hollywood : A Biography of Charles Bukowski by Aubrey Malone (Critical Vision, 2003)
  • Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life by Howard Sounes (Grove Press, 1999)
  • Aaron Krumhansl - A Descriptive Bibliography of the Primary Publications of Charles Bukowski (Black Sparrow Press, 1999)
  • Sanford Dorbin - A Bibliography of Charles Bukowski (Black Sparrow Press, 1969)
  • University of Southern California Department of Special Collections


  1. ^ Miles, Barry. Charles Bukowski.
  2. ^ Sounes, Howard. Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life, p. 8
  3. ^ Sounes, Howard. Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life, p. 8
  4. ^
  5. ^ An Introduction to Charles Bukowski
  • Bukday birthday celebration in Los Angeles, August 15-19 2007
  • Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's Los Angeles bus tour
  • Extensive online database of Bukowski's work
  • Bukowski discussion forum
  • Bukowski Tribute site
  • Love Is A Dog From Hell
  • An Introduction to Charles Bukowski
  • The Beat Page on Charles Bukowski
  • These Words I Write Keep Me From Total Madness
  • The Buk - A Bukowski overview
  • Blue Neon Alley - Charles Bukowski directory
  • Three Charles Bukowski Poems 'Remixed' by Hyperlexic
  • Lune Froide on IMDB
  • Charles Bukowski's Gravesite
  • Modern American Poetry Collection − Ball State University Archives and Special Collections Research Center
  • Black Sparrow Press Collection − Western Michigan University Special Collections
  • The Italian Community − The Italian community

  • Persondata
    NAME Bukowski Charles
    ALTERNATIVE NAMES Bukowski, Henry Charles
    SHORT DESCRIPTION American Novelist, Poet
    DATE OF BIRTH August 16, 1920
    PLACE OF BIRTH Andernach, Germany
    DATE OF DEATH March 9, 1994
    PLACE OF DEATH San Pedro, California
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