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In Another Country

In Another Country – Poem by Poem




The poem: Prognosis

An old man alone in a house
full of books who spits in

the sink where he piles his
lonely dishes the children

have gone to make their own
mistakes and he climbs on

the books like an endless
endless ladder grasping at

Dante clutching at Lao Tze
defying the world of things

& lost in a world of words
an old man who stares at

the page till the words are
gone and he knows that he

doesn’t even understand
what makes the weather.


Poet: James Laughlin (1914-1997)
Book: In Another Country
Publisher: City Lights 1978

Prognosis, a haunting title for a poem read while under pandemic orders to remain isolated at home. Prognosis is no longer a word used solely as a medical term. Today, according to Webster’s Dictionary, it “means basically ‘knowledge beforehand’ of how a situation is likely to turn out.” I read Prognosis several times, finally substituting “old woman” for “old man” and the poem came even more alive. The poems in this slim volume, In Another Country, cover the years of 1935 – 1975. Those of us who love “the world of words” have come to understand, as Laughlin’s old man, that words are sometimes not enough and his ladder of books may lead nowhere. As of this reading, there is no prognosis for today’s Covid-19, medical, or otherwise. Also, sad to say, In Another Country is no longer in print.

Jame Laughlin is more easily recognized as the founder of New Directions “a company dedicated to publishing quality works with little regard to their chances for commercial success,”  than a poet. Of equal interest is to find that the publisher of In Another Country was Ferlinghetti’s City Lights, not just San Francisco’s landmark bookstore, but also a publisher in its own right of quality works. Today, City Lights is successfully fighting to remain a part of Laughlin’s “world of words.” Follow the link to see how you can be a part of this important funding.   –  Sunny Solomon

Also available by James Laughlin: Selected Poems; The Owl of Minerva; The Bird of Endless Time; Collected Poems; The Man in the Wall; Heart Island; Remembering William Carlos Williams; The Country Road; Phantoms; The Secret Room; The Love Poems; Pound as Wuz; James Laughlin Poems New and Selected; Random Essays; Angelica

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