What the Pencil Writes

James Laughlin

The Collected Poems of James Laughlin

Born on October 30, 1914, James Laughlin, the founder of New Directions, wrote more than 1250 poems in his lifetime. In celebration of the centenary of his birth, the following is excerpted from The Collected Poems of James Laughlin, edited by Peter Glassgold and courtesy of New Directions. Next month, FSG will publish “Literchoor Is My Beat”: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions, by Ian S. MacNiven.


Often when I go out I
put in my coat pocket

some paper and a pencil
in case I want to

write something down
well there they are

wherever I go and as
my coat moves the pencil

writes by itself
a kind of gibberish

hieroglyphic which I
often think as I undress

at night & take
out those papers with

nothing written on
them but strange and

meaningless marks is
the story of my life.

James Laughlin was the founder of New Directions and author of several collections of poetry.

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