New Directions Revives Poetry Pamphlets

by Melissa Faliveno

News and Trends

Online Only, posted 6.13.13

July/August 2013

Founded in 1936 in New York City by poet James Laughlin, independent publisher New Directions recently launched its new Poetry Pamphlets series, a reincarnation of two earlier efforts—“Poet of the Month” and “Poets of the Year,” originally published by Laughlin in the 1940s—which featured the work of William Carlos Williams, Delmore Schwartz, and Yvor Winters, among others. Current New Directions publisher Barbara Epler had long considered reviving the pamphlet series, says editor Jeffrey Yang, and, this past spring, “We finally turned the idea into a reality.”

Sets of four individual collections will be released twice yearly, with a print run of between one thousand and two thousand copies each. The first of these, published in March and available as a group or individually on the New Directions website (ndbooks.com), includes new work by Susan Howe, Sylvia Legris, Bernadette Mayer, and a collaborative work by Lydia Davis and Eliot Weinberger. “With the new pamphlets,” Yang says, “we want to highlight original work by renowned poets from around the world, living and dead, as well bring out forgotten or overlooked literary treasures lost in the cracks of history.”

Each collection is carefully designed, stapled, and printed on recycled Speckletone paper. Graphic artist Paul Sahre, known for his book covers as well as his illustrations for the New York Times, has been working with New Directions art director Erik Rieselbach on the design of the new series. “We started the process by looking at the original poetry series from the forties,” Sahre says. “Those covers are [all] one- or two-color [designs] yet very different graphically one to the next. With the new series we are trying to maintain that feeling. It’s been interesting, because when we usually approach a cover design we read the book; in this case we have been reacting to a title only, so the associations between image and words have been much more free-form. Even accidental.”

The second set of pamphlets, released in June, include Forrest Gander’s Eiko & Koma, H. D.’s Vale Ave, Alejandra Pizarnik’s A Musical Hell, and Nathaniel Tarn’s Beautiful Contradictions. The third set, due out in the winter, will include Oliverio Girondo’s Poems to Read on a Streetcar; the anthology Fifteen Iraqi Poets, edited by Dunya Mikhail; Fullblood Arabian by Syrian author Osama Alomar; and Blasts Cries Laughter by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Melissa Faliveno is the assistant editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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