Christopher Logue

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Christopher Logue, CBE (23 November 1926 – 2 December 2011)[1] was an English poet associated with the British Poetry Revival and a pacifist.[2]

Life[edit]

Born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, and brought up in the Portsmouth area, he was the only child of middle-aged parents, John and Molly Logue, who married late. He attended Roman Catholic schools, including Prior Park College, before going to Portsmouth Grammar School. On call-up, he enlisted in the Black Watch, and was posted to Palestine. He was court-martialled in 1945 over a scheme to sell stolen pay books, and sentenced to 16 months imprisonment, served partly in Acre Prison. He lived in Paris from 1951 to 1956, and was a friend of Alexander Trocchi.[1]

In 1958 he joined the first Aldermaston march, organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War. He was on the Committee of 100. He served a month in jail for refusing to be bound over not to continue with the celebrated 17 September 1961 Parliament Square sit-down.[3] He told the Bow Street magistrate, "I came here to save your life. But, having heard what you have to say, I don't think the end justifies the means." In Drake Hall open prison he and fellow protesters were set to work – "Some wit allocated it" – demolishing a munitions factory.[4]

Career[edit]

He was a playwright and screenwriter as well as a film actor. His screenplays were Savage Messiah and The End of Arthur's Marriage. He was a long-term contributor to Private Eye magazine, as well as writing for Alexander Trocchi's literary journal, Merlin. Logue won the 2005 Whitbread Poetry Award for Cold Calls.[5] His early popularity was marked by the release of a loose adaptation of Pablo Neruda's Twenty Love Poems, later released as an extended play recording, Red Bird: Jazz and Poetry, backed by a jazz group led by the drummer Tony Kinsey.[6]

One of his poems, Be Not Too Hard, was set to music by Donovan and heard in the film Poor Cow (1967), and was made popular by Joan Baez on her eponymous 1967 album, Joan. Another completely different song titled "Be Not Too Hard" based on the poem was performed by Manfred Mann's Earth Band on their 1974 album The Good Earth. The arrangement was written by Mick Rogers, who had Logue credited as a co-writer on the record sleeve. Another well-known and well-quoted poem by Logue was Come to the Edge, which is often attributed to Guillaume Apollinaire, but is in fact only dedicated to him.[7] It was originally written for a poster advertising an Apollinaire exhibition at the ICA in 1961 or 1962, and was titled "Apollinaire Said", hence the misattribution.[8] His last major work was an ongoing project to render Homer's Iliad into a modernist idiom. This work is published in a number of small books, usually equating to two or three books of the original text. (The volume, Homer: War Music, was shortlisted for the 2002 International Griffin Poetry Prize.)[9] He published an autobiography, Prince Charming (1999).

His lines tended to be short, pithy and frequently political, as in Song of Autobiography:

I, Christopher Logue, was baptized the year
Many thousands of Englishmen,
Fists clenched, their bellies empty,
Walked day and night on the capital city.

He wrote the couplet that is sung at the beginning and end of the film A High Wind in Jamaica (1965), the screenplay for Savage Messiah (1972), a television version of Antigone (1962), and a short play for the TV series The Wednesday Play titled The End of Arthur's Marriage (1965).

He appeared in a number of films as an actor, most notably as Cardinal Richelieu in Ken Russell's film The Devils (1971) and as the spaghetti-eating fanatic in Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky (1977).[10] Logue wrote for the Olympia Press under the pseudonym Count Palmiro Vicarion, including a pornographic novel, Lust.[11]

Family[edit]

He married biographer Rosemary Hill in 1985. Logue died on 2 December 2011, aged 85.[1]

Works[edit]

Prose

In popular culture[edit]

There is a reference to Logue in Monday Begins on Saturday, a 1964 science fiction/fantasy novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Magnus Red'kin, a character in the novel, quotes a fragment of a Logue's poem:

You ask me:
What is the greatest happiness on earth?
Two things:
changing my mind
as I change a penny for a shilling;
and
listening to the sound
of a young girl
singing down the road
after she has asked me the way –

as one of the definitions of happiness from his extensive collection, and complains that "such things do not allow for algorithmisation".[12]

References[edit]

External links[edit]