Christopher Logue Biography

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(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Christopher Logue was born to a middle-class Roman Catholic couple living in the port city of Portsmouth, in southern England. Their only son, he was sent away to a private Catholic school in Bath run by the Christian Brothers, then briefly attended Portsmouth Grammar School. In 1943, when Logue was seventeen, he joined the army as a paratrooper. After an accident in which he lost sight in one eye, he was transferred to the Black Watch. In 1945, he was sent to Palestine. While there, he served a sixteen-month prison term for possession of classified documents. Up until this time, he had shown no interest in books or writing, but in prison, he began reading.

After release in 1948, he drifted back to London, then moved on to Paris in 1951, finding himself in the literary world of Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, and Alexander Tocchi, a Scottish novelist. To earn money, he wrote for the pornographic market under the pseudonym Count Palmiro Vicarion. Two novels and two volumes of poetry brought him his first earnings from publications. He also edited a new literary magazine, Merlin.

Returning to England in 1956, he found work as a scriptwriter and actor in the Royal Court Theatre of Kenneth Tynan and in British films under director Ken Russell. He also starting writing for Private Eye, then in its infancy as a satirical review of British cultural and political life. Satire was a main literary genre of the time, and Logue’s antiestablishment stance fitted in perfectly.

However, Logue became drawn to poetry, especially poetry as performance and as poster art, which he saw as a main vehicle of the left-wing views he espoused. He helped reestablish the tradition of public poetry readings accessible to ordinary people in pubs, clubs, and theaters. He published small volumes of verse that gained a reputation among more avant-garde reviewers. He became very active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and was imprisoned several times on marches and demonstrations. In the 1970’s, he suffered bouts of depression.

Logue had remained unmarried, despite developing an interest in children’s literature, especially verse for children. However in 1985, at the age of fifty-eight, he met and married a somewhat younger woman, the critic and biographer Rosemary Hill, settling down in Camberwell, an inner suburb of south London.

He worked on a project that had long fascinated him. A British Broadcasting Corporation commission in 1956 got him interested in reworking the Iliad, the ancient epic poem by the Greek poet Homer. Logue’s version, as it evolved, was not a translation, as Logue had never learned Greek and he added material. Although a pacifist, he focused on the battle scenes of the original text. The first volume in Logue’s version was Patrocleia, from book 16 of Homer’s epic. He followed this with numerous other titles. Together, these works earned him the title of Britain’s best living war poet.