Let's face it: New Directions is, hands down, one of the most consistently interesting and provocative publishers in operation today. From poetry to essays, from big, lovely arty books with a literary slant to experimental fiction from Central Europe or the Middle East, they cover an incredible range, and do so time and again.
Now they've introduced a new series, the New Directions Poetry Pamphlets, which continues their historical emphasis on elegance and simplicity. These books — there are 12 thus far — are lovely, and the series brings together both established and new poets in an attractive format.
The list is both breathtaking and groundbreaking, a true affirmation of what New Directions does best: exploring new and established writers in fresh and exciting ways. Here you can explore Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Blasts Cries Laughter), Susan Howe (Sorting Facts, or Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker), and H. D. (Vale Ave) alongside other, less well-known poets. Check out Fifteen Iraqi Poets, edited by Dunya Mikhail, or Poems to Read on a Streetcar by Oliverio Girondo.
My personal favorite thus far is Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik's A Musical Hell. Pizarnik, of whom I'd never heard before seeing this book, lived both in her native Argentina and in Paris at various times during her short life (she committed suicide in 1972). She was the author of several books of poems and the recipient of more than a few generous grants. Consistent with New Directions' pioneering vision of the role of publishing, they're using this series to take up the gauntlet of introducing Pizarnik to U.S. readers today.
I was in the hospital for 10 days last year, and this little pamphlet was one of the books that I brought with me, more by happenstance than by choice. Imagine my amazement when I found myself totally and utterly floored by it. Pizarnik is a surrealistic shamaness, her language richly inviting, her images offering readers an exit into a mythic world of the imagination that's been enticingly explored by very few — Paul Eluard, Andre Breton, Robert Desnos, Pierre Reverdy...
A few lines:
I cannot speak with my voice, so I speak with my voices.
Those eyes were the entrance to the temple, for me, a wanderer
who loves and dies — I would've sung until merging with the night,
until dissolving naked at the beginning of time.
A Musical Hell is bilingual Spanish and English, and includes an introduction by Julio Cortazar.
This is such an exciting series. Seize the moment and give one of these pamphlets a chance today!