Bukowski, Charles

Alternative names
Birth 1920-08-16
Death 1994-03-09

Biographical notes:

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) was born in Andernach, Germany and came to the U.S. when he was three. He grew up in Los Angeles and began writing as a child. He published his first story at age 24 and first poem at age 35. He spent much of his life drifting. Although Bukowski did not associate with "beat writers," his style attracts readers and followers of the beat generation. A prolific writer, much of his work is based on his own experience using the language and subjects of the street. He wrote long-hand, much of it sent to publishers and never seen again. Bukowski became widely known after the movie "Barfly" which was based on his life around the time Factotum was written and featured Mickey Rourke. Bukowski wrote the screenplay and was involved with the movie production. Prior to "Barfly", he was best known by the public for his novel Post Office . In literary circles, Bukowski was praised for his poetry. Yet, he had a strong disregard for formal structure and did not consider himself a poet. He died in his adopted hometown of San Pedro, California.

From the guide to the Papers of Charles Bukowski, 1958-1980, (University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections)

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 Factotum in 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.

From the guide to the Charles Bukowski, 1944-1977, (University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections)

Charles Bukowski (1920–1994) was born in Germany and immigrated to Los Angeles with his family in 1922. In 1939, Bukowski began attending Los Angeles City College, but dropped out and moved to New York to be a writer. After having little success, Bukowski gave up his dream and embarked on a ten-year, nearly fatal alcohol binge. After being hospitalized for an ulcer, Bukowski cut back on drinking and took up writing again. His first collection of poetry, Flower, Fist and Bestial Wall , was published in 1960; however, it was short stories that gained him a wide readership. Bukowski also wrote a weekly column for the Los Angeles alternative newspaper Open City and later for the Los Angeles Free Press in which he combined journalism, fiction, and philosophy in a non-traditional style. During the 1970s Bukowski began writing semi-autobiographical novels featuring the first-person narrator Henry Chinaski. Over the course of his career, Bukowski published many collections of poetry and short stories and he earned a National Endowment for the Arts Grant (1974), a Loujon Press Award, a Silver Reel Award, and the San Francisco Festival of the Arts Prize for documentary film.

"Charles Bukowski." Contemporary Authors Online (reproduced in Biography Resource Center). http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC (accessed October 2005).

From the guide to the Charles Bukowski poems and letter, 1965–1975, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Charles Bukowski, American poet, was born in Germany but emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1922. He was educated in Los Angeles. Bukowski gained literary recognition in 1962 when named "Outsider of the Year" by OUTSIDER magazine. Prior to then he had published three volumes of poetry and since then has published 30 volumes.

Bukowski has also written novels including; "Post Office" (1971) and "Ham on Rye" (1982). His writing emphasizes immediate experience and he writes as an alienated outcast, critical of the academic and commercial mainstream of contemporary poetry.

From the description of Letters-Manuscripts, 1970-1974. (Temple University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 122468186

Biographical note

Charles Bukowski was born on August 16, 1920 in Andernach, Germany, the son of a US soldier and German woman. His family immigrated to the United States in 1922 and settled in Los Angeles, where Bukowski spent most of his life. His father was in and out of work during the Depression years and was a reputed tyrant, verbally and physically abusing his son throughout his childhood. It was perhaps to numb himself from his father's abuse that Bukowski began drinking at the age of 13, initiating his life-long affair with alcohol.

After graduating from Los Angeles High School in 1939 Bukowski studied for a time at Los Angeles City College, taking courses in journalism and literature. He left school and home in 1941 after his father, who had finally read some of Bukowski's stories, threw his son's possessions into the street. Bukowski continued to write stories and traveled across America, supporting himself with a string of odd jobs: gas station attendant, elevator operator, truck driver, and overseer in a dog biscuit factory, to name a few.

In 1944 his story Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip was published in the magazine Story. He returned to Los Angeles and met Janet Cooney Baker, with whom he lived for the next ten years. In 1955, Bukowski was hospitalized with an alcohol-induced bleeding ulcer and came close to death. After a brief marriage to Barbara Frye, the rich publisher of a small poetry magazine, Bukowski took a job as a post office clerk in 1958, a job he held for the next twelve years.

In 1955, Bukowski also began writing poetry, publishing volumes almost annually. His first collection, Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wail, appeared in 1959. It was 30 pages long and the print run was only 200 copies. Bukowski's first volume of prose, All Assholes in the World and Mine, was published seven years later. By 1963, the year Bukowski published It Catches My Heart in Its Hands--a collection of poetry about alcoholics, prostitutes, losing gamblers, and other down-and-outs--he had developed a loyal following, and was famous for his use of violent images and graphic language in his work. His column Notes of a Dirty Old Man appeared regularly in Open City and Los Angles Free Press, and its run was later collected in book by the same title (1969). In 1970, Bukowski quit his job with the Postal Service when John Martin of the Black Sparrow Press offered him a $100 monthly stipend to continue his writing.

Although prolific, Bukowski remained a literary outsider who published his works with small presses, primarily on the West Coast. His short stories are unsparingly realistic and usually comic. They often observe the thoughts and actions of Bukowski's alter ego Henry Chinaski, a hard-drinking unskilled worker, a lover of classical music, and a racetrack gambler. This character was introduced in Bukowski's 1965 autobiographical Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live with the Beasts. In 1973, Bukowski gained a wider audience when an award-winning television documentary by director Taylor Hackford was aired, and he also began an incidental career in the film industry. The 1983 film Tales of Ordinary Madness, directed by Marco Ferreri, was based on stories of the author. Its script drew material from Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and Tales of Ordinary Madness. The screenplay for the film Barfly (1987) was written by Bukowski himself and directed by Barbet Schroeder, and the experience of the filming became the subject of the 1989 novel Hollywood. Crazy Love/Love is a Dog from Hell (1989), directed by Dominique Deruddere, was based on The Copulating Mermaid of Venice and other stories by Bukowski.

In 1985 Bukowski married Linda Lee Beighle, a health food proprietor twenty-five years his junior. He had one daughter, Marina Louise, who was born in 1965 to Bukowski and Francis Dean Smith. In his later years, success caught up with the author at last and he evolved from down-and-out to up-and-in: he lived in a house with a swimming pool, drove a black BMW, wrote on a computer, and enjoyed his favorite recordings of Sibelius, Mahler, and Rossini on a new stereo.

Charles Bukowski died at age 73 on March 9, 1994, at a hospital in San Pedro, California, after an almost year-long bout with leukemia.

From the guide to the Charles Bukowski papers, 1957-1994, undated, (USC Libraries Special Collections)


Henry Charles Bukowski, Jr. was born August 16, 1920 in Andernach, Germany. In 1923 the Bukowskis left Germany and lived in Baltimore, Maryland for a few months before settling in Los Angeles, California in 1924. In 1939, Charles Bukowski enrolled as a scholarship student at Los Angeles City College to study Journalism, English, Economics and Public Affairs. Unable to hold down a job and failing in school, he left home, moved downtown and worked various manual jobs in railroad yards and factories until finally setting out on the road. Traveling across the country and working various jobs, Bukowski lived in boarding houses, drank and wrote short stories.

At the age of 24 he published his first story, Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip, in Story magazine. Missing his hometown, Bukowski moved back to Los Angeles in 1946. For the next ten years Bukowski claimed that he quit writing and devoted his life to drinking and living the life of a Barfly. In 1955, at the age of 35, Bukowski was hospitalized at the charity ward of L.A. County with a bleeding ulcer. After a blood transfusion from his father, which saved his life, Bukowski started writing poems. In 1958, he returned to the postal service as a mail sorter (after being a mail carrier for three years, 1952-1955).

In 1960 Bukowski published his first book of poems, Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail and in 1962, Longshot Pomes for Broke Players and Run with the Hunted . But it was the two publications by Loujon Press, It Catches My Heart in Its Hands (1963) and Crucifix in a Deathhand (1965), that gained Bukowski his nation-wide underground audience. It was at this time that he met John Martin, founder of Black Sparrow Press, which became Bukowski's primary publisher. Throughout his life, Bukowski published more than 45 books of poetry and prose, including 6 novels and the screenplay for the movie Barfly . He died of pneumonia in San Pedro, California on March 9, 1994 at the age of 73, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp .

Bukowski, Charles. Ham on Rye. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1982. Autobiographical novel. The Bukowski/Purdy Letters: A Decade of Dialogue, 1964-1974, edited by Seamus Cooney. Sutton West, Ontario, Canada; Santa Barbara, California: Paget Press, 1983. Cherkovski, Neeli. Hank: The Life of Charles Bukowski. New York: Random Hose, 1991. Dorbin, Sanford. A Bibliography of Charles Bukowski. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1969. Drinking with Bukowski: Recollections of the Poet Laureate of Skid Row, edited by Daniel Weizmann. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2000. Fogel, Al. Chrles Bukowski: A Comprehensive Price-Guide and Checklist, 1944-1999. [Miami?]: Sole Proprietor Press, 2000. Krumhansl, Aaron. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Primary Publications of Charles Bukowski. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1999. Living on Luck: Selected Letters, 1960s-1970s, Volume 2, edited by Seamus Cooney. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1995. Montfort, Michael. Bukowski: Photographs, 1977-1991. Hollywood: Bukskin Press, 1993. Reach for the Sun: Selected Letters 1978-1994, Volume 3, edited by Seamus Cooney. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1999. Screams from the Balcony: Selected Letters, 1960-1970, edited by Seamus Cooney. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1993. Sounes, Howard. Bukowski in Pictures. Edinburgh: Rebel Inc., 2000. Sounes, Howard. Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life. New York: Grove Press, 1998.

From the guide to the Charles Bukowski Papers, ca. 1955-1980, (University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Department of Special Collections)


Henry Charles Bukowski, renowned 20th century American poet, was born August 16, 1920 in Andernach, Germany. In 1923, his family left Germany for the United States settling in Los Angeles in 1924. Following his graduation from high school in 1939, Bukowski enrolled at Los Angeles City College but left Los Angeles after receiving failing grades and experiencing discouraging changes in his family life. He worked in physically demanding jobs before he decided to leave California to travel and experience life in other parts of the country. In 1946 he moved back to Los Angeles, where he found employment working for the postal service, first as a mail carrier and later as a mail sorter.

Bukowski published his first book Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail in 1960. He gained national recognition after the publication of It Catches My Heart in Its Hands (1963) and Crucifix in a Deathhand (1965). In 1965, he met John Martin, founder of Black Sparrow Press, who long admired his work and became his life-long primary publisher. Bukowski published more than 45 books of poetry and prose including a number of novels and a screenplay. He died in 1994, in San Pedro, California.

For further biographical information, see Howard Sounes, Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life . New York: Grove Press, 1998.

From the guide to the Charles Bukowski manuscript, circa 1980-circa 1994, (University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.)


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  • Poets, American--20th century--Sources
  • Ciegos--Libros y lectura
  • Bukowski, Charles--Poetry
  • American poetry
  • American fiction
  • Poets, American--History--20th century--Sources
  • Postmodernism (Literature)
  • American literature--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources
  • Authors, American--20th century--Sources
  • American literature--20th century--Archival resources
  • Authors, American--Archival resources


  • Poets


  • California--Los Angeles (as recorded)