A Commonplace Book Of Pentastichs
Poetry by James Laughlin
James Laughlin (1914-97) was a poet of distinction as well as the founding publisher of New Directions. A Commonplace Book of Pentastichs, the last book of his own that he helped to prepare, is a compilation of 249 poems composed in a five-line stanza form first introduced in The Secret Room (1997). A note to “Thirty-nine Pentastichs” in that earlier volume explains: “a ’pentastich’ refers simply to a poem of five lines, without regard to metrics. The word is Greek derived, from pentastichos, though few survive from ancient times… The present selection is of recent short-line compositions in natural voice cadence, many of them marginal jottings and paraphrases of commonplace book notations.” Musing on the full collection, Hayden Carruth writes in his introduction: “For the reader it is a survey of literature that will never be found in the classroom––praise whatever gods may be––but indubitably will be found in loving and longlasting proximity on many a bedside table.” Here, then, are armchair marginalia and aperçus to be savored at random.