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James Laughlin: The Man Behind The Page

Think of all the books you’ve ever read. Would you say you have a type? One particular genre that you’re always pulled back towards? Something that you know inside and out?

If you’re looking for something new, you’ll love New Directions Publishing and its founder, James Laughlin. Known for publishing a wide variety of experimental work, New Directions Publishing has been around since 1936, when Laughlin was told by his good friend Ezra Pound that he “was never going to be any good as a poet”, and that he should “take up something useful”.

Laughlin accepted the challenge, and founded a company where “experimentalists could test their inventions by publication”. And, as history will tell, with authors like Wallace Stevens, Dylan Thomas, John Hawkes, William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Thomas Merton, and E. E. Cummings (along with Pound, of course) publishing their work through New Directions, it was only a matter of time before the company became world renowned.

The New York Times described Laughlin as “indefatigable in his search for the new and adventurous” and a man who “made a major contribution to literature as well as to the field of publishing”. And, despite the cold advice of his good friend, he still published his own poems in the New Directions in Poetry and Prose anthologies (albeit under the pseudonym Tasilo Ribischka). He dedicated his life to giving unique, up-and-coming writers a chance, and has brought the world some of the greatest literary minds we know.

Currently, New Directions has three main focuses. The first is to discover contemporary international writers, and bring them to the United States. The second is to continue their original work of publishing the new and experimental work of American writers. And lastly, they reissue New Directions’ classic titles in new editions.

Once again, think about every book that’s ever crossed in front of you. Now, push away everything you’ve known up until now, and take a chance on the weird, the wild, and the beautiful.


Check out New Directions publishing here

Or, take a look at our book on James Laughlin here

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