100 years of James Laughlin: a celebration of his life and work

One hundred years ago today, on October 30, 1914, James Laughlin—poet, heir to a steel fortune, and the founder of New Directions—was born. The story of New Directions begins when young Laughlin asked Ezra Pound for career advice. Pound told him to give up on poetry and “do something useful” instead. Laughlin founded New Directions in 1936.

Quietly, he continued to write. Charles Simic writes of Laughlin’s poetry: “The secret is out, the publisher of Williams and Pound is himself a great lyric poet.” Next month, New Directions will publish The Collected Poems of James Laughlin edited by Peter Glassgold.

When Laughlin passed away in his eighty-third year, his “auto-bugg-offery” was unfinished. Instead, we have The Way It Wasn’t, a beautiful and funny book of ephemera compiled by New Directions publisher Barbara Epler and Laughlin’s son-in-law Daniel Javitch. Next month Literchoor is my Beat: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions by Ian MacNiven will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

To celebrate the life and poetry of James Laughlin we share notes, quotes, and poems.

Inside the cover of every new New Directions title is the tribute: New Directions books are published for James Laughlin.