Christopher Logue Essay - Critical Essays


Christopher Logue’s poetry has developed from its first Romantic-modernist beginnings under the inspiration of Ezra Pound, William Butler Yeats, and T. S. Eliot, to a fully fledged mock heroic. His first two volumes of poetry contain work that is by and large modernist but with occasional Romantic flashes. In this, it is not strikingly original in any way, but it does suggest someone trying to move away from the formalism of the Movement poets of the time, while refusing to get drawn into what he felt was the too comfortable Romanticism of the later Yeats. “For My Father” is one early poem in which the poet has struck an authentic voice. Real dialogue lies at its heart. The influence of Pablo Neruda can be seen in the collection Red Bird as well as The Man Who Told His Love.

As early as 1959, however, Songs shows the poet breaking away from the erudtion and allusiveness of his first poems. Logue was beginning to find the voice that made him famous as a public poet, declaiming in a popular style on the issues of the day in the idiom of the day, a voice that perhaps culminated in the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, where he gave public poetry readings before some 100,000 people and singer-songwriter Bob Dylan performed. The biggest influence on these 1959 poems was German Marxist dramatist Brecht. Logue abandoned the academic style of poetry, and his language became dramatic, strident, racy, and satiric.

As time went by, Logue adapted this style to both comic and children’s verse. He used some forms of children’s verse in his poetry for adults; for example, he adapted the rhyming ABC for adult satiric verse as in Abecedary. At the same time, Logue had a developing interest in Homer’s great epic poem, the Iliad. Early attempts to put this into English verse, not as a translation but as a new, culturally relevant version, include Patrocleia and Pax. These two attempts were reprised and enlarged in War Music in 1980. The volume dealt with the episodes in the Iliad in which Achilles re-enters the war on the Greek side, enraged by the death of his partner, Patroclus. Two further volumes, Kings and The Husbands, were then packaged with War Music and reissued as one volume under the title Logue’s Homer—War Music in 2001. Two further volumes followed: All Day Permanent Red, which got its title from a Revlon lipstick advertisement, and Cold Calls. The enterprise closely parallels that by the contemporary West Indian poet, Derek Walcott, whose Omeros...

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