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Bukowski would’ve turned 93 on Friday. Collection in Buffalo looks at his early years, includes handwritten notes, artwork

High School yearbook photo of Bukowsi

Charles Bukowski, once dubbed the “laureate of American lowlife,” during his senior year at Los Angeles High School in 1939

Release Date: August 15, 2013

“Bukowski didn’t look much like an anti-hero during high school, documents in the Poetry Collection at UB show.”
ROTC photo of Bukowski

Iconic poet Charles Bukowski served in the ROTC to avoid gym class (top row, third photo from the left)

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Three limited edition books by Bukowski

Limited editions of books written by Bukowski, who was portrayed on film by Mickey Rourke and Matt Dillon

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Rare handmade book from Bukowski

A rare handmade book from Bukowski called “It Catches My Heart in Its Hand”

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BUFFALO, N.Y. – Hard-living poet Charles Bukowski, once described by Time magazine as the “laureate of American lowlife,” is known for writing about alcohol, turbulent relationships and the slums of Los Angeles.

Yet Bukowski, born 93 years ago (Aug. 16, 1920) Friday, didn’t look much like an anti-hero during high school.

Photos from a classmate’s yearbook on display at the University at Buffalo’s prized Poetry Collection show him clean-shaven, wearing a jacket and tie, and, perhaps more surprising, as an ROTC sergeant. The man who would be portrayed on film by Mickey Rourke and Matt Dillon professed a fondness for fishing and noted his plan to attend Los Angeles City College.

The yearbook is among a stash of Bukowski-related items in the Ross Runfola Charles Bukowski Collection at UB. Runfola, a lawyer, professor, writer and poet in Buffalo, donated the materials to UB. The collection includes limited editions of books, handwritten notes, original artwork and other items from and concerning Bukowski.

Biographies portray Bukowski, whose novels include “Post Office,” and “Factotum,” as an unhappy student who felt out of place at Los Angeles High School. According to his semi-autobiographical novel “Ham on Rye,” Bukowski said ROTC “was for the misfits. Like I said, it was either that or gym. I would have taken gym but I didn't want people to see the boils on my back. There was something wrong with everybody enrolled in R.O.T.C. It almost entirely consisted of guys who didn't like sports or guys whose parents forced them to take R.O.T.C. because they thought it was patriotic.”

The Bukowski collection and other items at UB - including one of the world’s foremost collections of James Joyce materials, significant collections on Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, William Carlos Williams, Robert Duncan and other poets and writers - are on display weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 420 Capen Hall at UB’s North Campus.

For more information about the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, visit www.library.buffalo.edu/pl/ or call 716-645-2917

Media Contact Information

Cory Nealon
Media Relations Manager, Engineering, Libraries, Sustainability
Tel: 716-645-4614
cmnealon@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @UBengineering