Read by JAMES LAUGHLIN.
The text of these poems may be found in The Collected Poems of James Laughlin.
James Laughlin, an heir to the Jones & Laughlin steel fortune, grew up in Pittsburgh, and was educated at the Choate School and Harvard University. While still an undergraduate, he met Ezra Pound, who famously advised him to abandon poetry, finish school then ‘do something useful.’ So he launched New Directions Publishing Company in 1936 before graduating from Harvard.
James Laughlin IV walked unsteadily across the stage at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in April 1995, his towering height somewhat reduced by skiing injuries and spinal compression. But Laughlin trembled more from emotion than from the frailty of his eighty years. The novelist John Hawkes stood ready to support him, but he did not stumble. He was to be inducted into the institution as a poet, a recognition that he cherished above all others. He had written poetry all his life in an attempt to understand himself. Finally, he was being called to share this particular honor with the likes of Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, Ezra Pound, Gary Snyder, and William Carlos Williams, all friends and poets he had published under his New Directions imprint. To Laughlin belonged the achievement of recognizing the promise of Thomas Merton and Tennessee Williams, of championing Henry Miller, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Octavio Paz, and countless others. Literary modernism would wear a different face in America, in the world, had Laughlin not existed. Such accomplishment would have satisfied most men, but Laughlin yearned above all else to be a poet. — Ian S. MacNiven, “Literchoor Is My Beat”: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions.
James Laughlin died in 1997.
This recording is one of several made by poet Stephen Wiest and Denis Boyles in 1967 on a recording tour that also included sessions with Hayden Carruth, Paul Zimmer and Elliott Coleman. The Poetry Foundation’s ‘Book Arts’ column profiled James Laughlin in 2013.
James Laughlin (1914-1997) was the founding editor of New Directions Publishing Co.