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Christopher Logue, 1926 - 2011

The poet and playwright also wrote and performed for Ken Russell.
The DailyChristopher Logue

"In the week where the film industry honor the six decade career of the late director Ken Russell, comes the announcement of the death of Christopher Logue," writes Rhett Bartlett. "Mr Logue wrote the screenplay for Ken Russell's sole film in 1972 — Savage Messiah," a biopic based on the life of French sculptor Henri-Gaudier Brzeska. "One year before his screenplay, Mr Logue appeared in Ken Russell's 1971 bold film — The Devils, as Cardinal Richelieu, the French clergyman who begins the film by influencing Louis XIII to raze fortified castles and suppress feudal nobility." Bartlett also notes that Logue appeared as the "Spaghetti-eating Fanatic" in Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky and "made a brief appearance in Jerzy Skolimowski's Moonlighting (1982) and 19 years later in [Charles Shyer's] The Affair of the Necklace. Christopher Logue died on 2 December 2011, five days after Ken Russell."

"'Now hear this' — the three words that Christopher Logue, who has died aged 85, used to open his epic poem War Music were aptly chosen," writes Mark Espiner in the Guardian. "In this stark modern rendition of The Iliad, Homer's ancient Greek account of the siege of Troy, the invocation to the muse commands the listener's attention with the insistence born of first-hand experience of military life. This was one of the diverse worlds that Logue encountered in his efforts to sustain an existence as a poet. He also wrote for the film director Ken Russell, for the Royal Court theatre in London, jazz poetry ballads, columns for Private Eye and a pornographic novel. As a political activist, he protested with Bertrand Russell against nuclear weapons; but before then, he had served as a soldier in the Black Watch — and spent 16 months in an army prison…. Logue was a sort of magpie of poetry — there are sections lifted from Brecht and others, and he rewrote existing reports of violence into his descriptions. 'I'm fickle,' he said in an Observer interview in 2006. 'Almost everything I do is based on other texts. Without plagiarism, there would be no literature. I'm a rewrite man. A complete rewrite man, like our Willy Shakespeare.'"

Red Bird

Logue "had a relationship with the TLS spanning more than half a century," recalls JC. "His poems began to appear in the paper in the mid-1950s when he was based in Paris, part of a crowd that included the novelist Alexander Trocchi, the future Grove Press editor Richard Seaver, and Austryn Wainhouse, translator of the Marquis de Sade. Together, they oversaw the magazine Merlin and its publishing imprint Collection Merlin, which gave the world Watt and Molloy by Samuel Beckett, Genet in English, as well as Logue's debut Wand and Quadrant (1953). From that moment, Logue, a lost boy without further education, with a military prison record and difficulties with girls, was found. In addition to placing poems in the TLS and elsewhere, he began doing something quite new: reading them aloud. Logue's poetry was 'public' — and dramatic — from the start. 'Poetry and the spoken performance of it were never separated in my mind,' he said. In 1959, he recorded Red Bird, with verses by Pablo Neruda, in which Logue's projectile, la-di-da voice and Neruda's dewy lyricism skid along on the surface of jazz arrangements. The Beats in San Francisco were doing something similar, but Logue declined to be either beat, blue or boxed-in."

"It's difficult to believe that Christopher Logue has died, because he seemed unquenchable," writes his editor, Craig Raine, in the Guardian. "You felt even death wouldn't get a word in edgeways. His voice had a posh rasping edge, like an improvised saw. He was one of the liveliest people I've ever known. Ebullient, impatient, peremptory, candid, rude on occasion, opinionated, funny, surprising, widely loved. He was also a very great poet."

Shusha Guppy interviewed Logue for the Paris Review in 1993.

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