Poet of the Month / Poets of the Year

New Directions Publishing (Norfolk, CT, New York, USA)
Series dates: 1941-1945
Size: 6″ x 9″

Initiated January 2, 1941, with a volume by William Carlos Williams titled The Broken Span, The Poet of the Month Series were sold at .35 (later .50) cents each paperbound and $1 each clothbound, with a yearly subscription available for $4. Boxed sets were available for $5.50. A bound set of all titles for a year (at least for 1942) was available for $10. The volumes were short (under 50 pages) but larger format (6″ x 9″) and the plan was to have each title designed and printed by a different small press. The books were conceived of as fine press books but on a budget (source). A threatened lawsuit by Book of the Month Club led to the series name change to Poets of the Year in 1943 (source).

Secondary sources indicate that 42 titles were published between 1941 and 1945. Between 1941 and 1943 twelve titles were issued per year, and in 1944 six titles issued (due to wartime paper rationing) (source). My accounting (at the end of this entry, based on WorldCat and eBay and Abe.com entries) is 42 titles, but with a slightly different count of new titles issued per year:

1941: 12 titles
1942: 12 titles
1943: 8 titles
1944: 9 titles
1945: 1 title

In 2013 New Directions began publishing the Poetry Pamphlets, inspired by the Poet of the Month / Poets of the Year series.

An advertisement from the Saturday Review (December 6, 1941, pp. 21) includes the Poet of the Month series along with other New Direction publications for 1941-1942. This includes new titles in the New Classics Series and the Makers of Modern Literature Series.

The Saturday Review, December 6, 1941, pp. 21

Each title in the Poet of the Month series was designed by a different typographer and printed by a different small press. This copy of Richard Lattimore’s Some Odes of Pindar… is a paperbound edition, printed at the Overbrook Press in Stamford, Connecticut. The jackets are mostly minimalist modern in design and unique to each title. The series name is included on the jacket front. The front jacket flap describes the contents. The price of .50 cents is on the jacket flap.

The rear jacket flap includes the Poets of the Month titles for 1942. Each includes the press that designed and printed the book.

The stapled card cover is completely blank:

The half-title page, the title lacking the title ellipsis:

The title page, the title also lacking the title ellipsis:

The copyright page:

The second to last page indicates “Some Odes of Pindar in New English Versions by Richard Lattimore has been set in Metrolite and Lydian types and printed at The Overbrook Press in Stamford, Connecticut.”

The final page in the book lists the Poets of the Month for the series’ first year, 1941. This list does not include the Press that printed the books.

Yvor Winters’ The Giant Weapon is one of the 8 titles published in 1943 in the newly renamed series, now the Poets of the Year. This copy is one of the hardbound books. The jackets follow the minimalist designs of the earlier titles. There is no writing on the (thin) spine of the jacket. The series name is included on the bottom of the front cover. The price is $1, noted on the front jacket flap. A blurb for the book and biography of the author is also on the front jacket flap.

Titles in the Poets of the Year series are listed on the back jacket flap. The cost for an annual subscription is $5. $1 for “solid binding” and .50 cents for the “pamphlet” versions. Twelve titles are listed. Each includes the small press that printed the title.

The cover of the book follows the design fo the jacket. The spine is also blank.

The half-title page. This particular book is signed by the author.

The title page includes the series name.

A statement on the reverse of the title page from the author describes the poems in the collection.

The Giant Weapon by Yvor Winters, in Alicia type on white wove paper, is composed for New Directions, Norfolk, Conn., by S.A. Jacobs, The Golden Eagle Press, Mount Vernon.”

The final page in the book lists “Earlier Titles in the “Poets of the Year Series.” This includes titles from 1941 and 1942 when the series was known as the Poet of the Month series.

Titles in The Poet of the Month and Poet of the Year series are listed below. Some of the titles were reprinted (as late as 1948). My accounting here includes 12 titles for 1941 and 1942, 8 titles for 1943 (the first year the series name was changed), 9 titles for 1944, and 1 title published in 1945. While the total number of titles (42) fits with other sources, the number per year is a bit different. Some titles seem to indicate a series number, which may correspond to the month issued. I have not found a bibliographic checklist of this series, which is a bit odd given the obsessive interest in New Directions publications.

THE POET OF THE MONTH 1941 (12 titles)

The Broken Span by William Carlos Williams
The End of a Decade by Harry Brown
The Paradox in the Circle by Theodore Spencer
Shenandoah, a verse play by Delmore Schwartz
Poems by F.T. Prince
The Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke translated by Babette Deutsch
Some Poems and a Devotion by John Donne
A Letter from the Country by Howard Baker
Selected Poems by John Wheelwright
Poems on Several Occasions by Josephine Miles
The Dry Season by Malcolm Cowley
More Poems from the Palatine Anthology translated by Dudley Fitts

THE POET OF THE MONTH 1942 (12 titles)

“The Poet of the Month is a series of poetry booklets, issued monthly, uniform in size but each number individual in design and printed by a different fine press. The annual subscription is $4 ($10, bound). Single copies: 50 cents ($1, bound). The series for 1942 includes:”

Some Poems Of Robert Herrick (The Marchbanks Press, New York)
Selected Poems Of Carl Rakosi (Designed by Alvin Lustig, Media, Los Angeles)
Eleven Poems On The Same Theme By Robert Penn Warren (The Fine Editions Press, New York)
The Sword On The Table (“Thomas Dorr’s Rebellion”) By Winfield Townley Scott (The Merrymount Press, Boston)
If There Is Time By Hildegarde Flanner (The Peter Pauper Press, New York)
The Lincoln Lyrics By John Malcolm Brinnin (The Prairie Press, Iowa)
Our Lady Peace & Other War Poems By Mark Van Doren (The Spiral Press, New York)
A Wreath Of Christmas Poems (The Sun and Moon Press, New York)
Some Odes Of Pindar translated by Richmond Lattimore (The Overbrook Press, Stamford, Connecticut)
The Mirror Of Baudelaire adaptations by Charles Henri Ford (The Golden Eagle Press, New York)
Poems By John Berryman (Hawthorn House, Windham, Connecticut)
New Poems By Dylan Thomas (The Elm Tree Press, Woodstock, Vermont)

THE POETS OF THE YEAR 1943 (8 titles)

A Satire Against Mankind and Other Poems, John Wilmot Rochester, Harry Levin (ed.) (#1, Printed at the Wells College Press in Aurora, N.Y
Some Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin (translated by Frederic Prokosch)
The Giant Weapon, Yvor Winters
Sacred and Secular Elegies, by George Barker
A Little Anthology of Canadian Poets, Ralph Gustafson
The Trial of Lucullus: A Play for the Radio, Bertolt Brech (translated by H.R. Hays)
The Violent: New Poems, Harry Brown (Walpole Printing Office)
Prose Poems from the Illuminations of Arthur Rimbaud, Arthur Rimbaud, Helen Rootham (Lane Press)

THE POETS OF THE YEAR 1944 (9 titles)

Selected Poems, Rafael Alberti, Lloyd Mallan (ed.)
The Soldier: A Poem, Conrad Aiken (George Grady Press)
Selected Poems, Herman Melville; F.O. Matthiessen (ed.) (Marchbanks Press)
Three Russian Poets: Selections from Pushkin, Lermontov and Tyutchev in New Translations, Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov
Poems, New and Selected, Richard Eberhart (Hawthorn House)
The Hitleriad, A.M. Klein; Harry Steinhauer (Samuel Marcus Press)
Thirty Poems, Thomas Merton (Marchbanks Press)
And You, Thoreau!, August Derleth

THE POETS OF THE YEAR 1945 (1 title)

Selections From the Note-books of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Gerard Manley Hopkins; Carl Purington Rollins; James Laughlin; Theodore Russell Weiss (“designed by Carl P. Rollins and printed for New Directions at the printing-office of the Yale University Press in the month of May 1945” – WorldCat entry)