Saturday, April 20, 2013

Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski Meet in the Desert in 1962

Targets no. 11. Sandia, New Mexico, 1962

This issue of the fugitive and important western little mag is notable for featuring the first poem published by the young Raymond Carver, 'Brass Ring'. Carver was notified of the acceptance of the poem on the same day that he received notice of the publication of his regularly first published story, 'Pastoral' in the Western Humanities Review. [Sklenicka p. 84]. Maryann Carver, Raymond's first wife, would later say of that day "We were on top of the world. It seemed that if you did the right things, the right things would happen. . . We were ecstatic and partied for three days." [Halpert p. 62]

 This issue of Targets also features the Charles Bukowski poem  "Our Breath's Fondness Burns Like Gruel in Beggary". 

In his Summer 1983 interview with Mona Simpson and Lewis Buzbee in the Paris Review, Carver said of this publication that "Charles Bukowski had a poem in the same issue, and I was pleased to be in the same magazine with him. He was a kind of hero to me then." 

It's fascinating to see them under the same covers in the same magazine this early, because Carver and Bukowski would take different paths in their literary careers. While Bukowski would repeatedly celebrate his outsider status and publish mainly for little mags and small presses, Carver would struggle to put himself through school at Chico State and would go on to spend considerable time as a teacher and lecturer. Carver's early work did appear in the small press scene, notably his excellent second book, Winter Insomnia, which was published by George Hitchcock at the legendary Kayak Press. Beginning in the mid 70's, though, the bulk of Carver's work would be published by large, mainstream presses. 

Carver would eventually meet his hero a decade later, when he invited him to give a reading at UCSC in 1972. The reading and the following party turned into a drunken shamble, documented on pages 208-9 in Sklenicka, which quotes Mort Marcus' account of the party. - "Bukowski, drinking everything in sight, muttered, bragged, cursed, and, getting drunker by the minute, grabbed the girls and mashed his whiskery ace against theirs, or shot his hand to the crotch of their jeans or down their blouses. . . girls screamed and ran from the house. . . more cerebral students sat back and stared straing ahead, probably stoned. . . Ray started drinking."

 Out of that evening would come the considerably more nuanced view of Bukowski in the Carver poem "You Don't Know What Love Is (An Evening With Charles Bukowski) in which he incorporates many lines that Bukowski spoke at the party into his own poem, including phrases derisive of the college literary scene. Critics differ on whether the poem is a tribute or a satire. It's likely a bit of both, and one of the more fascinating poems I've ever read dealing with the struggle of influence. 

 Garner, W. L., ed. Targets 11. Sandia Park, N. M. : Targets, 1962. First edition. 8vo, 39 [1] pp., offset printed; saddle-stapled in card wraps. Some toning to wraps, with a 1" crease to upper rear tip.  SOLD.


  1. ...I got up off the sofa walked across the room and grabbed her...

  2. "whiskery (f)ace against theirs"