“I have never been part of the London literary scene,” Christopher Logue said in his 1993 Art of Poetry interview:
My time has been passed with painters, antique dealers, musicians, booksellers, journalists, actors, and film people. I find it natural to collaborate with others on such things as posters, songs, films, shows. This is unusual in literary London.
This collaborative spirit led him to reproduce his poems on all kinds of unlikely surfaces: mugs, beermats, T-shirts, mirrors, Tube station walls, Lake District concrete, and the silk lining of at least one gown. But Logue, who died in 2011, found his biggest success with his poster poems, a form he’s said to have invented.
The first, an antinuclear poem called “To My Fellow Artists,” he made with the designer Germano Facetti in 1958; the pair hung their prints in cafés and bookstore windows around the city, leaving a stack of them in the lobby of the Royal Court Theatre. Their reasoning was simple: big words on posters tend to be more widely read than small words on bound pages. To put a poem on a poster is to guarantee it a certain almost involuntary readership—especially valuable if, like Logue’s, your poems aim to provoke, amuse, or annoy. “Posters call you,” Logue writes in Manifesto. “So do poems … A poem unable to live on a poster / Is no poem.”
By the midsixties, Logue had amassed a small series of poster poems, most with print runs of fewer than a hundred copies. But one of them, 1966’s “I Shall Vote Labour” (“I shall vote Labour because if I do not vote Labour / my balls will fall off”) sold thirty thousand copies; it was for sale in Tom Salter’s Carnaby Street boutique, Gear, an iconic sixties counterculture shop.
Logue continued to make poster poems through 2004, collaborating with Colin Self, Derek Boshier, Ian Cameron, John Sankey, Scott King, and Michael English, among others. His posters are on display at Rob Tufnell Gallery, in London, through November 7.
Dan Piepenbring is the web editor of The Paris Review.