New Directions: The Life and Poetry of James Laughlin

A panel featuring

IAN S. MACNIVEN
PETER GLASSGOLD

discussing

"Literchoor Is My Beat":
A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions

and

The Collected Poems of James Laughlin 

moderated by DAVID BARBER

Co-sponsored by Houghton Library

This event includes a book signing

Date

Dec
10
Wednesday
December 10, 2014
8:00 PM
(Doors at 6:30)

Location

Houghton Library
Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store and the Houghton Library welcome biographer and literary critic IAN S. MACNIVEN and former editor-in-chief of New Directions PETER GLASSGOLD for a panel discussion of their respective works, "Literchoor Is My Beat": A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions, and The Collected Poems of James Laughlin, moderated by DAVID BARBER.

On "Literchoor is My Beat"

James Laughlin—a poet, publisher, world-class skier—was the man behind some of the most daring, revolutionary works in verse and prose of the twentieth century. As the founder of New Directions, he published Ezra Pound’s The Cantos and William Carlos Williams’s Paterson; he brought Herman Hesse and Jorge Luis Borges to an American audience. Throughout his life, this tall, charismatic intellectual, athlete, and entrepreneur preferred to stay hidden. But no longer—in “Literchoor is My Beat”: James Laughlin and New Directions, Ian S. MacNiven has given us a sensitive and revealing portrait of this visionary and the understory of the last century of American letters.

Laughlin—or J, as MacNiven calls him—emerges as an impressive and complex figure: energetic, idealistic, and hardworking, but also plagued by doubts—not about his ability to identify and nurture talent, but about his own worth as a writer. Haunted by his father’s struggles with bipolar disorder, J threw himself into a flurry of activity, pulling together the first New Directions anthology before he’d graduated from Harvard and purchasing and managing a ski resort in Utah.

MacNiven’s portrait is comprehensive and vital, spiced with Ezra Pound’s eccentric letters, J’s romantic foibles, and anecdotes from a seat-of-your-pants era of publishing now gone by. A story about the struggle to publish only the best, it is itself an example of literary biography at its finest.

On The Collected Poems of James Laughlin 

Published in his centenary year, The Collected Poems of James Laughlin encompasses in one majestic volume all of the poetry (with the exception of his verse memoirs, Byways) written by the publisher-poet. Witty, technically brilliant, slyly satiric and heartbreakingly poignant about the vagaries of love, Laughlin charted his own poetic course for over six decades prompting astonishment and joy in those fellow poets who had discovered his unique genius. As Charles Simic enthused, “The secret is out, the publisher of Williams and Pound is himself a great lyric poet.”

Compiled and edited by Peter Glassgold, Laughlin’s chosen poetry editor for the last two decades, The Collected Poems of James Laughlin includes more than 1250 poems from the early lyrics written in Laughlin’s signature “typewriter” metric, to the “long-line” poems of his later years, to the playful antics of his dopplegänger Hiram Handspring, to the trenchant commentary of the five-line pentastichs that occupied his last days. Despite all the awards and accolades that James Laughlin received for his publishing achievements and service to literature, the honor that pleased him most was his election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996)—as a poet.

Ian S. MacNiven
Ian S. MacNiven

Ian S. MacNiven

Ian S. MacNiven’s authorized biography of Lawrence Durrell was a New York Times Notable Book for 1998. He has edited two collections of Durrell’s correspondence (with Richard Aldington and Henry Miller), is the author of numerous articles on literary modernism, and has directed and spoken at conferences on three continents. He is also a past president of the D. H. Lawrence Society of North America and of the International Lawrence Durrell Society. MacNiven resides on the west bank of the Hudson, outside the town of Athens, New York.

Photo Credit: Virginia Schendler
 

Peter Glassgold
Peter Glassgold

Peter Glassgold

The former editor-in-chief of New Directions, Peter Glassgold also edited James Laughlin's Byways (2005). His books include the novel The Angel Max (1998) and, most recently, the revised edition of Anarchy! An Anthology of Emma Goldman's "Mother Earth."

Houghton Library
Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138

The Houghton Library is located in Harvard Yard, northeast of Harvard Square, facing Quincy Street between Widener and Lamont libraries. More information at http://hcl.harvard.edu/info/directions/index.cfm#houghton

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