War Music (poem)

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War Music is the name of British poet Christopher Logue's long-term project to create a modernist poem based on Homer's Iliad and the name of one volume of that project.

The project began in 1959. The first volume published was the Patrocleia. GBH and Pax make up the rest of the core poem known as War Music, along with Kings and The Husbands. Since the publication of the War Music collection, Logue has also written two additional volumes, All Day Permanent Red and Cold Calls, the latter of which won the 2005 Whitbread Poetry Award.

Logue's work has created controversy among classicists since Logue does not know Ancient Greek, and instead bases his work on other translations of the Iliad, notably Chapman, Pope, Lord Derby, A.T. Murray, and E.V. Rieu, according to the Author's Note to War Music.

The work features a modernist, Imagist style and forsakes most of Homer's notable stylistic features for a looser structure. It also alters the plot and characters in many minor points.

In June 2001, Verse Theater Manhattan (VTM) presented a two-man production of "Kings," adapted and directed by James Milton. In September 2001, VTM opened a production of "War Music" featuring a cast of three women and also adapted and directed by Mr. Milton. The production, in Greenwich Village, closed down because of the 9/11 attack, but was revived and went on to play tours of both the Midwest and the United Kingdom.

American playwright Lillian Groag was commissioned by the American Conservatory Theater of San Francisco, California to write a musical play based on the material. Groag directed and premiered the play, also called War Music, at the ACT in early 2009.[1]

American composer Nathan Currier worked on a version of War Music for actors, baritone singer, and mixed ensemble, in collaboration with Christopher Logue, from 2003 until dementia overtook Logue in 2005. Originally commissioned for a premiere in Providence, Rhode Island by a group called Aurea, with support from the Rhode Island Foundation, the premiere was to have taken place in September 2005 as part of a Festival called FirstWorks, but disagreements with the ensemble led to its cancellation and the work has not been premiered.


Books of the Iliad which roughly correspond to Logue's volumes:[2]

  • 1-2 - Kings
  • 3-4 - Husbands
  • 5-6 - All Day Permanent Red
  • 7-8 - Cold Calls (but taking material more generally from books 5-9)[3]

War Music:

  • 16 - Patrocleia
  • 17-18 - GBH
  • 19 - Pax


  1. ^ Robert Hurwitt (2009-03-22). "Lillian Groag directs 'War Music' for ACT". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  2. ^ Logue's and Robert Fagles' versions compared.
  3. ^ The Guardian review, 8 October 2005