John Logan Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Because John Logan’s reputation stems from his poetry, his fiction has, for the most part, been overlooked. Logan’s most sustained attempt at fiction, The House That Jack Built: Or, A Portrait of the Artist as a Sad Sensualist (1984), celebrated the discovery and sheer joy of language. Concerned with the poet’s young life, the book offers childhood experiences, relationships, and images that reveal the intellectual and emotional development of Logan’s poetic sensibility. Eighteen of Logan’s stories, including five previously unpublished, are gathered in John Logan: The Collected Fiction (1991). As a teacher and critic, Logan contributed essays, interviews, forewords, and reviews to numerous magazines and books, most of which were collected in A Ballet for the Ear: Interviews, Essays, and Reviews (1983), edited by A. Poulin, Jr. This volume demonstrates Logan’s wide-ranging scholarship and his dedication to the life of the poet. He explored with enthusiasm and keen insight such contrasting figures asHerman Melville and E. E. Cummings, and he developed provocative explanations for his own writing, his personal poetics, and the work and poetics of many contemporary writers. The passion of Logan’s literary life, however, is best understood after hearing the poet read; his performances were often described as “spellbinding.”


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Often and incorrectly described as a confessional poet, John Logan was one of the few truly personal poets to come to prominence in the twentieth century. James Wright tells an anecdote that best summarizes Logan’s influence:I once stopped a fistfight between two of the best living poets I know, and I did it by reading aloud to them a poem by John Logan. . . . He is a genius of love in my lifetime, and, to my mind, one of the three or four masters we have to give to the world.

James Dickey placed Logan’s work alongside the poetry of Robert Lowell, and Robert Bly wrote that “John Logan (was) one of the five or six finest poets to emerge in the United States in the last decades.” Logan’s reputation as a teacher equaled his reputation as a poet, and some of his noteworthy students, including Marvin Bell, have written at length about Logan’s “humanistic” workshops. Logan received the Miles Modern Poetry Prize from Wayne State University in 1967, a Rockefeller Foundation grant in 1969, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1973, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1979, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1980, and in 1982, three awards: the Robert Hazel Ferguson Award from the Friends of Literature in Chicago, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and the William Carlos Williams Prize from Ecco Press. He served as poetry editor for both The Nation and Critic, and he was also the founder and editor of Choice, a magazine of poetry and photography.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Dickey, James. Babel to Byzantium. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968. A highly personal and enlightening reading of Logan’s poetry by an equally impressive novelist and poet. Dickey convincingly argues that Logan is one of the finest American poets ever. He offers important insight into the religions and literary influences that shaped Logan’s work.

Isbell, Harold. “John Logan’s ’Confessions.’” Commonweal 122, no. 10 (May 19, 1995): 14-20. This profile of the poet examines his life, his alcoholism, and his religious beliefs, including an interest in Saint Augustine and his writings. Provides analysis of several poems.

Kimmelman, Burt, and Temple Cone, eds. The Facts On File Companion to American Poetry: 1900 to the Present. New York: Facts On File, 2008. Contains a short biographical entry on Logan that provides a summary of his life and list of works.

Logan, John. “A Conversation with John Logan.” Interview by Thomas Hilgers and Michael Molloy. Iowa Review 10 (Spring/Summer, 1980): 221-229. An excellent overview of Logan’s life and work as told by the poet himself. Logan discusses the European locales that served as inspirations for many of his works, the influence of Rainer Maria Rilke, and the history behind many of his poems and his prose work, The House That Jack Built.

Petrosky, Anthony. “In and Out of John Logan’s Workshops.” Ironwood 15 (Fall, 1987): 97-101. A fascinating and illuminating personal account of Logan as a teacher, a poet, and an acquaintance, based on Petrosky’s friendship with him. These recollections are a vivid study of Logan’s personality, aesthetics, interests, and tastes. The numerous anecdotes—from Bach concerts to poetry workshops and meetings with other poets—offer valuable insight into Logan and his poetry.

Waters, Michael. Dissolve to Island: On the Poetry of John Logan. Houston, Tex.: Ford-Brown, 1984. This first book-length critical study of Logan’s poetry includes essays by Tama Baldwin, Marvin Bell, and Peter Makuck and is supplemented by selected poems. This valuable resource also contains bibliographic and biographical information.