Logan's early poems, Paul Carroll claimed in The Poem in Its Skin, "announced a new sensibility in American poetry." His religious concerns in particular marked this change. Carroll remarked that Logan's poem "Spring of the Thief" was "one of the radiant moments of poetry in [his] generation." Writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Dan Murray discussed the complex themes that dominated Logan's writing. "The philosophical foundation of [his] work has been closely related to the existential humanism of Martin Heidegger, whose aim is an authenticity and wholesomeness of human 'being.' Logan too, wants to rescue man from the meaningless void of nihilism.... [His] poetry is, on the surface, disarmingly casual and immediate, but at its center engagingly metaphysical and meditative." Logan once told Contemporary Authors: "I think of poetry as a kind of anonymous loving, which occasionally becomes personal, when there are those present who care to listen."
Logan began writing poetry in the early 1950s, while teaching English at Notre Dame University. His first book, A Cycle for Mother Cabrini (1955), paid homage to an immigrant nun who built schools, hospitals, and orphanages in Chicago. Writing in the Nation, William Jay Smith stated that the book "introduced a poet whose intense religious feeling was set forth in poems that reflected the kind of classical education encountered at the time only in Robert Lowell. In the four books that followed [Ghosts of the Heart (1960), Spring of the Thief (1963), The Zigzag Walk (1969), and The Anonymous Lover (1973)], the poet's struggle between flesh and spirit became more pronounced and more personal." Although Logan gradually abandoned Catholicism and began dealing with less ethereal concerns, his work remained sharply defined by what John Crowe Ransom, quoted in The Poem in Its Skin, called "the secular priesthood" of the poet.
In total, Logan produced fourteen books of poetry. Among Logan's best known books are The Bridge of Change (1981) and Only the Dreamer Can Change the Dream (1981). The latter book was awarded the 1982 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, one of several major literary awards Logan received over the years. Smith, a member of the Marshall judging panel, observed that "all Logan's work delineates that curve between the terrible and the tender. [His] spiritual struggle is less clearly defined in some of his more recent rambling Whitmanesque elegies, but even here, when dullness is about to take over, he reminds us in a passage of great strength that the monsters are still there, untamed, but walking beside the poet in spiritual triumph."
In addition to his poetry, Logan also wrote an autobiographical novel, a children's book, a collection of criticism and reviews, a play, and a book describing a visit to China. Logan was a dedicated teacher who taught at St. John's College in Maryland, the University of Washington, San Francisco State College, the University of Hawaii, and the State University of New York-Buffalo, where he was professor emeritus. He served as mentor to poets such as Marvin Bell and Robert Haas. "He was extremely involved with his students and the people he cared for," Logan's son, Peter, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. "He was the best reader of poetry in the country. He was very melodic; it was like going to a concert to hear him read."
- A Cycle for Mother Cabrini,Grove Press (New York, NY), 1955.
- Ghosts of the Heart,University of Chicago Press (Chicago), 1960.
- Spring of the Thief: Poems, 1960-1962,Knopf (New York City), 1963.
- The Zig Zag Walk: Poems, 1963-1968,Dutton (New York City), 1969.
- Song on the Dread of a Chill Spring,Writers Forum (Brockport, NY), 1970.
- The Anonymous Lover: New Poems,Liveright (New York, NY), 1973.
- Poem in Progress,Dryad Press (San Francisco), 1975.
- Only the Dreamer Can Change the Dream(also see below; single poem) Petronium Press (Honolulu), 1975.
- Aaron Siskind: Photographs/ John Logan: Poems,Visual Studies Workshop (Rochester, NY), 1976.
- The Bridge of Change: Poems, 1974-1980,BOA Editions, 1979, American Poets Continium Series, 1981.
- Only the Dreamer Can Change the Dream(collection) Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1981.
- The Transformation: Poems, January to March, 1981,Pancake Press, 1983.
- John Logan: The Collected Poems, BOA Editions, 1989.
- Of Poems, Youth, and Spring(play) Samuel French, 1962.
- Tom Savage: A Boy for Early Virginia(for children), Encyclopedia Britannica Press, 1962.
- The House That Jack Built: or, A Portrait of the Artist as a Sensualist(autobiographical novel), Abattoir Editions (Omaha), 1974.
- China, Old and New(travel), SCMP (Hong Kong), 1982.
- A Ballet for the Ear: Interviews, Essays, and Reviews,edited by A. Poulin, Jr., University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor), 1983.
- John Logan: The Collected Fiction, American Poets Continium Series, 1991.
- Cambon, Glauco, Recent American Poetry,University of Minnesota Press, 1962, pp. 36-42.
- Carroll, Paul, The Poem In Its Skin,Follett Publishing, 1968, pp. 111-163, 217-219.
- Contemporary Literary Criticism,Gale, Volume 5, 1976.
- Contemporary Poets,4th edition, St. Martin's, 1985.
- Dickey, James, Babel to Byzantium,Farrar, Straus, 1968, pp. 164-167.
- Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 5: American Poets since World War II,Gale, 1980.
- Howard, Richard, Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States since 1950, Atheneum, 1969, pp. 306-317.
- American Book Review,September-October, 1990, pp. 16, 18.
- American Poetry Review,May-June, 1973, pp. 19-24; January-February, 1974.
- Commonweal,March 27, 1970.
- Ironwood,spring, 1978, pp. 75-86.
- Nation,October 16, 1982, pp. 371-372.
- Parnassus: Poetry in Review,fall-winter, 1981, pp. 45-53.
- Poetry,December, 1974.
- San Francisco Review of Books,May-June, 1983, p. 27.
- Sewanee Review,summer, 1983, pp. 369-370.
- Sixties,fall, 1961, pp. 77-87.
- Small Press Review,March, 1990, p. 2.
- Voyages, spring, 1972.
- Contemporary Poets, 4th edition, St. Martin's, 1985.
- Chicago Tribune, November 9, 1987.
- Los Angeles Times, November 10, 1987.
- New York Times, November 10, 1987.
Poems By JOHN LOGAN
- A Chance Visit to Mother Cabrini's Bones
- A Pathological Case in Pliny
- Believe It
- Big Sur: Partington Cove
- Carmel: Point Lobos
More poems by John Logan (17 poems)
- Lines for a Young Wanderer in Mexico
- Lines on Locks (or Jail and the Erie Canal)
- Middle-Aged Midwesterner at Waikiki Again
- Mother Cabrini Crosses the Andes
- Reflection on the Date of a Book: October 26
- Shore Scene
- Spring Chill
- The Bridge of Change
- The Death of Southwell
- The Library
- The Monument and the Shrine
LIFE SPAN 1923–1987