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National Book Foundation > Author > James Laughlin
James Laughlin’s many books include: In Another Country (City Lights, 1979); Selected Poems (City Lights, 1986); The House of Light (Grenfell Press, 1986); Tabellaie (Grenfell Press, 1986); The Owl of Minerva (Copper Canyon, 1987);Collemata (The Stinehour Press, 1988) and Pound As Wuz (Graywolf, 1988). More about this author >
Poet, publisher and extraordinary man of letters James Laughlin (1914-1997) receives the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the Forty-Second Annual National Book Awards Dinner, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on the evening of November 18th, 1992.
Born October 30, 1914 in Pittsburgh, James Laughlin is the son of Henry Hughart and Marjory Rea Laughlin. He attended schools in the United States and abroad, graduating from Harvard University with an A.B. degree in 1939. At eighteen he had already published short stories and poetry in The Atlantic Monthly and the little magazines. New Directions was founded in 1936 when James Laughlin, then a twenty-two-year-old Harvard sophomore, issued the first of his New Directions anthologies. Intended “as a place where experimentalists could test their inventions by publication,” these volumes have continued to appear each year. Here readers were first introduced to the early works of such writers as William Saroyan, Delmore Schwartz, Dylan Thomas, Thomas Merton, John Hawkes, Denise Levertov, James Agee, Bertolt Brecht, Celine, Cocteau, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Shortly after issuing the first of the anthologies, Mr. Laughlin began to publish novels, plays, and collections of poems. Tennessee Williams first appeared as a poet in the early Five Young American Poets and Karl Shapiro printed his first work in the second volume of the same series. William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound, who once had difficulty finding publishers, have had many books published by New Directions. Mr. Laughlin has also been interested in issuing new editions of older, influential European writers in new translations often in a bilingual edition. Thus he contributed to the revivavl of interest in Kafka, Henry James, and E.M. Forster. He issued Henry Miller’s unorthodox essays and travel books and first printed James Joyce’s Three Lives, Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts, and Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha; and spotted the importance of Vladimir Nabokov, whose second novel, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, was published by New Directions in 1941, and of Boris Pasternak, who was presented in a volume of Selected Writings in this country in 1949.
James Laughlin’s many books include: In Another Country (City Lights, 1979); Selected Poems (City Lights, 1986); The House of Light (Grenfell Press, 1986); Tabellaie (Grenfell Press, 1986); The Owl of Minerva (Copper Canyon, 1987);Collemata (The Stinehour Press, 1988) and Pound As Wuz (Graywolf, 1988). His Collected Poems were by Moyer Bell, Ltd.