Poet wins prize for epic that has taken 40 years to write

After more than 40 years of work, the poet Christopher Logue completed Cold Calls, his contemporary version of Homer's Iliad.

The poet, now in his eightieth year, was rewarded for the work when he was announced yesterday as the winner of the Whitbread Poetry Prize. The epic project began as a commission for the Third Programme, the predecessor of Radio 3. This is the fifth volume, starting nine years after the Greeks launched a thousand ships to capture Helen of Troy.

'Of course I haven't written it consistently. There have been gaps of several years between,' he said.

Although philosophical about prizes, he was pleased to receive one at last for his work on the Iliad. 'It's very nice. You always want to do your best, that's all.'

Logue, who cannot read Ancient Greek, consulted existing translations of the epic, and then invented new episodes, renaming characters and creating his own narratives. The judges described the book as: 'A graphic, blood- soaked, bawdy adaptation of the Iliad. Modern references pepper the book and bring it bang up to date.'

Logue, who lives in London, served as a private in the Black Watch. He has written several volumes of poetry and a pornographic novel and was a contributor to Private Eye for many years.

Cold Calls is now on the shortlist for Book of the Year. The other category winners, who all receive pounds 5,000, were Tash Aw for The Harmony Silk Factory, winner of the First Novel Award; Hilary Spurling for Matisse the Master, which won the Biography Award; The Accidental, by Ali Smith, which won the Novel Award and Kate Thompson's The New Policeman, winner of the Children's Book Award.

Louise Jury and Genevive Roberts

The Independent, 4.1.06

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