New Directions Publishing

New Directions Publishing

80 8th Avenue, headquarters of New Directions Publishing.
Founded 1936
Founder James Laughlin
Country of origin United States
Headquarters location New York City
Distribution W. W. Norton & Company
Publication types Books
Fiction genres translation, experimental poetry
Official website

New Directions Publishing Corp. is an independent book publishing company that was founded in 1936 by James Laughlin. The company was incorporated in 1964 as the New Directions Publishing Corporation and operates from New York City, and its books today are distributed by W. W. Norton & Company.[1] Its offices are located at 80 8th Avenue. It publishes about 30 books annually.


New Directions was born in 1936 of Ezra Pound's advice to the young James Laughlin, then a Harvard University sophomore, to "do something' useful" after finishing his studies at Harvard.[2] Laughlin's response was to found a press committed to publishing experimental writing. Initially, this ambition to act as a venue for innovative work manifested itself in roughly annual anthologies of new writing, each titled New Directions in Poetry and Prose (until 1966's NDPP 19) and New Directions in Prose & Poetry since[3] (with either a year or a volume number after it, e.g., "New Directions in Poetry and Prose 1941" or "New Directions in Poetry and Prose 11"). Writers whose early work was published in these anthologies include Dylan Thomas, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Thomas Merton, Denise Levertov, James Agee, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The New Directions "annuals," soon broadened their focus to include quality contemporary writing of all genres, though the work included tended to represent a more intellectual side of American writing as well as a considerable amount of literature in translation from modernist authors around the world. New Directions also published many now-famous writers, including Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, when they had a hard time finding homes for their work, and Tennessee Williams was published as a poet for the very first time in a New Directions poetry collection.[4]

James Laughlin also initiated the publication of a number of thematic "series," in some cases offering subscriptions to the series in a manner similar to that of magazine publishers. The New Directions "Poet of the Month" series consisted of thin volumes of either lengthy individual poems or small collections of poems by one author were released on a monthly basis, and a larger "Poet of the Year" volume was issued once annually. Each volume was published by a different small press and released by New Directions. The Series was discontinued after a few years.

The publication "Directions" began in 1941 as a quarterly soft-bound journal, with each edition dedicated to a single author or work in prose. Early issues included a collection of short stories by Vladimir Nabokov and a play by William Carlos Williams. The subscription model did not take hold, and later editions in the series were published in more traditional form and sold as individual works, not just to subscribers. Another short-lived New Directions periodical, Pharos, was discontinued after its fourth number was published in the winter of 1947.

Other notable undertakings include the "New Classics" and "Modern Readers" series, which reissued recent books that had gone out of print but that New Directions believed deserved to become classics. These reprints included such works as Exiles and Stephen Hero by James Joyce and, most famously, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The New Classics series became, along with the Annuals, one of the signature series of New Directions and helped to build the reputation of a number of works that are now considered "classics." The "Makers of Modern Literature" series published criticism and literary histories of major figures in or influences on modern literature. [5]

In 1977, New Directions was presented with a Carey Thomas Award special citation for distinguished publishing in experimental literature. New Directions' authors have won numerous national and international awards, including the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (Octavio Paz, Kamau Brathwaite), and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.

New projects and awards

The current focus of New Directions is threefold: discovering and acquiring many new contemporary international writers and introducing them to the US (among these are: W. G. Sebald, Roberto Bolaño, Javier Marías, César Aira, Inger Christensen, László Krasznahorkai, and Yoko Tawada); maintaining a tradition of publishing new and experimental American poetry and prose (recent poets include the National Book Award for Poetry-winner Nathaniel Mackey, Forrest Gander, Eliot Weinberger, Michael Palmer, Susan Howe, Thalia Field, Peter Cole, and Will Alexander); and reissuing New Directions' classic titles in new editions with introductions by highly praised writers and artists, including: Jonathan Lethem (Nathaniel West's Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust), William Gibson (Jorge Luis Borges's Labyrinths), Susan Sontag (Leonid Tsypkin's Summer in Baden-Baden), Edwidge Danticat (René Philoctète's Massacre River), Sue Monk Kidd (Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation), John Ashbery (Alvin Levin's Love is Like Park Avenue), Devendra Banhart (Kenneth Patchen's We Meet), Will Self (Henry Miller's The Colossus of Maroussi), and Jeanette Winterson (Djuna Barnes's Nightwood). Drawing from the tradition of the early anthologies and series, New Directions recently launched the Pearl series, which presents short works by New Directions writers in slim, minimalist volumes designed by Rodrigo Corral. Recent additions to the series include On Booze by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Leviathan by Joseph Roth.[6] New Directions also publishes a selection of academic reading guides to accompany a number of their books, including Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha and The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams.[7]

In February 2009, New Directions made headlines when their poet Allen Grossman won the Bollingen Prize in American Poetry, a prize that recognizes either the most outstanding volume of poetry published in the last two years or a lifetime of distinguished achievement in the field.[8] Two years later, the Prize was again won by a New Directions poet, Susan Howe.[9] Takashi Hiraide's For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut, which was translated from the Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu and published by New Directions, was honored by Melville House and Three Percent as the best work of poetry in translation published in 2008. In August 2009, the Albanian poet Luljeta Lleshanaku was awarded the Vilenice Kristal prize for world poetry, and in 2011, three New Directions books were shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award: "The Literary Conference" by César Aira, Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, and Child of Nature by Luljeta Lleshanaku.[10]


New Directions was the first American publisher of such notables as Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, and Henry Miller. Today, their authors include:

American literature

Central American, South American, and Caribbean Literature

British, Canadian, and Australian Literature

European Literature

Chinese and Japanese Literature

Middle Eastern and Indian Literature

Jacket design and colophon

After the time of World War II, New Directions developed a close relationship with the artist Alvin Lustig, who designed modernist abstract book jackets. Lustig was ultimately responsible for developing a distinctive style of dust jacket that served as a New Directions hallmark for many years.

The company's colophon is a figure of a centaur based upon a sculpture by Heinz Henghes, and usually appears on the spine of New Directions books.




  1. Laughlin,James "Britannica Concise Encyclopedia"
  2. New Directions website,
  3. "Books " New Directions in Poetry and Prose". Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  5. Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University. Call No.: MS Am 2077. Date(s): ca. 1933-1997. New Directions Publishing Corp. Records: Guide. Houghton Library, Harvard College Library Records of New Directions Publishing Corporation largely from the Norfolk, Connecticut office of the founder, James Laughlin, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 © 2000 The President and Fellows of Harvard College.
  8. Poetry at Beinecke Library webpage
  11. The Pisan Cantos, New York, New Directions, 1948 - 2003

Further reading

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