Christopher Logue’s Iliad

War Music is Logue’s long-running version of the Iliad. Which I’ve been reading recently. Bits of it can be found here, here, here, and here.

I guess the most obvious thing to comment about in WM is the relationship to Homer (use of anachronisms, scenes cut, others added). But actually I think the most interesting thing is the possibility that it offers an exciting new model for contemporary narrative poetry. It’s a film in verse, rather than a novel in verse. It reads like a cross between a screenplay and a poem.

Some specific qualitites of WM wouldn’t suit all subject matter or all poets – the terseness, the metre, the layout on the page, the varied line lengths. But the cinematic aesthetic – the way it’s dialogue heavy, the ‘cuts’ between long shot and close up, the use of simple visual details to set the scene – could presumably be adapted. In setting out to write a narrative poem, one could perhaps do worse than to actually storyboard it as though it were a movie. We’re brought up with cinema, so the techniques are deeply familiar to us.

Anyway, that aside, I’d recommend the poem.