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This review is taken from PN Review 101, Volume 21 Number 3, January - February 1995.

SOME NATURAL THINGS JAMES LAUGHLIN, The Collected Poems, with an introduction by Hayden Carruth (Moyer Bell) $34.95

James Laughlin is eighty this year. The earliest of his books that I have in my possession bears the date 1945. It is this collection, Some Natural Things, which opens The Collected Poems, 1994. Between these two dates you might imagine a good deal of fame as a poet would have come his way. Yet look into any of the anthologies - into, say, Eliot Weinberger's American Poetry Since 1950 which came out last year -and you can be sure of not finding Laughlin there. The same is true of literary histories - The Columbia History of American Poetry, for example: silence. As a famous publisher, you might think he would be regarded as a phenomenon, a publisher who writes excellent verse. One of the blurbs on The Collected Poems says, 'Here is America's great popular poet, if only the bastards read poetry.' Perhaps one day, when people tire of all those phoney novels, he will be. But not yet.

Thirty years ago, I asked Henry Rago, the last of the great editors of Poetry (Chicago), why one could trace so few notices of Laughlin's books. 'Because,' said Raga, 'he never avails himself of the system of promotion - he even refrains from sending out review copies.' So perhaps Laughlin's own modesty is partly to blame? Clearly he had dubious feelings about being his own publisher and apologises to and for himself in 'The Publisher to the Poet':


Right hand blush never
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