Ezra Pound: University of Delaware Library.

Pound and Laughlin

In 1933, Pound received a letter from a young Harvard student named James Laughlin IV, requesting permission to visit him in Rapallo, Italy, where Pound was then living. Laughlin spent some time with Pound, learning and soaking in the artistic milieu, listening to Pound’s discourse on literature, history, languages, and the news of the day. Laughlin was an aspiring poet, but Pound was dismissive of his work, telling him to go back to America “and do something useful.” When Laughlin asked what might be useful, Pound suggested, “go back and be a publisher.”

With the help of family money, Laughlin took Pound’s advice to heart, and his first publication was an anthology, New Directions in Prose and Poetry, published in 1936. Included in the anthology were Pound’s “Canto 44”, along with works by William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Gertrude Stein, E.E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, and others. The first book of Pound’s published under the New Directions imprint was Culture, which appeared in 1938. New Directions became a constant in Pound’s career; Laughlin kept all of his books in print. He also published challenging new work by William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Dylan Thomas, and Henry Miller, and later the Beats and other poets. New Directions remains a formidable publishing house and publishes poetry, modern literature, and literature in translation, staying true to the ethos of its founder, Laughlin, who died in 1997.

  • Ezra Pound. Culture. Norfolk: New Directions, 1938.
  • Ezra Pound at Seventy. Norfolk: New Directions, 1955.
  • James Laughlin. Gists & Piths. Iowa City: Windhover Press, 1982.
    This is one of 25 copies, signed by Laughlin, with a postcard from Pound to Laughlin laid in.
  • James Laughlin. Ezra. New York: Dim Gray Bar Press, 1994.
    One of one hundred copies, with photographs by Laughlin.
  • James Laughlin. Byways. New York: New Directions, 2004.