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Logue, Christopher

LOGUE, Christopher


Nationality: British. Born: Portsmouth, Hampshire, 23 November 1926. Education: Prior Park College, Bath; Portsmouth Grammar School. Military Service: British Army, 1944–48. Family: Married Rosemary Hill in 1985. Career: Lived in France, 1951–56. Contributor, Private Eye, London, until 1993. Address: 41 Camberwell Grove, London SE5 8JA, England.

Publications

Poetry

Wand and Quadrant. Paris, Olympia Press, 1953.

The Weekdream Sonnets. Paris, Jack Straw, 1955.

First Testament. Rome, Botteghe Oscure, 1955.

Devil, Maggot, and Son. Amsterdam, Stols, and Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Peter Russell, 1956.

She Sings, He Sings. Rome, Botteghe Oscure, 1957.

A Song for Kathleen. London, Villiers, 1958.

The Man Who Told His Love: Twenty Poems Based on Pablo Neruda's "Los Cantos d'Amores." London, Scorpion Press, 1958.

The Song of the Dead Soldier, To the Tune of McCafferty: One Killed in the Interests of Certain Tory Senators in Cyprus. London, Villiers, 1959.

Memoranda for Marchers. Privately printed, 1959.

Songs. London, Hutchinson, 1959; New York, McDowell Obolensky, 1960.

Songs from "The Lily-White Boys." London, Scorpion Press, 1960.

Patrocleia. An Account of Book 16 of Homer's Iliad. London, Scorpion Press, 1962; Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1963.

Logue's A.B.C. London, Scorpion Press, 1966.

I Shall Vote Labour. London, Turret, 1966.

The Words of Christopher Logue's Establishment Songs, Etcetera. London, Poet and Printer, 1966.

Selections from a Correspondence Between an Irishman and a Rat. London, Goliard Press, 1966.

Pax. An Account of Book 14 of Homer's Iliad. London, Turret, 1967.

Gone Ladies, music by Wallace Southam. London, Turret, 1968.

Rat, Oh Rat. Privately printed, 1968.

Hermes Flew to Olympus. Privately printed, 1968.

SL. Privately printed, 1969.

The Girls. Privately printed, 1969.

New Numbers. London, Cape, 1969; New York, Knopf, 1970.

For Talitha. London, Steam Press, 1971.

What. Richmond, Surrey, Keepsake Press, 1972.

Twelve Cards. London, Lorrimer, 1972.

Singles. London, John Roberts Press, 1973.

Mixed Rushes. London, John Roberts Press, 1974.

The Crocodile (for children). London, Cape, 1976.

Abecedary. London, Cape, 1977.

Red Bird: Love Poems. Guildford, Surrey, Circle Press, 1979.

Ode to the Dodo: Poems from 1953 to 1978. London, Cape, 1981.

War Music. An Account of Books 16 to 19 of Homer's Iliad. London, Cape, 1981; New York, Farrar Straus, 1987.

Kings. An Account of Books 1 and 2 of Homer's Iliad. London, Faber, and New York, Farrar Straus, 1991.

The Husbands. An Account of Books 3 and 4 of Homer's Iliad. London, Faber, and New York, Farrar Straus, 1994.

Selected Poems, edited by Christopher Reid. London, Faber, 1997.

Recordings: Christopher Logue Reading His Own Poetry, with Laurie Lee, Jupiter, 1960; Red Bird, with Tony Kinsey and Bill Le Sage, 1960; Songs from the Establishment, with Annie Ross, 1962; The Death of Patroclus, with Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Dobie, and others, Spoken Arts, 1963.

Plays

The Trial of Cob and Leach: A News Play (produced London, 1959).

The Lily-White Boys (lyrics only), book by Henry Cookson, music by Tony Kinsey and Bill LeSage (produced London, 1960).

Trials by Logue (Antigone and Cob and Leach) (produced London, 1960).

Friday, adaptation of a work by Hugo Klaus (produced London, 1971). London, Davis Poynter, 1972.

War Music, music by Donald Fraser, adaptation of The Iliad (produced London, 1977).

The Arrival of the Poet, music by George Nicholson (produced Newcastle, 1985).

The Seven Deadly Sins, songs for a ballet with music by Kurt Weill, adaptation of a work by Bertolt Brecht (produced Bath, 1986).

Screenplays: Savage Messiah, 1972; Crusoe, with Walon Green, 1989.

Radio Play: Strings, music by Jason Osborn, 1989.

Television Play: The End of Arthur's Marriage, with Stanley Myers, 1965.

Novel

Lust (as Count Palmiro Vicarion). Paris, Olympia Press, 1959.

Other

The Arrival of the Poet in the City: A Treatment for a Film. Amsterdam, Yellow Press, and London, Mandarin, 1963; revised edition, music by George Nicholson, Mainz, Germany, Schott, 1983.

Ratsmagic (for children). London, Cape, and New York, Pantheon, 1976.

Puss-in-Boots Pop-Up (for children). London, Cape, 1976; New York, Greenwillow, 1977.

The Magic Circus (for children). London, Cape, and New York, Viking Press, 1979.

Bumper Book of True Stories. London, Private Eye-Deutsch, 1980.

Prince Charming—A Memoir. London, Faber, 1999.

Editor, Count Palmiro Vicarion's Book of Limericks. Paris, Olympia Press, 1955.

Editor, Count Palmiro Vicarion's Book of Bawdy Ballads. Paris, Olympia Press, 1956.

Editor, True Stories. London, New English Library, 1966.

Editor, True Stories from "Private Eye." London, Deutsch, 1973.

Editor, The Children's Book of Comic Verse. London, Batsford, 1979.

Editor, London in Verse. London, Secker and Warburg, 1982.

Editor, Sweet and Sour: An Anthology of Comic Verse. London, Batsford, 1983.

Editor, The Oxford Book of Pseuds. London, Private Eye-Deutsch, 1983.

Editor, The Children's Book of Children's Rhymes. London, Batsford, 1986.

Translator, Baal, by Bertolt Brecht (produced Leicester, 1986).

*

Bibliography: Christopher Logue, A Bibliography 1952–1997 by George Ramsdeu, Yorkshire, Stone Trough Books, 1997.

Critical Study: "Enforced Aphasia: Language and Violence in Christopher Logue's Homeric Poetry" by James Campbell, in Lit (Storrs, Connecticut), 7(4), March 1997.

Theatrical Activities: Actor: Play —First Player and Player King, in Hamlet, 1982; London 1980. FilmsDante's Inferno, 1966; The Peasants' Revolt, 1970; The Devils, 1970; Moonlighting, 1982. TelevisionThe Gadfly, 1977; Bird of Prey, 1982.

*  *  *

A powerful and original stylist, Christopher Logue displays an impressive array of talents, and it seems unlikely that any poet can match his range of "starring roles." Logue has played Cardinal Richelieu in Ken Russell's classic film The Devils, written a pornographic novel for the Olympia Press of Maurice Girodias, and been imprisoned as a CND activist and member of the Committee of 100, sharing a cell with playwrights Arnold Wesker and Robert Bolt. These and other (often outrageous) adventures are detailed in his entertaining autobiography Prince Charming. Perhaps more remarkable still is the fact that none of his "off-page" activities manages to overshadow his considerable skills as a poet.

During the 1960s Logue and Adrian Mitchell enjoyed something of a cult status as leaders of the poetry-reading movement that was associated with protests against the Vietnam War. Like Mitchell, Logue holds radical opinions, but he controls his anger to a greater degree in his poems. His bitter attacks on imperialism, capital punishment, and nuclear warfare are sheathed in a flawless, elegant verse often reminiscent of the Augustan age. Nor is he confined merely to political topics, showing himself equally adept as a social satirist, writer of comic children's verse, translator, and reteller of fairy tales. Logue's formidable gifts are evident from his earliest work in the 1950s. The descriptive landscapes and the songlike "Airs and Graces" of his first collection have a dream vision quality exploited in later writings, while the charged sexuality of "Six Sonnets" reveals the poet as already an assured master of his craft. These poems display a marked awareness of poetry's origins in music and the spoken word.

Significantly, Logue's most consistently impressive collection is called Songs, and his Homeric retellings—themselves an interpretation of what was once oral poetry—have been adapted as a musical performance. Songs contains some of Logue's most enduring verses, their political message tempered by a poet's perception and distance. In "Song of the Dead Soldier" he attacks the idea of empires established by force and in "Lullaby" the institution of capital punishment. "The Busker's Song" debunks the symbols of British imperial power as actors in a fairground sideshow, while poems like "Professor Tuholsky's Facts" and "Loyal to the King" ridicule mankind's delusions of grandeur, our vaunted battles and slaughters derided on a cosmic scale as the efforts of fleas on a ball of dung. Most memorable is "The Story of the Road," where in a skillfully matterof-fact style Logue describes the attempt of downtrodden third world peasants to build a neglected inland road in defiance of the authorities.

Logue's later collections show a change of emphasis, the poet's attention shifting during the 1960s from revolutionaries to pop stars and criminals and his verse reflecting the permissive and somewhat unreal atmosphere of the time. To one with such a sure grasp of style, there is always a dangerous tendency to appear glib, and certainly an element of slick facility creeps into satirical pieces like "Private Eye's True Stories" and "The Oxford Book of Pseuds," while in The Arrival of the Poet in the City Logue's surreal treatment of everyday London transformed into nightmare seems deliberately to provoke the reader with its account of "forbidden" sexual and sadistic acts. All the same, to accuse Logue of triviality in his later work is less than the truth. Rather, he accurately portrays a world intent on trivializing itself through its own mass media: "Twilight in autumn. Late birds shake their wings. /Terrorists laugh among the chimneytops. /Yard rises through a skylight. Crack. One drops. /Voices complain about the state of things."

War Music, Logue's version of books 16–19 of the Iliad, ranks with Songs as his finest achievement. It seems ironic that so antiwar a writer as Logue should so brilliantly capture the feeling of this ancient conflict, depicting with unforgettable skill the intrigues of gods and men and bringing home to the reader the shockingly brutal nature of hand-to-hand combat between Trojan and Greek. Logue later returned to this earliest and greatest of epic poems, bringing his personal interpretation to the first four books of the Iliad. In Kings and The Husbands he explores the origins of the conflict in Helen's seduction by Paris, the resulting confrontation between Priam and Agamemnon, and the quarrels, combats, and challenges that precede the wholesale slaughter of the later books. Here, as in War Music, he brings the ancient time alive on the page in powerful modern English.

Logue's eye remains keen, the strength and poise of his verse as assured as ever. The varied nature of his writing continues to impress, from the comic verse of The Crocodile to the "psychedelic Lewis Carroll" vision of "The Isles of Jessamy." "The Girls" ranks among the finest of his later works, its potentially sensational subject matter—lesbian lovemaking, incest, and murder—evoked with a lyrical, sensuous restraint. The pattern of the story progresses through a succession of brief, fragmented images and interior monologues to its violent climax, the innermost thoughts of the characters matched by passages of inspired description: "Leaves mute the weir. Its waters sound /like cola seething in a paper cup." Whether he is recounting the gradual corruption of a rock idol or the downfall of affluent criminals or producing the witty capsule masterpieces of Abecedary and Singles, Logue's ability is undeniable. "Urbanal," his bitter lament for a beloved tree felled by his neighbor, contains all of the old anger in its neatly measured lines. "Urbanal" and "The Girls" are both included in Selected Poems, which brings together these and other poems in a concise summary of Logue's writing to date and once again displays the multifaceted nature of his talent. Logue's ability to wring balance, precision, and strength from the messy business of everyday life—both his and our own—remains undiminished and continues to astound.

—Geoff Sadler

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