+ By Leah Weiss + Photos by Marie Machin
“I was very young when it happened to me,” says Mick Loggins. Poring over William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he came upon these lines:
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
O, that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek!
“I was so struck with the music, the tonality, the connection that was being talked about, the metaphor. It was around that moment, that time—when I was about 13—when language entered me, words entered me . . . as if a door had opened, and I walked through it, or it walked through me. And there it was.”
V. P. Loggins, as he is known in the literary world, is a respected poet and Shakespearean scholar—and a sculptor. He has authored two critical books on Shakespeare and a litany of poems that have appeared in such prestigious journals as Poet Lore, Poetry East, Poetry Ireland Review, and The Southern Review.
“A Name More Sure Than Love,” from his first published collection, Heaven Changes (2007, Pudding House), is part of Ensemble Galilei’s performance piece entitled “A Universe of Dreams” and performed by radio luminary Neal Conan. Irish sculptor Andrew Cooke created an art exhibition based on poems in The Fourth Paradise (2010, Main Street Rag). Loggins traveled around Ireland while working on the collection. “I wanted to feel the places,” he says.
His poems are finely crafted pieces, rich with imagery yet elegantly clear, accessible, and universal. They welcome the reader into diverse environments and encounters, allowing an intimate sojourn in a family home, a winterscape, the Irish countryside, a city park, a coal mine, the heavens, the woods. Themes of exploration, migration, loss, and restoration are ever present.
There is moisture on the window,
like mountains in a Chinese silk;
it gathers at the lower corner
of the glass. A valley slopes
to where a river runs. A town
or village lies peacefully there.
And halfway up the mountain
a shanty balances on stone,
awaiting any who would climb
to where the view is faultless.
I climb throughout the morning
in sun that creeps across the glass,
but the mountains and the valley fade
before I reach the shanty.
© V.P. Loggins, published in Poet Lore (2007) and Heaven Changes (2007).
Born in Alabama to an Irish-American working class family and raised in Illinois, Loggins nurtured his love for books and verse on his own. He started learning the craft by studying Shakespeare and other poets and trying to emulate what they were doing. “I think I rather confused my parents,” he smiles.
After high school, he continued his studies in Indiana, first at Purdue University in West Lafayette, and then at Ball State University in Muncie. Returning to Purdue for a PhD in English Renaissance Literature, Loggins wrote his dissertation on Troilus and Cressida, one of Shakespeare’s more perplexing plays. As a graduate student and then as a professor, he taught in the Purdue University system for more than 20 years.
In 1999, after spending a sabbatical year ensconced in Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, he began a formidable weekly commute to West Lafayette when his wife, who works in finance, took a job in Baltimore. They bought a house in Annapolis, and in 2002, Loggins left Purdue to put down Annapolitan roots. He taught writing and literature at the US Naval Academy for six years. “I was always trying to get Hamlet in, and [James] Joyce, and as many poems as possible,” he grins.
No longer teaching, Loggins focuses on his poems. This year, two unpublished collections received high literary accolades—The Wild Severance was named a finalist for the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, and The Green Cup was named a finalist for the Cider Press Review’s Poetry Book Award.
For Loggins, writing verse is pure discovery—of the world, of oneself, of the creative process. “One comes to see it. There may be a vague outline in the mind, early. But, of course, the more you work, not only the clearer things become, but the more different they become,” he explains, “because new ideas will present themselves, or new opportunities to explore a direction you might not have anticipated when you began.”
His weekday routine involves at least six hours of writing, revising, or reading, and breakfast and an afternoon study session at 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar & Gallery, just up the road from his home. “I spend my time thinking about poetry and surrendering to it. I study every day. I’m looking at what contemporary poets are doing and how they are doing it.” He reads William Butler Yeats and Shakespeare daily, as well as English Romantic poets such as John Keats. “There’s so much to know, to work on. I really am mining the work of all of the people I read to see what they can teach me,” he says.
Revising is a partnership process that often takes years. “You surrender yourself to the work of art in such a way that it teaches you how to manage it. So in time, and with a great familiarity with the work, I come to a point where I think we’ve said enough,” he chuckles.
It’s no accident that his work is accessible. “The fundamental paradox of poetry, I think, is that the more specific you are, the more universal you can be,” says Loggins. When I use the word I in a poem, I also always mean you.” He gives great thought to the reader, adhering to Robert Frost’s belief that a poem isn’t completed until it is received. “It’s one of the reasons I submit my work to journals and magazines,” he says.
“The creativity of the writer has to be matched by the receptivity of the reader. It’s in that junction where the poem is ultimately found. So for me, it isn’t about self-expression, it’s an expression for connection, or for sharing, or for compassion.” █
For the online version:
Listen to V. P. Loggins’ poem “Low T” read by Deirdre Neilen, editor of The Healing Muse, an annual journal of literary and visual arts published by the State University of New York’s Upstate Medical University’s Center for Bioethics and Humanities: