from the Introduction:
Two things are likely to jump out at a reader taking this book in hand. First, its size and heft. Second, that in the six decades of the writing life of James Laughlin, whose collected poetry this is, more than three quarters of these 1,250-odd poems date from his last fifteen years. This isn't simply a case of Rimbaud in reverse, of a poet actually gaining momentum with age instead of burning out in adolescence, but of a prominent man—a publisher, writer, and entrepreneur—growing in intellectual confidence, coming at last to infuse his later work with all the knowledge and experience that a long and successful life brings, though hardly mellowing. Thomas Hardy, with his darker verse, is perhaps a distant cousin in this regard. The question is, how did this remarkable reversal come about? To answer it requires an understanding of who James Laughlin was and what he did with his life.
And yet, looking over the whole of JL’s work—no matter what the form or style or subject—you can, in fact, find a unifying thread: New Directions. I don’t mean simply his personal involvement with his authors or in the long history of the house, though of course there is that; of equal consequence is his immersion in the books themselves. JL’s evolving oeuvre is the counterweight to ND’s evolving list. Should there be any doubt, you have only to peruse JL’s notes to his poems to understand to their provenance. To put it another way, the poems and ND together comprise JL’s intellectual biography; even his few but telling deeply personal poems, those concerning his family, evidence his remarkable sensibility. Here is my advice to the reader of this book. Open these Collected Poems at random or take it at your leisure from beginning to end, but when you do, consider how it came about. You may think of it as “The Education of James Laughlin’’ and, by good fortune, perhaps a furtherance of your own.
Copyright ©2014 by Peter Glassgold
Catullus is my master and I mix
is my subject & the lack of love
Catullus could rub words so hard
us now 2000 years away I roll the
line thus eye and ear contend in-
thought rhyme was vulgar I agree
will richen tone the thing I most
to build with plain brown bricks
among them for a key I know Ca-
ing where you least expect this I
SOME PEOPLE THINK
that poetry should be a-
not so sure I think I’ll
in plain speech compress-
will do all I want to do.
THE SHAMEFUL PROFESSION
For years I tried to conceal from the villagers that I wrote poetry
One of us had to make the official identification of Dylan’s body at
Copyright © 1997, 2014 by The Estate of James Laughlin