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Martyn Crucefix at the TPS

Had anyone else assumed ‘Martyn Crucefix’ must be a nom de plume? Presumably not the members who had heard Martyn on his previous visit to TPS (2005?). In mitigation I’d point out that Martyn’s name has been on my radar since undergraduate days, but really came into focus with the publication of his translations of Rilke’s Duino Elegies. Anyhow, Martyn’s first poem set me straight by taking us into the world of his Hugenot clockmaking ancestors.

His generous reading of work was mainly drawn from his latest book, Hurt (Enitharmon, 2010 and proper value at 114 pages of new work). Whether the subject is aging parents (Calling in the Dark) his own youth (Riders on the Storm) or some broader project of time and our place in it (Wilderness) the poems emerge naturally from a great care in imaginative observation. Water-lily contains the lines ‘waiting….at the cross hairs of words and things’ which seems to me no bad summary of the overall thrust of the poems. Presumably Martyn partly shares that view as the first section of the new book is titled ‘cross hairs’. The highlight from earlier work was a celebratory elegy for Jeremy Round, which recovered a connection, as several members had known Jeremy’s father, a local headmaster.

That brings me to Rilke, about which I can say nothing except that if you do not have Martyn’s translations of the Duino Elegies then buy it and read it – then read it again (read the german too – aloud! – always gets me a bit of space on the train – and the agony of the first elegy was surely inspired by First Capital Connect).

In the second half of the evening members gave a lively set of poems related to the theme of shopping. Martyn then rounded off the evening with some new work. I hope the audience left in no doubt that here was a poet of real substance and generosity. I will be first in the queue for his forthcoming translations of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus.