Cantos: A New Directions Blog

Our future James Laughlin

with 3 comments

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James Laughlin

Our founder, James Laughlin, would have made a good blogger. If he were still around, perhaps this is what The Way It Wasn’t would have been, a cheeky blog instead of a beautiful, funny, and strange scrapbook. I’ve wondered what would he say if he ever saw The Way It Wasn’t.

I was asked to be a reader for the upcoming JL biography which will be published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. I’m a few hundred pages into it, and JL still has yet to graduate from Harvard. What’s humbling is that before the age of 22, JL had made enough literary connections to publish the first New Directions anthology; I’m not talking fan mail here, I mean correspodance and acquitanceships, and depending on the person, written in a rambunctous if not abstract dialect. It’s a project all it’s own to decipher JL and Ezra Pound’s correspondance; a mixture of puns, hillbilly drawl and latin.

Something new I learned: New Directions actually started as the literary column for a pro-Social Credit political journal, New Democracy. JL was a big proponent of Social Credit theory (SOCRED as it was called) during his younger days. SOCRED, if I understand correctly, is monetary credit which decreases in value over a certain amount of time forcing the holder to spend it soon as opposed to hording it indefinitely. Supposedly it was a shoe-in solver to debt. JL’s mentor in SOCRED, Ezra Pound, once had a private meeting with Mussolini in which he discussed at great length the need to covert Italy to a SOCRED program.

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Laughlin's Collected Poems

We recently received the manuscript for James Laughlin’s Complete Poems. A friend of mine who interned here spent a year converting every poem into a word document and then copyediting her conversion. When I saw the stack, my first impulse was to photograph it next to a ruler for measurement; just over 5 inches when printed on stock recycled paper. This photograph is for her, a record of an achievement.

Did I mention that both these books will come out around the time of our 75th anniversary (2011)? Hopefully by then I can convince some of the staff that we should have ND bookbags with the colophon on the side made up. If not, I’ll have to resort to cutting the ND logo from a tshirt and sewing it on a blank black book bag.

–Michael
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Written by New Directions

April 27, 2009 at 3:35 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Please note that a complete checklist of New Directions Publishing is available from willhallbooks.com JL supported this endeavor personally and finally it is finished. The checklist of all ND books covers the years from the beginning, 1937 to JL’s death in 1997.

    Rebecca Newth

    May 11, 2009 at 12:45 pm

  2. I am very much looking forward to the biography of James Laughlin as my husband and I were very much involved with his publications and have published the checklist of New Directions books 1937-1997 through willhallbooks.com

    Rebecca Newth

    May 11, 2009 at 12:47 pm

  3. Dear Rebecca North,
    Since 1980 I have been working on a bibliography of the various writings and translations of Edouard Roditi.

    I have many letters from James Laughlin to Edouard Roditi – would you like photocopies?

    Hoping to hear from you

    Michael NEAL

    Michael NEAL

    October 9, 2009 at 6:45 pm


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