Small Press Spotlight :: New Directions
James Laughlin, the founder of New Directions, was still at Harvard when he began to start publishing. He ran the company out of his dorm room. He was also writing poetry at the time, until Ezra Pound eventually told him he wasn’t going to make it as a poet and he should “take up something usefull.” Laughlin’s first publication was an anthology of prose and poetry published in 1936. It included authors like Pound, Marianne Moore, and E.E. Cummings. Since their first publication, New Direction has been known for their focus on modernist literature. They continued to publish the New Directions in Prose and Poetry annually until 1991.
New Directions is interested in publishing work that is interesting and fresh. They look for work to publish that is contemporary or hasn’t been seen before. When the company was founded, they gave homes to books when other publishers would not. Ezra Pound’s and
Dylan Thomas’ early work appeared in their anthologies, then later in their own collections. Tennessee Williams was published as a poet for the first time through a New Directions collection.
A number of different series have been published by New Directions. They experimented with thematic series, which would consist of “Poet of the Month” series, “Poet of the Year,” and “Directions.” Some were offered like a magazine where you could subscribe to receive a copy monthly. The series were often compiled of only one author’s work. Their “Modern Readers” and “New Classics” were series that reprinted texts that had gone out of print, most notably, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Their most recent is the Pearl series, which prints the short works of authors already affiliated with New Directions in thin, minimalist volumes.
Today, New Directions is working towards three different goals: to use the New Classics series to bring back texts in new editions with introductions by contemporary authors, like Love is Like Park Avenue by Alvin Levin with an introduction by John Ashbery. They want to introduce contemporary international authors to the English speaking world. Roberto Bolaño is among the international authors who New Directions has acquainted the English publishing world with. Finally, they want to continue to publish new and experimental American prose and poetry.
Book Culture is proud to share New Directions books with our customers. They never fail to release texts that are innovative in some way, and they always hold up in time. New Directions has an eye for authors and styles that will still be interesting through the years to come. Without them, there may not be such an focus on bringing forgotten books back into the common consciousness. We hope that New Directions will continue for another 70 years. For more information about New Directions, visit their website.