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the collected poems of james laughlin: Reviews and Comments

...by the time he died in 1997, Laughlin had amassed 1,250 poems, enough to fill this carefully edited and produced volume, surely a labor of love for the design staff at New Directions and for Peter Glassgold, the book’s editor and Laughlin’s longtime editor in chief and friend....Like William Carlos Williams, who encouraged Laughlin’s poetry from early on, Laughlin did more than write in blank verse; he employed what both poets sometimes called “typewriter metrics.”  Glassgold describes this well: “The lines in any given stanza could not vary in length more than one typewriter character.  The poems were arresting with their spare look and striking, yet seemingly unstudied enjambments.”

—Jon M. Sweeney, Christian Century


Though Laughlin considered his poetry to be light verse, it’s anything but.  His artful fusion of rigorous form, erudition, conversational vocabulary, and candid emotion triggers a multitude of unexpected, sharply realized revelations.  Supported by [editor Peter Glassgold’s] wealth of notes and bibliographic date, this Collected strongly argues for Laughlin’s well-deserved place among the many important poets whose work he published.

— Fred Muratori, Library Journal *Starred Review


    If Laughlin is remembered as a poet—and I very much hope he will be, since he wrote very many beautiful poems—it will be for his erotic poems.  He wrote hundreds of them, many of them in old age....The surprise of the huge collected poetry is not just how many of the poems he wrote are good, but that most readers of poetry didn’t even realize they exist....James Laughlin died in 1997 in Norfolk, Connecticut, at the age of eighty-three, from complications related to a stroke.  I strongly hope that the simultaneous publication of his collected poems and the hugely entertaining biography by [Ian S.] MacNiven will not only perpetuate the memory of this extraordinary man and his poetry, but also renew interest in one of the richest periods in American literature.

—Charles Simic, The New York Review of Book


“The secret is out, the publisher of Williams and Pound is himself a great lyric poet.”

Charles Simic


“Under deep cover as Godfather of Modernism, James Laughlin has secretly raised & made himself into the Poetry Chieftain of Sane Eros, the Catullus of fin-de-siecle America.”

—Andrei Codrescu


“James Laughlin, who brought forth so much of the best writing of this century, stands in the company of the greatest modern American poets.”

Gary Snyder


“Four paths of a lifetimes learning converge: Eroticism, from the Sanskrit; Satire, from the Latin; Plain Speech, from the American; and, above all, from the Greek: Perfection.”

Eliot Weinberger


“Who else wrote such bittersweet, ironic, rueful, erotic, tough-minded, witty love poems, poems that run the gamut from ecstasy to loss?”

—Marjorie Perloff


“Witty, elegiac, satiric, naughty, poignant, wise, Laughlins poems amount to personal anthropology of our world as fetchingly readable as those of the old masters in Greece and China.

—Guy Davenport