For the second half of his long life, Christopher Logue (1926-2011) – political rebel, inventor of the poster poem, pioneer of poetry and jazz – was at work on a very different project: a rewriting of Homer’s Iliad. The volumes that appeared from War Music (1981) onwards were distinct from translations, in that they set out to be a radical reimagining and reconfiguration of Homer’s tale of warfare, human folly and the power of the gods, in a language and style of verse that were emphatically modern. As each instalment, from Kings to Cold Calls, was published, it became clear that this was to be Logue’s masterpiece.
Sadly, illness prevented him from finishing it. Enough, however, of his projected final volume, Big Men Falling a Long Way, survives in notebook drafts to give a clear sense of its shape, as well as some of its dramatic high points. These have been gathered into an appendix by Logue’s friend and one-time editor, Christopher Reid. The result comes as near as possible to representing the poet’s complete vision, and confirms what his admirers have long known, that Collected War Music is one of the great poems of our time.