Tom Lardner is the creative director of Plus Agency, a Soho based creative agency. He is also joint editor in chief (along with Plus Agency cofounder Christopher West) of the bi-annual fashion, art and culture magazine Supplement.
My mum, who lives in Leicester where I grew up, owns this book and it's always the first thing I pick up when I go to visit her. The jacket design has always fascinated me, initially more than the poems inside, but I have come to appreciate lots of Auden's work over the years. I love Wolpe's use of stars on the jacket and spine and have tried many times to incorporate them into my own designs, as yet not successfully enough to use them.
Wolpe designed the typeface Albertus for Monotype and used it for many of his best book jacket designs including this classic for Robert Lowell. The typeface became synonymous with the publishing house until Wolpes departure (he worked at Faber for 34 years). Interestingly the type face also drifted across the atlantic to adorn the covers of many City Lights classics including Allen Ginsberg's Howl and has seen somthing of a resurgance of late being used by the group Coldplay, and as the inspiration for the recently rebranded Spanish luxury fashion house Lowve under the creative direction of Jonathan Anderson. Robert Lowell is a great poet and For the union dead is his most famous poem.
It's a rite of passage for any Englishman to read Larkin, the 'quiet desperation' to quote The Darkside of the Moon soaks through. This is a striking cover design that perhaps says more about Wolpe the designer than Larkin the poet. All of Wolpe's best designs put bold use of typography at their centre and avoid the use of illustrations, with so many ideas and such rich imagery described within the text it seems pointless to try and use a single illustration to sum it all up, better concentrate on making an attractive jacket that is relevant to the era it was published in. Interestingly Wolpe used Phillip Boydell's typeface Festival Titling for this jacket originally designed as the official type face for the Festival of Britain. I saw a young skateboarder wearing a Supreme hoodie in Soho last week, on it were the imortal words of Larkin's This Be The Verse.
You can't talk about Berthold Wolpe or Faber poets without mentioning Sylvia Plath. The obvious jacket to talk about would be Ariel but I'm choosing The Colossus as it contains my favourite poem of Plath's The Mirror.
My last choice is Ian Hamilton's first collection The Visit. Hamilton, who died in 2001 was a great critic, biographer, magazine editor/publisher, television presenter and poet. His poems tackle very emotional and intense subject matter with very few words. Hamilton edited and published The New Review magazine out of Soho's Greek Street back in the 1970's and was one of the first editors to publish works by the then young writers Martin Amis and Ian Mc Ewan. Hopefully by publishing Supplement we're keeping this Soho tradition alive in our own small way.