A Madder Ghost (1997)

AMG Cover

Published by Enitharmon Press, 1997:  for more information click here.

Critical Views:

… poems that are urgent, heartfelt, controlled and masterful

Kathryn Maris, Poetry London.

“It is rare these days to find a book of poems that is so focused, so carefully shaped and so moving”. Anne Stevenson. Blurb.

“A substantial collection on big themes – birth, exile, illness, persecution and death. The author’s voice is both public and personal . . . the lyrics about the poet’s relationship to his infant son remain with me for their delicacy” Orbis.

“I hope very much the advent of proactive fatherhood will spawn more poetry as tender, humourous and, in places, profound as this” Gillian Allnutt, Poetry Review.

“Crucefix uses a quotidian, work-a-day language that doesn’t holler and doesn’t hang about. Its lack of rhetoric sits easily with the subject-matter, at once so ordinary and so remarkable . . . Just as the first and third sections of the book dare to be ordinary, the second undertakes a brave experiment in allowing two languages distanced by history and syntax, to swim together in single poems”  Vona Groarke  P N Review.


A madder ghost can haunt us all. We see the ghost in our own reflection in the faces of earlier generations. We see it again in the looked-for resemblance to the newly-born. There are times, in Martyn Crucefix’s new collection of poems, when the madder ghost is glimpsed as a solitary wanderer; at others, it is a figure of confidence, proclaiming something akin to Shelley’s ‘madness’ that nothing in the world is single.

Accordingly, every individual poem in this startlingly original collection stands fully achieved in its own right, yet is steeped in the rhythms and imagery of those around it. Separate pieces build, through the deft and exciting narrative control familiar to readers of Crucefix’s previous work, to sequences concerning the birth of a child, the illness of a father and an astonishing dramatic meditation on the author’s own Huguenot inheritance of persecution and exile.

From this collection . . .


His first, its sudden grotesque

smashing up

through the trusted surface

of sleep, a scrabbling clutch

to be escaped from,

a tightening on leg and arm,

fastened to his vulnerable

heart, stomach, breath


– yet what manner of thing

is it that makes him burst

into real tears,

the bewildering touch of night,

inconsolable, though stroked

and held to, brought

to familiar light, our warmth


what nightmare, monstrous,

risen black-combed and dripping

from sleep must it be


– and the question enough

to rattle his father too,

as if such innocence and trust,

such never-known-hurt, nor

arm-raised, voice-raised, neglect

or loneliness

could find such ground for fear,

then could not he, or one

with hardly more reason


invent evil and ride

the monster back to the deep

and back still further to waking?


Empty the bath

Late and quiet with all my keys

for the door, I hope you’ve not

yet been laid in your cot,

but find in the bathroom

a tubful of water, empty, well-

used and barely lukewarm


and to tell you the truth,

there’s the earth of my regret,

the little warmth the water

has, its tiny fractions

stolen from your playful heat


how it shows I’ve come too late

for the intimacy

of your straight-backed body

cut at the waist by cooling water,

those few gallons of sudsy wash

that cooled that much more slowly

for you being there


that now I let go, stir away

with both hands, think something

obvious, grasping what is gone.

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