Phantom Blog

September 2009

Viewing posts from September , 2009

Diary of a Billsticker – South Philadelphia, USA

This is a great area and is nicely bohemian and worn in. I’d say it is comfortable and ramshackle. It is without the many false airs and graces which town planners and architects often, but not always, come up with. In some ways, it reminded me of the Upper Cuba Street area in Wellington, New Zealand. There’s a whole bunch of clever people here with shops and businesses that are firmly individualistic. I always like to see that. I reckon it’s good for people. This area is certainly not bland. It lends itself to postering and there’s a lot of it – bright colours in the street. Flora for the concrete jungle.

The lamp-posts are wooden and I had poetry posters by about half a dozen NZ poets. It was about 9 AM and I worked through the area with the help of a mate who enjoyed the postering as much as I did. The air was fresh and the stapler was working well. You can’t beat it. People always smile.

I picked up many fliers and postcards in the little cafes. I usually send these back home to show how posters and fliers are being used in America. Newspaper advertising is falling and TV advertising is having trouble. I like to think that one of the good things that are coming out of the recession is that people are looking for something more real. This encompasses a more real form of advertising. More real forms of business. I also like to think everyone’s had enough of that ‘think big’ nonsense and all those motivational speakers (‘How to Manage Five Girlfriends and Drive a Lexus”) driving us all to an early grave. I just like postering.

I saw my first flier in a cafe offering the services of a lawyer. Everyone will join in if you give them a chance.

Once again a good poster run. I really enjoy taking NZ poets to America.
Keep the Faith,


Jim Wilson



Diary of a Billsticker – Vermont & New Hampshire, USA

During the week of September 14th to the 18th 2009 I travelled from Lambertville, New Jersey to Lebanon, New Hampshire. This also took me through New York State and Massachusetts, possibly Connecticut as well. The drive is about 320 miles. I stopped at various stages and usually at gas stations and always at Starbucks. I delighted in placing poetry posters by New Zealand poets at these locations. I was always well received. The funny thing about it is that if you go in with a poetry poster, then people will always talk to you. They are always friendly. There’s a heck of a lesson in that.

With me (for company) were poems by Janet Frame, Campbell McKay, Hilaire Campbell and Michele Leggott. By now I had an industrial stapler for the wooden lamp-posts and an endless supply of cello tape. I stayed in White River Junction in Vermont (a truly beautiful State) and used that as a base to cover the surrounding area. This area was Hanover, Lebanon, and a bunch of small towns (Plainfield, Cornish etc). These small towns have real character. Part of that character is that they always have community notice boards.

Lebanon has some postering bollards and I placed poetry posters on them. I also made sure I covered the libraries in each town. In one library I was approached by a bloke who had seen a Hilaire Campbell poem up in a neighbouring town earlier that day. That made my day. He laughed about the poem the topic of which is Rubbish Collectors in Christchurch, New Zealand (“Love Those Legs”). Is this diplomacy at work?

Dartmouth University is in Hanover and I spent a few hours there placing poetry posters. This is an Ivy League University and sure is big.

The famous author J.D. Salinger lives in Cornish, New Hampshire and I was careful not to intrude on his privacy, everybody deserves privacy. His life is his life. Anyone who can write like him deserves honour in those around him. I did place poetry posters in the area including on the local convenience store’s notice board, and on the local town hall’s board. The convenience store is called “The 12% Solution”. I like that. It’s such a beautiful area.

As I have said many times, I always enjoy a simple poster run and I always come away with the feeling that there’s something real about it. You can’t beat that in life.



Keep the Faith,


Jim Wilson


Diary of a Billsticker – Lambertville, New Jersey, USA

I arrived in New Jersey about three weeks ago. I am living in a town called Lambertville which is about fifty miles from New York City. New Jersey has about nine million residents on .0015% the land size of Siberia. On the other side of the Delaware River, five minutes walk away, is Philadelphia. In this state, it is illegal to talk on a cell phone whilst driving, but motorcyclists don’t have to wear a helmet. What’s up with that?

I am still putting up posters of New Zealand poets and thoroughly enjoying it. At Phantom Billstickers, we have a system where a file is sent through to a photocopy shop in Princeton, New Jersey. That same day I can pick up posters. I cannot tell you how much photocopying has revolutionised street posters. The new digital printing of larger posters is doing the same, bringing a fresh immediacy to the media. It’s direct and it’s hard-hitting.

Soon after I arrived in Lambertville there was a poetry reading at a local cafe, River Poets Journal. I managed to get a Janet Frame poetry poster and a Geoff Cochrane poetry poster on either side of the podium.

Next, I covered the bookshops and music stores in the area. These included Labyrinth Books and Princeton Record Exchange in Princeton, Borders in Flemington, Doylestown Books and Siren Records in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and Farley Books in New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Panoply Books in Lambertville has graciously offered to do a window display of posters of NZ poets. Phoenix Books here has a couple of poetry posters in their front door. I think people are interested in what happens in New Zealand.

After this, I started on the cafes and managed to get really good coverage in the area. Even most franchised cafes and fast food outlets have proper notice boards for posters.

In America, a lot of posters are stapled to wooden lamp-posts. A week ago I did the deed and bought an industrial stapler from a really cool, old-school hardware store called Finkles. This store has real character.

The next morning I stapled up poetry posters on all the main streets around Lambertville. I managed to place the posters on good angles for easy viewing so that no matter where you walk in Lambertville you will see a poem by a New Zealand poet. For years I’ve thought a lot about that notion of NZ artists (of all types) being ‘Stranded in Paradise’ and I think that is not now necessarily so. What a crook sentence eh? I meant it, too.

In New York City there is a guy doing something really interesting. When he sees poorly designed posters on lamp-posts, he takes them down and redesigns them. Then he puts the new design (which will work a long way better as a poster) on the same lamp-post. He probably even gives the poster better distribution. This method takes a cue from ‘Guerrilla Gardening”.

This past week I took some Janet Frame poetry posters back to Princeton. I placed some on the local postering bollards and then I went to the English Dept (McCosh Hall) at Princeton University. I managed to get excellent coverage through that department. I was delighted to be helping bring our finest writer to America. I call that “Freedom”. It was all just really exciting and I got excellent coverage in the hallways (where posters were displayed) and on the notice boards. Princeton was recently voted the number one University in the USA – first equal with Harvard.

This week I am away to Cornish, New Hampshire. I’ll be taking with me poetry posters by Michele Leggott, Hilaire Campbell, and Campbell McKay.



Keep the Faith,

Jim Wilson



Diary of a Billsticker – Knoxville, Tennessee USA

Jim Wilson here, I own Phantom Billstickers.

On Monday August 17th, my friend George and I set off to do a poster run in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The significance of the date of this run is that it was 32 years and one day after Elvis Presley died.

I always remember what Elvis said about Memphis, Tennessee, he said: “They asked me what I missed about Memphis, and I said ‘everything.'” He must have said that when he was in the army or on tour. I love Tennessee. I love many things about it and particularly the music.

It was a really hot day (30 degrees Celsius) and the drive from Cookeville, Tennessee to Knoxville takes about an hour and a half. It’s always good travelling with George as we have a great rapport and I’ve always thought that one of the best things you can do with a person is a poster run. True character will come out. Walls will come down. Postering is a pretty genuine pass-time. It is a very earthly occupation. The bonus is that it works.

Knoxville is a beautiful city to me. What I love about it is an old downtown district which the local city council doesn’t seem to have taken the easy route to repair. The easy route would be to ‘town plan’ it to hell and whack in as much chrome as possible, then to have consultants and lawyers standing on every street corner with one stated objective: to suck the life out of the area and make the place as bland as possible. Maybe a few shopping malls would go in. In Knoxville, you have many people with unique businesses in that downtown area and it has become very interesting. You have lots of bright-eyed young people. You have good clubs and venues and my favourite is the ‘Pilot Light’ (New Zealand’s D4 played there a few years back).

We postered for our New Zealand poets (Bill Direen and Otis Mace) and also for Jeffery McCaleb from Cookeville, Tennessee. Knoxville doesn’t seem to have any legal poster sites and we just went on to what seemed to be time honoured sites. We used a broom and glue and also cello-tape in some areas. Staple guns are used on construction sites.

It took us about two or three hours walking around in the heat to put up one hundred posters, usually only four or six in a site. At the end of the run, I know we had made a big difference and George and I were both smiling. I get no greater joy than helping people in the Arts to be heard. The thing about postering is that you get to see instant and genuine results.

I am now in Lambertville, New Jersey. I am partway through a poster run of Janet Frame and Geoff Cochrane poem posters (and some Bill Direen and Otis mace ones thrown in as well). I shall report more on this in a few days.



Keep the Faith,

Jim Wilson