Blog of Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, Jory Sherman. Get the latest information on his books, appearances and his candid reflections on writing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


For some years now, many people have urged me to write my autobiography. These include editors, agents, friends, and my wife. I resisted these urgings because I felt that I was incapable of writing a non-fiction account of my life. I believed that I could write about myself in fictional terms.

Two recent events helped to change my mind, caused a sea-change in my thinking. And, perhaps there were other factors that induced me to write at least a memoir of one part of my life. I think that my listening to autobiographies and biographies were instrumental in my decision to try, at least, to write a memoir.

A couple of months ago, a friend, Skip Hughes, a poet held a reading at the Art & Espresso in Winnsboro, Texas. He invited me to read my poetry. I have not read my poetry in public for many years, but agreed to attend. Charlotte typed up a few of my poems in very large print, so I read those to a small audience.

The reading brought back many memories of my San Francisco days, when I read at the Bread & Wine Mission, after an invitation by Pierre de Lattre, the Coffee Gallery, The Fox & The Hound, the Spaghetti Factory in North Beach. And, I reminisced about other public readings I gave with poets Tracy Thompson and Diane Wakoski. This was Tracy’s idea to take our poetry out of San Francisco and read in coffee houses throughout the Bay Area. We called ourselves “The Troubadors,” and our readings were very successful.

The other stimulus to write a memoir came from fellow writer Bill Brooks, who has been asking me to write an autobiography for some time. Recently, he reiterated that request and his words pushed me over the edge.

I have begun writing of my 20-year friendship with the late poet Charles Bukowski. It is difficult to write because I am leaving out large chunks of my own life in order to concentrate on Bukowski during our early days of writing and publishing in the literary journals before either of us was well known. In fact, neither of us was known at all.

I had written about this friendship before at the urging of the editor and publisher of Blue Horse, a literary magazine. This was after my friendship with Bukowski had disintegrated. Blue Horse published a small volume entitled FRIENDSHIP, FAME, AND BESTIAL MYTH, which went through several printings. There was an introduction by NOLA Press, pictures of me and Bukowski, of Neeli Cherkovski, and some of Bukowski’s poetry and articles.

This slight book served as a launching pad for both Neeli Cherkovski’s HANK, first published by Random House, a biography of Charles Bukowski, and British writer Howard Sounes’ bio, published by Grove Press, some years after Neeli’s book appeared.

I have begun writing about those early years as Bukowski’s friend when we were both starting to publish our poetry. The title of my book is BUKOWSKI & ME. The subtitle is The Beast & The Bastard, a memoir. Bukowski called himself “the Beast” and my parents never married.

I am writing the book entirely on speculation. I cannot find the photos I have of Bukowski and me, so I got in touch with Neeli Cherkovski through Faceboook. He has no photos either, but I was surprised to learn that he is writing his memoirs. Neeli is 62 now, and I’ve known him since he was 15 years old, and will be, of course, in my memoirs. He has also agreed to write an introduction for my book should it be published.

My memoir is a fascinating look at two very different poets and the literary climate of the 1950s through the 1980s, an odyssey that began in Florida and continued on to San Francisco’s North Beach, Hollywood, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Colton, Mexico and beyond.

For me, this is a journey of memory and discovery, a look back down the long corridors of time into a world of intense creativity and learning. It was a wonderful time, the best years of my life and I hope to capture much of it in the only memoir I will probably ever write.

Jory Sherman