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

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Jory Sherman delivers. In a tradition of literary memoir he delivers a clear, informative, and entertaining portrait of his relationship with Charles Bukowski, stretching back to the waning years of the 1950s when both were publishing in the small poetry journals then proliferating over the country. Sherman tells of his own early beginnings, how poetry beguiled him and took hold, and of his first publications in homegrown journals. It was while visiting one of the editors, in a small Florida town, that he became aware of a then largely unknown writer in Los Angeles named Charles Bukowski. Back then, Sherman had no idea that this obscure poet, who spent much of his time at the race track placing bets, was destined to take his place as a world-renowned cult figure along with the likes of Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac.

This memoir is not hero worship, nor is it an attempt to tear down an idol. It is, rather, a mesmerizing document of the literary life of an outsider, a poet who spent decades learning his craft, listening intently to the rhythms of the life around him, avoiding the academic world, and, more importantly, stepping out of the way of literary cliché. The Bukowski emerging out of these pages is ‘the real deal,’ the man who saw in poetry a way to reflect the lives of ordinary people, showing how luminous the sights and sounds of everyday life can be. The reader is fortunate that Sherman is able to offer first-hand accounts, told in vivid, unadorned language, of how Bukowski moved about in his day-by-day world of cheap neighborhoods and low-end jobs, and how he balanced his need for love with the life of a loner.

When Sherman first read Bukowski, the L.A. poet had yet to publish his first book. He only appeared in the “littles,” as


they were called, journals of forty or so pages that reached two or three hundred readers at most. It was only through the mid 1960s that Bukowski reached a larger audience, and by that time, Jory and “Hank,” as Bukowski was known to his friends, was beginning to reach a wider readership, even in the academic community. By then, Sherman’s own two books of poetry had taken on a legendary status in the underground poetry scene, and he had left his own indelible mark on the Beat scene in San Francisco. Some of this memoir gives us the flavor of the coffee houses of that era, when Sherman, a young poet, was shaping his own voice and defining a path forward.

Bukowski is one of the most widely read, and translated, of American poets. He has been the subject of a few biographies and book-length critical studies. It has taken some time, but now academic papers, and even Ph.D. theses are being written on his poetry and prose. His novels, from Post Office and Ham on Rye, to Factotum and Hollywood, are cult classics. His poetry has entered the canon and exerted a sustaining influence on poets world-wide. In Sherman’s portrait of “the early Bukowski,” we are given a chance to see where so much of ‘the literary gold’ came from, as well as to be entertained by pictures of a bygone era.


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