December 13, 2011

Christopher Logue (1926-2011) R.I.P.

(c) Jackson, Getty Images
I was saddened to recently learn that the British poet, Christopher Logue, died on December 2, 2011.  On December 10th, The New York Times ran a terrific obituary for Mr. Logue, and I've included a link to it here.  My first encounter with Logue's poetry occurred during my literary exploration of the various translations of Homer's The Iliad.  In fact, since 1959, Christopher Logue has been working on his interpretation or adaptation of significant portions of The Iliad, using his spare, but image-rich poetry to retell this great classic.

If you're looking to acquire all of Mr. Logue's 'Iliad' poetry, here is what you'll need to find--
War Music--An Account of Books 1-4 & 16-19 of Homer's 'Iliad' (1997);
All Day Permanent Red--The First Battle Scenes of Homer's 'Iliad' (2003); and
Cold Calls--War Music Continued (2005)
These three volumes of poetry are shelved with my seven different translations of The Iliad, and with Alice Oswald's Memorial (written about here) and David Malouf's beautiful novel Ransom.  They most certainly do all belong together on the shelf.

If you're interested in learning more about Christopher Logue, his poetry, and his 'Iliad' project, you might be interested in reading my review and assessment of All Day Permanent Red--The First Battle Scenes of Homer's 'Iliad' Rewritten here.  While a mere fifty pages in length, this thin volume holds some amazingly powerful poetry.  It proceeds relentlessly at near breakneck speed, and leaves the reader panting and gasping for air about an hour later as the last page is turned.

Somehow I think recounting Logue's portrayal of the Myrmidon's bearing the dead body of their comrade-in-arms, Patroclus, is appropriate--
"Starred sky. Calm sky.
Only the water's luminosity
Marks the land's end.

A light is moving down the beach.
It wavers. Comes towards the fleet.
The hulls like upturned glasses made of jet.

Is it a god?

No details


Now we can hear a drum.

And now we see it:
Six warriors with flaming wands,
Eight veteran bearers, and one prince,
Patroclus, dead, crossed axes on his chest,
Upon a bier.
Gold on the wrists that bear the prince aloft.
Tears on the cheeks of those who lead with wands.
Multiple injuries adorn the corpse.
And we, the army, genuflect in line."

(War Music, pages 196-197)
Requiescat in pace, Mr. Logue, your voice will be missed.