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
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