Charles Bukowski papers

MS 148
Charles Bukowski, 1965

Charles Bukowski, American beat poet and literary figure. Signed photograph

Collection area: Literature

Collection dates: 1944-1977

About this collection

Consists mainly of Bukowski's books and chapbooks, as well as periodical publications that contain his writings. The finding aid indexes 71 other contemporary writers represented in these periodicals, including Diane Wakoski and Fielding Dawson. Jim Roman, book-seller, is the primary correspondent, 1964-1974, both with Bukowski, and with other people about him. Some letters contain material relating to colleagues Jon Edgar Webb and his Loujon Press, and also John Martin of the Black Sparrow Press. Additional correspondence, as well as poetry, stories, and drawings are from Bukowski to Darlene Fife and Robert Head, of the New Orleans underground newspaper, Nola Express, from 1967-1973. Also contains unpublished poetry and prose manuscripts; drawings and cartoons; reviews; photographs; and audio cassettes of Bukowski reading his works. Drawings include self-portraits, and are done in acrylics, watercolor, ink, and pencil. Ephemera consists of poetry postcards, broadsides, flyers, and posters; some are signed by Bukowski. This collection is continued by MS 171.

Historical background

Charles Bukowski was born in Andernach, Germany August 16, 1920. He emigrated with his family to the United States when he was three and grew up poor in Los Angeles. Poet, novelist, screenwriter, and denizen of the mean streets of LA, he wrote from experience. Bukowski is generally considered a "beat poet" though he never associated with beat writers. His language, subject matter and world view reflect a life and love of drink, women and horses. Bukowski was a prolific, some say a compulsive writer. He rose from being a local literary cult figure to wide acclaim following the success of his screenplay for the motion picture Barfly. The screen play is based on his semi-autobiographical novel Factotumin which a down and out poet (Mickey Rourke) meets a barfly (Faye Dunaway). The character enjoys fleeting flame before sinking into drink and oblivion. Unlike, his character, Charles Bukowski realized financial success before his death in San Pedro, California on March 9, 1994. Sales of his work are reported at over a million volumes a year.

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