John A. Harrison
A Selective List of Published
Writing by and about James Laughlin,
Many of James Laughlin's books were published in very limited and expensive editions and are difficult to find. However, he regularly made selected and collected editions of his work, so that most of the material in the limited editions is available at a reasonable price. Also, copies of his books reside within collections in major research libraries, especially Yale's Beinecke Library where the Pound collection is held and where Laughlin served as an advisor, and at Harvard University which houses the New Directions Publishing archive. In addition, Yale holds collections of other New Directions authors such as William Carlos Williams, Delmore Schwartz, and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and these archives contain much early ephemera of New Directions.
Numerous poems, essays and stories by Laughlin have been published over the years by little magazines in both America and Europe. These periodical appearances, along with the many broadsides and cards printed for friends and acquaintances, the fifty-five New Directions anthologies and other anthologies and books edited by him, recordings, ephemera and miscellanea make a complete list of Laughlin's published contributions, too unwieldy to present here. I have therefore concentrated on books only, on contributions by Laughlin to books by, and with, other authors, and on interviews and profiles of Laughlin which may have appeared in periodicals or serial reference works.
I: Books and Chapbooks of Poems by James Laughlin
The story of Pound's injunction to Laughlin to publish other people's writing rather than to pursue his own career in writing is well-known and often quoted. I count myself an admirer of Laughlin's poetry and I have always been bothered by this story. The fact is that Laughlin began publishing his poetry as early as 1945 when New Directions brought out Some Natural Things.
The following prodigious list demonstrates Laughlin's continued commitment to writing poetry from his college years through his late years. His poetry is generally characterized by grace, wit, intelligence, and an almost classical lucidity--yet sometimes by a more American plainness--of style. The publisher's advertisement describing the forthcoming volume of Laughlin's poems (Poems New and Selected) quotes Marjorie Perloff. "Laughlin traces, with the greatest delicacy, grace, and wit, the vagaries of sexual love, the pleasures and pain of memory, the power of literary allusion."
The Fourth Eclogue of Virgil,
trans. James Laughlin. Windham, Connecticut: Edmund Thompson, 1939. New edition,
Muscatine Iowa: Prairie Press, 1947.
Some Natural Things. New
York: New Directions, 1945.
Report on a Visit to Germany:
Poems. Lausanne: Henri Held, 1948.
A Small Book of Poems. Milano
and New York: Vanni Scheiwiller and New Directions, 1948.
The Wild Anemone. New York:
New Directions, 1957.
Patent Pending. London:
Selected Poems. Norfolk:
New Directions, 1959. Published simultaneously as Confidential Report and Other
Poems. London: Gaberbocchus, 1959. 25 poems.
The Pig: Poems. Mt. Horeb:
Perishable Press, 1970.
In Another Country: Poems,
1935-1975. Selected and introduced by Robert Fitzgerald. San Francisco: City
Lights Books, 1978. 45 poems.
Lines for Ezra Pound and
William Carlos Williams. New York: Grenfell Press, 1983.
[Poems]. London: Ambit,
The Deconstructed Man. Iowa
City: Windhover Press, 1985.
Stolen and Contaminated
Poems. Isla Vista, California: Turkey Press, 1985.
The House of Light: Poems
by James Laughlin, Woodcuts by Vanessa Jackson. New York: Grenfell Press, 1986.
Selected Poems: 1935-1985.
Forward by Marjorie Perloff. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1986. 195 poems.
Tabellae. New York: Grenfell
Press, 1986. (Published anonymously).
The Owl of Minerva. Port
Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1987. 66 poems.
Vermont: Stinehour Press, 1988.
The Bird of Endless Time.
Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1989. 88 poems.
Collected Poems, 1932-1992.
Introduction by Hayden Carruth. Wakefield, R.I. and London, 1992. 350 poems.
The Man in the Wall. Foreword
by Guy Davenport. New york: New Directions, 1993. 112 poems written after Collected
A Secret Language. London:
Cast Iron Press, 1994.
The Country Road: New Poems.
Cambridge, Mass: Zoland Books, 1995. 91 poems.
Heart Island and Other Epigrams.
Isla Vista, California: Turkey Press, 1995.
The Music of Ideas. Waldron
Island, Washington: Brooding Heron Press, 1995.
Phantoms: Poems by James
Laughlin, Photographs by Virginia Schendler. New York: Aperture, 1995. Distributed
by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 27 poems.
The Secret Words: Poems.
Coffeyville, Kansas: Zauberberg Press, 1995.
Until the Spring Breaks.
Louisville, Kentucky: White Fields Press, 1995.
The Lost Fragments. Dublin,
Ireland: Dedalus Press, 1997. 22 poems.
The Love Poems of James
Laughlin. New York: New Directions, 1997. 54 poems. Out of Print. (A second
printing of this book was published in soft cover, with an additional poem,
"The Tomb," on the back cover and provided free to the persons at
the memorial service for JL on January 9, 1998, at the American Academy of Arts
The Secret Room: Poems.
New York: New Directions, 1997. 140 poems.
Poems New and Selected. New York: New Directions, 1998. Introduction by Charles Tomlinson.
To Be Published Posthumously
A Commonplace Book of Pentastichs.
New York: New Directions, 1998. Ed. Hayden Harruth.
is a long autobiographical poem in a meter Laughlin called "busted trimeter,"
which he borrowed from Kenneth Rexroth's Dragon and the Unicorn (New York: New
Directions, 1941). The poem was described by Laughlin as "narrative verse
without rhetoric and verbal decoration" and intended for "fast reading."
segments of this poem have been published in several little magazines, as well
as in the following volumes:
Remembering William Carlos
Williams. New York: New Directions, 1995. NDP 811.
The Country Road: New Poems.
"Byways: A Long Poem-in-Progress," pp. 105-143. Contents: "Prologue--The
Norfolk Santa Claus--Dawn," "Ezra [Pound]," "My Aunt,"
"The Wrong Bed--Moira," "The Desert in Bloom," "Are
We Too Old to Make Love?", "The Ancestors," "Tom Merton."
Contemporary Authors Autobiography
Series, 22 (1996): 173-210. From "Byways." Contents: "Melissa,"
"The Yellow Pad," "Two Views of London: I. My Shoelaces II. Someone
The Secret Room: Poems. From "Byways." Contents: "The Rabble Railroad" and "In Trivandrum," pp. 147-181.
Books of Poems by James Laughlin in Translation
Pulsatilla. Milano: All'insegna
del pesce d'oro, 1961. Translated by Mary de Rachewiltz.
Certains choses naturelles.
Bruxelles: Seghers, 1963. Translated by Alain Bosquet.
Die Haare auf Grossvaters
Kopf: Gedichte. Zurich: Verlag der Arche, 1966. Translated by Eva Hesse.
Quello che la matita scrive
James Laughlin. Parma: Guanda Editore, 1970. Translated by Mary de Rachewiltz.
Ce que le crayon crit. Paris:
Pierre Belfond, 1987. Translated by Alain Bosquet.
Je sais ce que pense chaque
pote. Paris: Cherche Midi Editeur, 1989. Translated by Alain Bosquet.
In un altro paese: poesie
sceite. Spinea, Venezia: Edizoni del Leone, 1990. Translated by Mary de Rachewiltz.
Ensayos fortuitos. Coyoacn, Mexico: Editorial Vuelta, 1995. Edited by Eliot Weinberger. Translated by Elisa Ramirez Castaeda.
II: Books of Prose by
In his memorial essay on Laughlin in The Nation, Eliot Weinberger comments on Laughlin's prose: "His prose style is a strange, highly entertaining combination of an erudite speaking in plain American, a Joycean addiction to puns and the kind of language one hears in the screwball comedies of the thirties--the slang of fast-talking eccentrics in tuxedos. There is nothing like his critical writings, especially now, when literary critics employ a language more suited to astrophysics."
The River. Norfolk, Connecticut:
New Directions, 1938.
Gists and Piths: A Memoir
of Ezra Pound. Iowa City: the Windhover Press, 1982.
This Is My Blood. Yolla
Bolly Press, 1989. (Stories)
The Master of Those Who
Know: Pound the Teacher. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1986
Pound as Wuz: Essays and
Lectures on Ezra Pound. St. Paul: Gray Wolf Press, 1987.
Angelica. Grenfell Press,
Random Stories. Mt. Kisco,
New York: Moyer Bell, 1992. (15 essays with autobiographical material about
Laughlin's relationship with his authors)
Ezra. New York: Dim Gray
Bar Press, 1994.
III: Selected Introductions,
Forewords, Afterwords, and Other Prose Contributions by James Laughlin to Books
by and with Others
Poems from the Greenberg
Manuscripts; a Selection from the Work of Samuel B. Greenburg. Edited with a
commentary by James Laughlin. Norfold, Connecticut: New Directions, 1939.
"Notes on the Cantos"
by H.H. [i.e. James Laughlin] with "Notes on the Versification of the Cantos"
by S.D. [i.e. Delmore Schwartz]. Notes on Ezra Pound's Cantos: Structure &
Metric. Norfolk, Connecticut: New Directions, 1940. This is a small booklet
in an envelope pasted on the inside back cover of Ezra Pound's Canots LII-LXXI,
Text for photographs in
Skiing East and West. Photographs by Helen Fischer and Emita Herran. New York:
Hastings House, 1946.
Lustig, Alvin. Bookjackets
by Alvin Lustig for New Directions Books, with Statement by James Laughlin and
Alvin Lustig. New York: Gotham Book Mart Press, 1947.
The Asian Journal of Thomas
Merton. Edited with commentary from his original notebooks by Naomi Burton,
Patrick Hart and James Laughlin. New York: New Directions, 1975.
"Gists and Piths: From
the Letters of Pound and Williams." Transcript of talk by JL. Ezra Pound
& William Carlos Williams, the University of Pennsylvania Conference Daniel
Hoffman. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1983.
Merton, By Those Who Knew
Him Best. Ed. Paul Wilkes. Essay by James Laughlin (pp. 2-13) San Francisco:
Harper & Row, 1984.
Patchen" Afterword on the picture poems of Kenneth Patchen. What Shall
We Do Without Us: The Voice and Vision of Kenneth Patchen by Kenneth Patchen.
New York: Random House, 1984.
Essay based on talk by JL. Ezra Pound: The Legacy of Kulchur. Eds. Marcel Smith
and William A. Ulmer. Tuscaloosa and London: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1988.
Afterword in Surrealist
Parade by Wayne Andrews. New York: W.W. Norton, 1990.
Introduction in Shakespeare
and Company (new edition) by Sylvia Beach. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,
In the years immediately before and following World War II, Laughlin wrote short stories and articles on skiing for The Harvard Advocate, Vogue, Town and Country, Harper's, Ski, Ski Annual and Sports Illustrated. James Laughlin did not collect these pieces into a book, but some may appear in anthologies by others.
IV. A Selection of Anthologies
Edited by James Laughlin
New Directions in Prose
& Poetry. Norfolk and New York: New Directions, 1936-1995. Annual and semi-annual.
Last volume, 55. Introductions by JL in a number of these volumes, especially
in the early years. Brief note provided of each contributor in each volume.
Spearhead: Ten Years' Experimental
Writing in America. New York: New Directions, 1947. Published to commemorate,
celebrate, the first ten years' activity of New Directions by reprinting some of the best work that was published in the annual volumes ... many of which are no longer in print."
Perspectives. London: Hamish
Hamilton Ltd. for Intercultural Publications, Inc. of New York, 1942-1956. Quarterly.
No. l (fall 1952) - no. 16 (summer 1956).
Perspective of Burma. New
York: Intercultural Publications, 1958. (Atlantic Monthly supplement.)
A New Directions Reader.
Edited by Hayden Carruth and Jl. New York: New Directions, 1964. Contains bibliography
of New Directions books published from 1936 through 1963. Originally planned
to be a celebration of the 25th anniversary of New Directions, after a long
delay in publication it was presented as a tribute to ND writers "whose
labor has brought forth nearly
five hundred volumes."
New Directions in Prose
& Poetry, 1936: A Retrospective Selection by J. Laughlin. New York: New
Directions, 1986. Introductions
by JL to each of the twenty authors chosen for this volume. Published to mark 50th Anniversary of New Directions.
V. Books of Correspondence
between JL and His Authors
One of the best ways to become acquainted with Laughlin and his works is through his letters and those to him. His letters are countless in number--certainly in the thousands--the originals of which are scattered about in the special collections of several research libraries. Not all of them, of course, are destined for publication, but the six published volumes listed below--and three yet to be issued--provide a valuable and fascinating source of information about Laughlin, New Directions, and his correspondents which had not been readily available to us until 1989 and the early nineties. These volumes serve as a testament to the level of commitment Laughlin had with his authors.
William Carlos Williams
and James Laughlin: Selected Letters. Ed. Hugh Witemeyer. New York: W.W. Norton,
(123 by Williams, 26 by Laughlin and colleagues from a collection of 1,500 items)
Kenneth Rexroth and James
Laughlin: Selected Letters. Ed. Lee Bartlett. New York: W.W. Norton, 1991. Correspondence
1933-1982. (Selected from a collection of 350 letters and cards in the New Directions
Delmore Schwartz and James
Laughlin: Selected Letters. Ed. Robert Phillips. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993.
Correspondence 1937-1963. (204 letters from the New Directions archive and Beinecke
Library, Yale University)
Ezra Pound and James Laughlin:
Selected Letters. Ed. David M. Gordon. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. Correspondence
1933-1971. (Selection of 357 letters from nearly 3,000 items)
Henry Miller and James Laughlin:
Selected Letters. Ed. David D. Cooper. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997. (A selection
of 214 letters from a collection of nearly 800)
To Be Published Posthumously
Tennessee Williams and James
Laughlin: Selected Letters. Eds. Peggy Fox and Tom Keith. New York: W.W. Norton.
Kay Boyle and James Laughlin:
Selected Letters. Ed. Sandra Spanier. New York: W.W. Norton.
Guy Davenport and James
Laughlin: Selected Letters. Ed. Guy Davenport. New York: W.W. Norton.
VII. Selected Interviews
and Profiles of James Laughlin
over the years have been acclaimed by his peers in publishing and writing, and
he attracted many more interview appearances and profiles than are listed here.
Donald Hall. "James
Laughlin of New Directions: Ezra Pound Said Be a Publisher." The New York
Times book Review (August 23, 1981): 13, 22-23.
Donald Faulkner. "About
New Directions Books." Connecticut Artists. 3:1 (Spring/Summer 1980): 6-15.
"James Laughlin: An
Interview by Robert Dana." American Poetry Review (Nov.- Dec.1981):20-32.
Bradford Morrow. Ed. Conjunctions
I: Inaugural Double-Issue: A Festschrift in Honor of James Laughlin, Publisher
of New Directions. Vol. l (Winter 1981/82).
"The Art of Publishing,
I." Paris Review 89 (Fall 1983): 154-193. Interviewer, Richard Ziegfield.
"The Art of Publishing,
II." Paris Review 90 (Winter 1983): 112-151. Interviewer, Richard Ziegfield.
Miriam Berkley. "James
Laughlin and New Directions." Publishers Weekly (November 22, 1985):24-29.
Donald Faulkner and John A. Harrison. "New Directions Publishing Corporation." Dictionary of Literary Biography 46 (1986): 255-260.
Laughlin." Dictionary of Literary Biography 48 (1986): 273-281.
William Packard. "Craft
Interview with James Laughlin." The New York Quarterly (December 1987):
Cynthia Zarin. "Jaz"
(A New Yorker "Profile"). The New Yorker (March 23, 1992): 41- 64.
Eliot Weinberger. "A
Conversation with James Laughlin." This interview took place before an
audience at the New York Public Library on January 26, 1993 and was published
in Poets & Writers Magazine (January/February 1995):47-61.
Craig Lambert. "Cantos
and the Stem Christie." Harvard Magazine (January/February 1995):55-61.
Eliot Weinberger. "James
Laughlin." The Nation 265:20 (December 15, 1997): 38-39.
(A memorial profile by a
close friend and author)
Mel Gussow. "James
Laughlin, Publisher with Bold Taste, Dies at 83." The New York Times. National/Metro
section--Obituary. November 14, 1997.
William Corbett. "James
Laughlin of New Directions (1914-1997)."
ArtsMedia (January 1998).
John A. Harrison
University of Arkansas