Kenneth Rexroth

Kenneth Rexroth (1905–1982) was an American poet, translator, essayist and social critic who played a key role in the San Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s and 1960s. His poems are characterized by such an unusual range of concerns that he often began his poetry readings by wryly asking the audience: “Well, what would you like tonight: sex, mysticism or revolution?“ Though almost entirely self-educated, his erudition was astonishingly broad-ranging, as reflected in essays on topics as diverse as ancient Chinese science, modern jazz, American Indian songs, California mountaineering, medieval mysticism, avant-garde art and utopian communities. He connected with New Directions from the very beginning, and was both friend and adviser to James Laughlin for the rest of his life. New Directions published most of his books of poetry, including Collected Shorter Poems (1966), Collected Longer Poems (1968), and Selected Poems (1984); his plays (Beyond the Mountains, 1951); his Autobiographical Novel (1964; expanded edition, 1991); several collections of essays (Bird in the Bush, 1959; Assays, 1961; World Outside the Window: Selected Essays, 1987; Classics Revisited, 1986; More Classics Revisited, 1989); and numerous volumes of translations, including 100 Poems from the Chinese, 100 Poems from the Japanese, Women Poets of China, Women Poets of Japan, and Selected Poems of Pierre Reverdy.

In the Sierra

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

Edited by Kim Stanley Robinson

With a contribution by Kim Stanley Robinson

Over the course of his life, Kenneth Rexroth wrote about the Sierra Nevada better than anyone. Progressive in terms of environmental ethics and comparable to the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, Aldo Leopard, Annie Dillard, and Gary Snyder, Rexroth’s poetry and prose described the way Californians have always experienced and loved the High Sierra. Contained in this marvelous collection are transcendent nature poems, as well as prose selections from his memoir An Autobiographical Novel, newspaper columns, published and unpublished WPA guidebooks, and correspondence.…
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Written On The Sky

Over the years, thousands of readers have discovered the beauty of classic Japanese poetry through the superb English versions by the great American poet Kenneth Rexroth. Mostly haiku, these poems range from the classical and medieval to modern poetry, with an emphasis on folk songs and love lyrics. Because women played such an outstanding role in Japanese literature, included here are selections from their work, including the contemporary, deeply sensuous Marichiko.…
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Songs Of Love, Moon & Wind

This exquisite gift book offers a wide sampling of Chinese verse, from the first century to our own time, beginning with the lyric poetry of Tu Fu, moving to the folk songs of the Six Dynasties Period, on to the Sung Dynasty, and to the present. Also represented are some of the best-known women of Chinese poetry, including Li Ching-chao and Chu Shu-chen. These simple, accessible but profound poems come through to us with a breathtaking immediacy in Kenneth Rexroth’s English versions — a wonderful gift for any lover of poetry.…
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Beyond The Mountains

Theater by Kenneth Rexroth

Kenneth Rexroth’s sequence of four short plays, Beyond the Mountains, was first brought out by New Directions in 1951, then reprinted in 1966 by City Lights Books. Reviewing it for The New York Times, William Carlos Williams concluded, “I have never been so moved by a play in verse in my time.” His judgment having stood the test of time, the book is now being reissued as an ND Paperbook. “Phaedra” and “Iphigenia at Aulis,” set in the Greek heroic age, are recastings of old, familiar myths; while “Hermaios’’ and “Berenike” (collectively called “Beyond the Mountains”) take place at the start of the Christian era, in Hellenized Bactria, in the foothills of the present-day Hindu Kush.…
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An Autobiographical Novel

Nonfiction by Kenneth Rexroth

When the poet Kenneth Rexroth died in 1982, he left behind a sequel to An Autobiographical Novel (1966). His published memoir––all 365 pages of it––stopped at 1927, when the twenty-two-year-old writer and his first wife, Andrée, were about to settle in California. Now revised and expanded, An Autobiographical Novel includes reminiscences that cover another twenty years of literary life and two more marriages. Linda Hamalian, author of A Life of Kenneth Rexroth (W.…
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Flower Wreath Hill

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

Kenneth Rexroth’s Flower Wreath Hill: Later Poems combines two earlier volumes, New Poems (1974) and The Morning Star (1979) to keep available the late lyric and elegiac poems and translations of a writer who is finally being recognized as “a poet of the first rank” (World Literature Today) and “a quintessential American author” (Los Angeles Times). The transcendent, unchanging beauty of nature, the mutable lives and loves of man are the twin themes of these poems, which include Rexroth’s own brief, crystalline glimpses of the natural world as well as translations from the Japanese, Chinese, and Swedish.…
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More Classics Revisited

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

More Classics Revisited is the second volume of the late poet and polymath Kenneth Rexroth’s brilliant, succinct analyses of some of the key documents in literary history. It presents East and West: from the Bible, theBhagavad-Gita, and the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu to the works of Karl Marx, Charles Baudelaire, and William Carlos Williams. Supplementing the sixty short essays originally published as Classics Revisited in 1969 are forty-one pieces from With Eye and Ear (1970) and The Elastic Retort (1973), both long out of print, as well as various previously uncollected or unpublished essays.…
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World Outside The Window

Nonfiction by Kenneth Rexroth

World Outside the Window: The Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth brings together twenty-seven essays written over a period of more than forty years by the man one of his publishers called “an American cultural monument.” A brilliant self-taught scholar in fields as diverse as Buddhism and modern French poetry, Rexroth was a poet, philosopher, translator, promoter of poets, conscientious objector, political activist, cultural critic, professional curmudgeon, and teacher. More than one critic has suggested that an individual could pursue a complete curriculum in the humanities simply by reading Rexroth’s essays and the works to which they refer.…
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Classics Revisited

Nonfiction by Kenneth Rexroth

Poet, translator, essayist, and voracious reader––Kenneth Rexroth was an omnivore in the fields of literature. The brief, radiant essays of Classics Revisited discuss sixty key books that are, for Rexroth, “basic documents in the history of the imagination.” Ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Huckleberry Finn, these pieces (each about five pages long) originally appeared in the Saturday Review. Distinguished by Rexroth’s plain, wide-awake style, Classics Revisited presents complex ideas in simple language, energized by the author’s air of talking eye-to-eye with his reader.…
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Selected Poems of Kenneth Rexroth

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

The late Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) is surely one of the most readable of this century’s great American poets. He is also one of the most sophisticated. Like William Carlos Williams, he honed his writing to a controlled and direct language. His intellectual complexity matches Wallace Stevens, his polymath erudition Ezra Pound. He is first among our nature poets. His love poems and erotic lyrics are unsurpassed. Rexroth’s Selected Poems brings together in a single volume a representative sampling of sixty years’ work.…
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Women Poets Of Japan

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

From as early as the seventh century up to the present day, no other country has had so many important women poets as Japan. In this collection (originally published by The Seabury Press in 1977 as The Burning Heart), Kenneth Rexroth and Ikuko Atsumi have assembled representative works of seventy-seven poets. Starting with the Classic period (645-1603 A.D.), characterized by the wanka and tanka styles, followed by haiku poets of the Tokugawa period (to 1867), the subsequent modern tanka and haiku poets, and including the contemporary school of free verse––Women Poets of Japan records twelve hundred years of poetic accomplishment.…
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Women Poets Of China

Fiction by Kenneth Rexroth

This book (originally published in 1972 by The Seabury Press as The Orchid Boat) is the first representative collection of the poetry of Chinese women to appear in English. Unlike Japan with its long tradition of women writers, poetry by women did not become fashionable in China until the Ch’ing dynasty (1644-1911), although poems from earlier centuries that do in fact survive will quickly dispel any stereotyped views. Included here are samplings from the legendary earliest poetry of courtesans, palace women, and Tao priestesses to works by contemporary Chinese women living in both the East and West.…
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One Hundred More Poems From The Japanese

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

Kenneth Rexroth’s One Hundred Poems from the Japanese (1955) proved such an extremely popular book that he put together a sequel. The poems are representative of a large range of classical, medieval, and modern poetry, but the emphasis, as in his companion Chinese collections (1955 and 1970), is on folk songs and love lyrics. And because women have had such an outstanding role in Japanese literature, included here are selections from the work, among others, of the remarkable early twentieth-century poet Yosano Akiko and the more contemporary, deeply sensuous Marichiko.…
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New Poems of Kenneth Rexroth

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

“In his poetry,” writes critic Morgan Gibson of Kenneth Rexroth, “he attains––not by ego or will, but through the grace of imagination––communion with nature and those he loves; and, in a transcendent community of love, he discovers himself as being responsible for all.” This sense of what is universal, his prophetic embrace of all being and beings, is the moving spirit in New Poems, Rexroth’s first major collection since Love and the Turning Year: One Hundred More Poems from the Chinese (1970).…
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One Hundred Poems from the Chinese

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

The lyric poetry of Tu Fu ranks with the greatest in all world literature. Across the centuries––Tu Fu lived in the T’ang Dynasty (713-770)––his poems come through to us with an immediacy that is breathtaking in Kenneth Rexroth’s English versions. They are as simple as they are profound, as delicate as they are powerful. Thirty-five poems by Tu Fu make up the first part of this volume. The translator then moves on to the Sung Dynasty (10th-12th centuries) to give us a number of poets of that period, much of whose work was not previously available in English: Mei Yao Ch’en, Su Tung P’o, Lu Yu, Chu Hsi, Hsu Chao, and the poetesses Li Ch’ing Chao and Chu Shu Chen.…
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One Hundred More Poems From The Chinese

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

Kenneth Rexroth’s translations of Chinese verse include “poems of love, reverie and meditation in the midst of nature.” As in his earlier One Hundred Poems from the Chinese, he adds even a few more “for good measure and good luck.” Love and the Turning Year includes a selection from the Yueh Fu––folk songs from the Six Dynasties Period (fourth-fifth centuries A.D.). Most of the songs are simple, erotic lyrics. Some are attributed to legendary courtesans, while others may have been sung at harvest festivals or marriage celebrations.…
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The Collected Longer Poems of Kenneth Rexroth

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

This is a companion volume to the Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth which was published in 1967. All of the long poems written over the past forty years are included: The Homestead Called Damascus (1920-25), A Prolegomenon to a Theodicy (1925-27), The Phoenix and the Tortoise (1940-44), The Dragon and the Unicorn (1944-50) and The Heart’s Garden, The Garden’s Heart (1967-68). As we read the long poems together and in sequence we can see that Rexroth is a philosophical poet of consequence who offers us a comprehensive system of values based on the realization of the ethical mysticism of universal responsibility.…
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The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

This volume brings together all of Kenneth Rexroth’s shorter poems from 1920 to the present, including a group of new poems written since the publication of Natural Numbers, drawn from seven earlier books. Among the American poets of the generation that came to prominence in the Forties, Kenneth Rexroth has been notable both for the independence of his personal voice and for his accessibility to the tradition of international avant-garde literature.…
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One Hundred Poems From The Japanese

Poetry by Kenneth Rexroth

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The New Directions Anthology Of Classical Chinese Poetry

Fiction

Translated from the Classical Chinese by David Hinton Kenneth Rexroth Ezra Pound Gary Snyder William Carlos Williams

Edited by Eliot Weinberger

A rich compendium of translations, The New Directions Anthology of Chinese Poetry is the first collection to look at Chinese poetry through its enormous influence on American poetry. Beginning with Ezra Pound’s Cathay (1915), the anthology includes translations by three other major U.S. poets––William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder––and an important poet-translator-scholar, David Hinton, all of whom have long been associated with New Directions. It is one of the first general anthologies ever to consider the process of translation by presenting different versions of the same poem by multiple translators, as well as examples of the translators rewriting themselves.…
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The Green Child

Fiction by Herbert Read

Translated by Adam Phillips

With a contribution by Eliot Weinberger Kenneth Rexroth

The Green Child is the only novel by Herbert Read — the famous English poet, anarchist, and literary critic. First published by New Directions in 1948, it remains a singular work of bewildering imagination and radiance. The author considered it a philosophical fable akin to Plato’s cave. Olivero, the former dictator of a South American country, has returned to his native England after faking his own assassination. On a walk he sees, through a cottage window, a green-skinned young girl tied to a chair.…
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