Thursday, May 18, 2006

New Directions founder James Laughlin in his office, 1941


One day later, I got a second note from Andrew Schelling, which, in addition to giving me permission to run the first email here on the blog, included this meditation on the history of New Directions.

I went into a sidetrack this morning and thought further about New Directions. Their almost single-handed support of the Pound-Williams-HD lineage (I don't know what else to call it) & New Americans ended in the crucial years from 1968-1975. I don't know the details (is Bill Corbett still working on his ND history?) but they let go a number of writers in the early seventies. 

Last titles ND published by these poets:

Duncan 1968, when he calls moratorium on publishing.

Pound's Drafts & Fragments 1968.

(Williams and HD are dead by now, also Patchen, & Pound in '72)

Everson 1968.

Rakosi 1971.

Snyder 1974.

Oppen 1975.

You could also say that Levertov begins to represent something quite different after the mid-seventies, and is decreasingly read by experimental poets. Black Sparrow picks up some of the ND cast-offs: Everson, Rakosi, Oppen.

1968-75 seems a turning point in history & emergence of a recognizable new generation of writers. It takes ND twenty years to see how things have changed. So after a gap of two decades ND resumes with D. Hinton's translations ('89), E. Weinberger, B. Mayer, S. Howe ('90), M. Palmer ('95).

One could go deeper into the opportunities New Directions has missed over the years – the one has always boggled me is the failure to bring out Spring & All as a separate volume, perfect for students to carry around in their pockets – it would still be the single best book of poetics ever published (also the single best book of poetry). That’s not only failing in your commitment to authors and readers, it’s leaving serious money on the table.

The one poet who seems clearly to run counter to this history is Robert Creeley, whom New Directions began to publish in 1978, with Hello, a relationship it has continued to this day.