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Beerspit Night and Cursing: The Correspondence of Charles Bukowski and Sheri Martinelli, 1960-1967

Beerspit Night and Cursing: The Correspondence of Charles Bukowski and Sheri Martinelli, 1960-1967

by Charles Bukowski

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Unmasks the tough, street-smart persona of Charles Bukowski—America's "Ultimate Outsider"

  • Amazing letters filled with passionate, literary, and personal observation
  • Insights into the author of Tales of Ordinary Madness, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, and Run with the Hunted
  • Insights into Sheri Martinelli:


Unmasks the tough, street-smart persona of Charles Bukowski—America's "Ultimate Outsider"

  • Amazing letters filled with passionate, literary, and personal observation
  • Insights into the author of Tales of Ordinary Madness, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, and Run with the Hunted
  • Insights into Sheri Martinelli: the protege of Anais Nin, an accomplished painter, and the mistress of Ezra Pound Charels Bukowski's persona as the Dirty Old Man of American Literature is just that: a persona, a mask beneath which there was a man better read and more cultured than most people realize.

Sheri Martinelli was one of the favored few for whom Bukowski dropped the mask and engaged in serious discussion of literature and art, and for that reason the discovery and publication of his letters to her give us a more complete picture of this complicated man.

Editorial Reviews

Martinelli<-->a prot<'e>ge<'e> of Ana<:i>s Nin who was known in San Francisco in the late 1950s as the Queen of the Beats<-->was one of the few people, editor Steven Moore notes, for whom Bukowski regularly dropped his persona as Dirty Old Man of American Literature to engage in serious discussions of writing and art. In their seven years of corresponding, beginning in 1962, they shared intimate secrets and confessed to their attempts to find meaningful activity in life. All of their surviving letters are included in this compilation and are printed in full. Appendices include Martinelli's 1961 review of and Bukowski's contributions (a handful of poems and cartoons) to Martinelli's . Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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5/june/60 sheri martinelli 15 lynch st. s.f. calif/

my dear charles bukowski/ have no idea when the next a & p will be done as one is madly busy—hence i return yr verse & retain yr address in case i do new a & p/ if you spec. wanted rob't stock to read it i give his address/i wont take respons, to mail it over as rob't might not answer you & you'd wonder where hell was work/ rob't stock 41b peralta pl s.f. calif

    i want to say that i don't find a "thump" in yr work—i understand the subject matter since that is life; i suggest you keep writing it down; i suggest you go to the old boys—the greeks/latins/a good translation in library & discover that life has never been any different ... then awakens in the soul ... a desire to leave a message of help for those who come after us/ & not to list what life does & is doing to us/maestro ezra pound kept telling me "now don't dump yr garbage can on my head ..." so I learned this lesson the hard way ...

    of course chopin would be at his piano ... that was his JOB—find your job/or become that which you want to exist & that is it/

    if you want to walk in the company of poets & painters I rec. that you acquaint yrself with the tradition of art; that you know of other subject matters than yrself because we have all walked that way & we still do; life does not spare any of us— read Wyndham Lewis Rotting Hill The Room Without A Telephone & that is a portrait of Mr. Eliot our great poet & anaccount of his eyes & Wyndham—at the library—

    now do shave off yr whiskuhs; stop irritating the cops; remain sober; stop trying to figure it all out for yrself—other minds have been here—avail yrself of them; they are called 'classics' which AINT ACADEMIC; brush yr teeth; find a way to pay th' rent & join the free public library & obey the chinese command: "walk in the courtyard as if alone ... not seeing the rest of them ..." & repeat the magic formula:

           "now it is my time to walk on thin ice & face tigers" & recall the poem the greek sailor left for us:

"I bid you take ship & set sail, for many a ship, when ours was lost, weathered the gale ..."

or words to effect/

however did you see the A & P Review?

most cordially


Los Angeles, Fire in the Balcony
JadeJune [8] '60

Dear Sheri Martinelli:

    Holey possible there is no thump in my poems, and, in me. A degrading and disgusting position, eternally reproved by the gods for not saying enough or well enough or their way. Christ, I have read your classics, I have wasted a life in libraries, turning pages, looking for blood. It seems to me that there has not been ENOUGH garbage dumped, the pages do not scream; always the effected dignity and know-all and dry page sunburned and listless as wheat.

    By the way, must all you so-called modems use i i i i and no caps? this was effective once but is now simply a hollowdrag.

    Pound? Part of Pound was all right, of course, but much circus and blather, maestro maestro throwing spagetwopchink and rolling with the punch, effect of doing, appears walking straight while lying down. I don't have whiskers, I brush my teeth, but do not obey Chinese commands, I obey my commands and hate cops because most of them are young and wear black and carry clubs and guns and wiggle their little conceited asses and don't understand Beethoven or Mahler or Chopin or any or all the Russian musicians and writers. There is much truth in your saying I am listing life merely and there is much truth that I am not saying much and that I am saying too much in the subjective sense, that there is some garbage, but simply on the basis of the classics and the knowledge that I am not doing right, I cannot free myself. The work itself must find its own conclusion from myself and myself as a base alone, set free from what has happened or upon what others have done. I will be 40 in August and I am still, perhaps, living like a child and writing like one but this must continue as long as it is the natural thing for me to do.

    Critics tend to overevaluate or underevaluate a work treading in the subsoil, seeing the line in the sforzando of their history. If God pissed some would call it a yellow blessing while others would mount their pea-shooters and snarl in their wine.

    I have had time to think while laying halfdead in the charity wards and standing in the racetrack sun and sleeping with the fat whores, their sweaty feet pressed flat against my heart. It's no good reading any more, the machinery has burned out, will not take the glib façade. Do you prefer that I eliminate experience entirely from the poem? Li Po liked to burn his up and watch them float down the river, and LP too, liked his wine. I cannot change my flow to criticism. I do not love my poems, really entirely hate them, yet still cannot seethe to do handsprings for the sake of making it. I remember many Chinese poems of the woman waiting for her man to come back from the wars, torn for love of man and simply waiting, the awful gap of wait, looking at the hill, the flower moving in the sun and nobody there, yet understanding and willing to give her man to the gods. Poems 5 and 6 lines long, experience indeed, and yet if I may use the hollow word: beautiful. Ah, I know, yes yes yes, all this in the classical mould. No, no, no. Experience. I don't like people who say this has all happened before, we cannot write it. It is happening now. NOW. The dead are dead, and believe it or not, because they are dead their words, in a sense are dead too. Blind Milton is not nearly as tragic as when he was living. Art only preserves a portion and is overrated. I can see my fingers on the keys, a half dead plant with a leaf like a rabbit ear bent left faces me, the women of the world walk in my brain, a rat gnaws my stomach and kicks his feet, an ice-cream truck passes bing bing bing bong bing bong bong, and Art, Art is nothing, it's my fingers on the keys NOW carving and crying Chopin and music and rebellion, to hell with the classics, to hell with form, to hell with Pound, go out, go out and bleed, bleed limitlessly against the mob, the halfRome, halfpoem, halffire, halfkiss. Go out, go out, go out.

Truly, Charles Bukowski


Lost Angels
mid-June '60

Dear Sherimar:

    Recvd yrs on Matz, Atlantic Ave., Gloucester, Mass., which seems to me to be an incomplete address; however, if I do not hear from you on correction in couple of weeks I will send something if I have something.

    I am not a "young poet". Will be 40, Aug. 16, this year. Have been writing poetry for 5 years, before that: 10 year drunk; before that, short story. Some history there but unimportant. Tired today, drained; blackbirds whirling outside window, a mass of nonsense. Hearse to bring out chapbook of mine, Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail, month or so. Heard from Light Year, said "hell-poems", "powerful", "2 dark too dark". Same thing from others on and on. Suppose yes when smoke has all cleared Pound will still be there, langwiddge-ear, knifepage flur. Boy can cut the jab, hoy and wan.

    re solitude: I am complete isolationist, smer the people. music, paint, sound of paint, red music.

    but this is mainly on the Matz address. All right. Li Po, uh yes, living on short sound of song, each moment too small for him. what can we do? Contempt and scrabble and illness.

Spoom, and spondee

Charles Bukowski

let the curious be damned and the damned be curious: the essence of poetry is malarky crossed with bullwhip ...

Los Angeles, Calif.
July 2, 1960

Dear Sheri:

    I am enclosing a letter I got from Pain today. It might amuse you. It slightly sickened me. He preaches so damned much and his lines lack solidity, they hang in the air, driveling, bickering, begging.

    He words ... without being there. And all this coat-tail hanging to the great. Miles wants to be something or other, or not be something or other, wants to reach something, but to me he appears to lack any strength at all.

    I said he would make a good lawyer. He would come closer to making a bad preacher.

    Well, anyhow, I answered him. I have enclosed a copy of my answer.

    Sheri, I know my poetry is a long ways off, but I am just beginning, and I really don't want to write too much like the rest of them, so I'm starting simply. But they should really give me more time before tearing.

    Anyhow, enclosed, the stuff.

yours and what,

Charles Bukowski

ps* You needn't return any of this crap. just throw it w rest a garbage.


early July [7] 60, kowski, one6two3 North Maryposa

yes, dear cous':

    much to feaze in yr letters but u are coming thru like a good thing which is not easy with the gimbals and rooks distorting polysyndeton and prayer, but off the fancy langwich and let me tell u I cannot send to Pearson at Yale U because, cous' I only have mostly one copy of that in which I appear and in some cases none. Wuz once in beautiful thing called Portfolio II, $10 an issue, large reproduction paintings modern, me story wit Sartre, Lorca everybody else, pollock in big promenade, drunk one night in Filly Pa, needing drink broke no home no love no lemonade, told certain persons I writer, hole bar laughed: you writer, ah ha ha ha, so they promised me drinks and I went and drug out huge Portfolio and there in bar I showed them me with the famous, only it skidrow bar and they never hearda nobody, but print and all big drawings, red bulls with ears and tails and horns that stuck up outa pages, and the drinks came and I went outside to fight somebody or what the hell and I took the book with me and it was winding and raining and the pages flew flap flip all edge and whirl bulls with wings and matadors in the rain and everybody ran around ketching the pages, HERE, OH HEY, I GOT ONE HERE! Bam would go a foot, bam, big foot of window-washer, HERE'S ONE! and he handed it to me, a big muddy footprint right in the middle of the beautiful page and I said, OH CHRIST LET THEM GO, LET THEM FLY, MY WORDS, LORCA, EVERYBODY, LET THEM GO TO HELL IN THE WIND! and they laughed and, by god, they did let them go, and I dropped the yellow portfolio cover and we all went in and had a drink for dear dead Lorca and whatever.

    ye[ah], I want to go on record merely listing my ills, snakebite-carnaval thistle, dilucidate.

    Pound had green eyes? Lo, that makes twoa us! Now, if I only had the rest!

    No, cous', I am not at top now; this gallimaufry is a beginning. I always knew, even when I was very young that it would take a long time, perhaps too long and that the years might run out before I got there. It is like having a baby. He is kicking in my belly now, but I cannot bring him out. I used to watch the sunlight thro my hangover in New Orleans down on the hanging dishpans and upon the breathing of the rats and all the slivers and dead French souls and me walking second floor railing outside lost, the words worms in my brain, helljelly mess wanting to lay down on paper and be good real thing, but too young, and still, at 40, too young, not, no, at "top".

    I understand where I am. I am in hell: the faces tell me that altho they do not bother me so much now because they have been there so long and I know now that they will never say anything or do anything, make either love or sound or hate that will last, and it is my business to dispossess them by treating them kindly because they are only what they are, but it still feels so much like a prince without snuffle to be alone in a room again. I mention things sometimes through nerves and the flow of word that is not entirely felt by the socket and shekinah of self ... wal, hell.

    Fry's admonition of Cantos not against Pound, against me, figuring all I felt holy was no damn good: Like D. H. Lawrence, Chikowsky or Franck's Symphony in D. Fought me thru last half of marriage; she nympho, held not against her, did best I could, but she laughed and claimed that sexually I was a "puritan" because I would not do the extra special things, and guess she was right. I think a woman much more beautiful fully clothed than naked, but let's get off of this, I feel lost already.

    no ho no, wat do u do wen u want to rite a poem and a woman is sitting in a chair reading the funnypapers across from u, u cant get up and simply go over and sit at a typewriter. everything is too difficult and I do not want to ever hurt anybody.

    I do not read a female face; I read a female ass. This is cruel, Sheri, and I am sorry, but that's where man gets his message. I don't know where woman gets hers.

    Cannot yu say u have lived: Canto XX to Rockdrill, read by Pound. and, by god, now u are writing me, so in a way I am one with Pound too, and I feel better already. Jesus, I knew something must come out of them grinding my meat. another story of sorrow here, the wood-drills driving into the flesh, 16, other young man and men dancing in the streets, halo u uh harry hurrah but me down on belly drill drill drill into boils as big as apples god damn u god I said come down here into this room and I will crash u right in the face and drill drill drill the first of the old charity ward before the blood the alky cry god damn bastard world, so many sorrow stories so many whores jails lies skins that wiggled and kissed with heads as empty as these beer cans that sit strewn all about my kitchen, god damn kitchen beautiful music bang bang bang coming out of radio now, the paint of love, the paint of music, not the rotten Miles Payne front but crawling up without a name, without a reason, like an apple, like a slipper sitting by itself in the closet, like a cat chasing its tail, not thinking of birds; like Pound, like ontology, like bang bang bang.

    Cous', let's not make any "national minds". U sound like a republican convention. I can see I am going to have to take on where gramps left off, even tho u are learning me because I can see much of ur attitude is more embracing flatwise and soundwise than mine and already u have given me some good lessons and I am humble student but must at times say what must much be said. u u. this business of the future an onerary burden. Remember whar ol' buddy mine D.H.Law said: "We should build our statues of wood." This takes great strength, we will be in t dark, in t dark don u understand cous'? ware we belong, lets lev the earth if thers any levins to thos luckun to cum after and wonder. ya, even the Cantos, they must go, tho I do not have the strength, time will. that is the marvelous cry of ours, that all is lost forever why do we god damn go on livin writin letters to cous' Sheri M. Po Li because only because only only nothin'. We humans have more courage than locomotives crushing snow.

    You are going to allow everyone to die, dear Sheri, but your courage is an ox. wunded a course, ur not foolin' me, u been sittin' in my hell and u got no business tellin' me to cum on out when u's half foot in, halfass out, still getting stung.

    lovin' hilaritas, yes good, yes u good there, open mind to see sea sharks and meanin a sharks an meanin a teeth knowin they are they and there and dyin' in 'em like an artist and a man or woman, bring laughter but not cheap bobhope but 1. at self tapped and trapped and big in the jaws laughin at formula, the sparge of cancer of tipped ripping and demise ... no, do not discipline spirit, let take hold and call own shots, make no spartan rules, let the ocrea and ochre run, u paint, I have painted, we will paint. and, no education an so forth—think I want to catch up to the Russians? Let them catch up to me. education distasteful word, u probably in ur spirit wanted and meant something else. do not l[et']s be word-hagglers, I am no good sometime ... cous'.

    o, on Sherman, I write him different thing that I know he prefers. I am kinder than u think. I am not saying he will not someday be a very fine poet but at 26 I am worried for him—there are so many 26's that are far something else even before 30, and thing—wife in pregnancy and all, look like trap. Fry got so god damned mad when I refused babies because I knew I was insane, she tricked me into it, but miscarriage, all this may seem selfishness but I will die alone. But on Sherman, I write him. He, so worldly. Meets editors walking down street. Phones this and that. Reads poetry here and there, piano background, Lorca, sets things up, booths, fairs, magazines ... It gives me a feeling of things going on when I hear from him, and I think he is honest and well-meaning but rather imagine he has a tremendous flare when set off and could be rather narrow and unforgiving ... but I don't know and hate these measurement things, and find when talking about him rather talk as he does. his poetry is so poetic, so silken, suffering true, but only ... i wish he could get in a few back-alley fights and lock himself in a cellar for 6 months or so.

    Anyhow, I know a couple of people in Frisco and that's something. Down here they know I am hermitage and leave alone. One thing about L.A. people, they so hose-high you don't mingle, they cut u turkey cold. Good for me, this place.

    Sherman much admires u, esp. ur painting, but seems wary of personal and think I, u are too much for him. well, listen, I am going down to the bar. I should clean this place up, ah well.

    say listen cous', I must drink and smoke at 4:30 am, there is nothing more circumspect unless we withdraw into the cloud of mallard. the [point] of this letter is that the dullness of the welt is forgotten for the nascency of much gift of robgrov and gobble the golden word, the laughter basting our rotten white bones, Pound as alive as a rat 3000 ad, myself writing this, smoking a cigarette, early this time, 10:34 pm closing, mailing whenever the hell. A sound just went off in my mind and all is raw and I must sleep, 1 way or the other.

may all the gords and gods
tinkle things goosegigberry gophers
be urs,
whatever that means,
Charles Bukowski

ps—Sherman phoned last night (I haven't mailed this yet) at 2 a.m., drunk, collect. I have unlisted fone but gave him my number. "I saw Sheri. She's all right, you know that? Sheri's all right. Met her husband too. Real nice guy. Saw your poem in Quicksilver, the one about the doves, man. Great, real great. 'I'll have them in the pan by 2:30.' Don't worry about the call. I'll pay you. I'm coming down there, I'm going to win on the horses, will dump it all in your lap. Stan's coming down. I'll be down the 16th. Don't clean the place up. Leave the bottles, the rats, you on the bed smoking, sheets of paper all over. Jesus, I can't write, I can't write at all. Saw Hitchcock, I said, 'How ya doin' you son of a bitch?' Saw x of Grove Press, he asked to see my work. 'What you want' I asked, 'the published or unpublished?' 'Both', he said, 'both.' Saw—etc., etc."

    Sherman quite a boy, that. going out to mail this. hope you got the Payne correspondence by now. c.b.

Meet the Author

Charles Bukowski is one of America’s best-known contemporary writers of poetry and prose and, many would claim, its most influential and imitated poet. He was born in 1920 in Andernach, Germany, to an American soldier father and a German mother, and brought to the United States at the age of two. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived there for over fifty years. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
August 16, 1920
Date of Death:
March 9, 1994
Place of Birth:
Andernach, Germany
Place of Death:
San Pedro, California
Los Angeles City College, 2 years

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