Published by Enitharmon Press in 1990: for more information click here.
Retrospectively reviewed in 2014 by Anthony Wilson here. . . . If you do not know the book, you are in for a treat. Every poem in it is a gem, properly crafted and deeply felt. In particular I loved his poems about the natural world (‘Blackcurrant Wine’, ‘Apples’, ‘Drowned Shelley’ and ‘Marrow’) and art (‘To the Painter, 1603′,’Water Music’,’ George and the Dragon’). Most impressive of all is how he uses what Don Paterson calls ‘the pretext of subject matter’ to talk about what is really on his mind, ‘coercive dreams’ (‘Water Music’) in philosophical dialogue with ‘celebratory hunger’ (‘In Memory of Jeremy Round’) throughout.
‘Sugar in Banana Sandwiches’ is a great example of this. It fulfils my basic requirements of a poem, to take me somewhere and end far from where it began, preferably enacting the ideas ideas it engages with as it goes. The poem’s phrasing embody what athletes call muscle memory, arriving at its thinking for me, perfectly fusing idea and action in ‘melting crunch’, ‘pliable cool mass of flesh’ and those ‘gutters threatening with blown rain’. ‘I push a steering wheel with a careful/ right hand like holding a pen − like Dad’ is exquisite, the unfamiliar verb of ‘push’ blossoming into that extraordinary analogy of driving and writing. Rhythmically it is perfect, too, ‘like holding a pen − like Dad’ ensures the image does not out-stay its welcome, linking it to the particular and to memory, neither of which can be argued with.
Poem after poem in Beneath Tremendous Rain achieves this effortless-looking blending of feeling and thought. If you don’t know it, you are in for a treat.
A soundscape, based on the poem ‘Air-Waves’, contained in this collection, was created by Matt McGettrick in 2023. Listen below:
Other Critical Views
“Martyn Crucefix has a distinctive voice. BTR has considerable range of form, subject and style and emotional pitch. Crucefix is at his best writing sparsely with cryptic detachment. The poet employs distinct personae to great effect. Richly enjoyable . . . He is strongest with people and their emotions, particularly when he writes about the interruption of lives by faceless cataclysm”. Tim Gooderham TLS
“Great intelligence and subtlety . . . clearly an outstanding talent from whom great things can be expected” Herbert Lomas, Ambit
“Salvation and torment . . . the world of sensuality, bad moods, jealousies, grief, and ‘the crumbling glint of waves’ that offers ‘the unbounded horizon’ only in death, soaks this volume. Crucefix’s range is broad, but its tessitura has the seriousness of confession, saved from indulgence by his crisp handling of the music” Adam Thorpe, The Observer
“A tremendously enjoyable book” Julian May, Poetry Review
“Poetry these days, often feels obliged to place conscience over art and make language work for precision, not complexity. In Martyn Crucefix’s first collection, something else happens . . . daring to break with secular convention, Crucefix will become a real artist”. Anne Stevenson, Stand
Disarming honesty; a refreshing seriousness; a remarkable range of form and tone – these are the striking characteristics of Martyn Crucefix’s poetry. His first collection, Beneath Tremendous Rain reveals a willingness to tackle major issues with a directness and sensitivity that is matched by his forthright treatment of personal relationships. Crucefix rages at man’s destructive stupidities, casts a cold eye on our desire and self-deception, yet he can still persuade the reader of the necessity to ‘maintain hope which is essential.’
From this collection:
In Memory of Jeremy Round
You lived a strange short life.
Breezed so quickly through mine
it’s only now I see how deep
you touched, a taste of something
tartly clean. You moved on, grew
famous for daring to smoke
monkfish fillets in a wok
over a fortune-telling of tea.
Cheered by admiring colleagues
for the clarity with which you
explained how to separate a mango
from its skin and stone.
All the culinary prizes tumbled
to you as quickly as the doors
of London opened – as quickly
as the weight went on . . .
Whoever saw you suffer long
the English disease? Endlessly
unbuttoned I remember you,
though we never dined al fresco
near Antioch, nor tossed back
West Coast rock oysters, hurried
them down with a glass of bubbles.
All my puritanical doubts –
shocked at the world in whose sky
you were the fastest rising star –
they were blown so cleanly away
by your sheer celebratory hunger.
Everybody remembers you smiling.
Serious in the obituary snap
from six years back, I’d forgotten
what a sexy mouth you had.
You were that rare thing, a good man –
though not to the bishop’s liking.
You said: happiness will be caviar
and unpasteurised brie in heaven.
Nights on George Street, when words clouded
and breathed-air froze hard in our nostrils,
we met in Oxford with the other hopeful scribes,
behind leaded windows in the Old Fire Station.
All that bitter winter you buttoned and belted
a heavy gaberdine so tightly round your middle,
spreading already . . . Even trussed up, your
cultured Falstaff-spirit couldn’t be dampened.
You were good for us – heady and deadly serious
as we were, you persuaded that poetry’s sister
arts were food and sex. We all studied hard.
I remember you praised my poems but always had
your doubts. We’d wrangle inconclusively
between the beers and crossfire from Tom,
elder statesman who’d slip quietly glittering
poems from his tackle bag like fish; from Helen,
whose pages always seemed typed under earthquake
conditions, whose baggy poems had more passion
than most of us could muster; from Peter’s
exactitude, schooled on a diet of science, he held
each piece like a prism till it shed eloquent
rainbows; from Bill and Keith, the ferocious
tyros, the university wits, who minced nothing
but their language into strange sweet things;
from Paul whose poems were amazed not to find
themselves loosed into a more graceful age
than the one we live in. God! We were going to take
the poetry world by storm! We’d put it to rights,
marching on a diet of your invention. Jeremy, you
earned the right to imagine us, desk-bound now,
back in the old ways, chewing on unproductive pens
dark-browed and anxious for a fitting elegy.
I called at your house in Osney,
the place where Chaucer’s Alison
cried her sexy ‘Tee-hee!’
and had her arse kissed.
You were preparing a chicken
and as you talked
a surgeon’s hand wielded a razor-knife
and flew so quickly
over the creamy, pimpled skin
that it offered itself up, seemed to open
perfect nicks, exactly placed
for the garlic cloves
you pushed gently into each
and patted shut with a slap.
Finished, we talked again:
how you enjoyed my poems
yet you wanted them always
to gird themselves more,
to snatch up a swig of the wicked
and bellow YES.
Why must the good go under the ground?
I mean those who are as full of life
as my friend, portly Jeremy Round.
He wielded a pen as sharp as his knife.
He loved the world, craved its taste –
so he put it on around the waist.
Salmon, wine and the rankest cheese,
limpid Mozart, Berg and Bach:
he killed himself trying to squeeze
everything in. He made himself a rack
of pleasure, eager to blow the spark
of life before it all went dark.
I sit here and still catch my breath
because I remember him so well.
His every action said: screw death!
Get the best you can or go to hell!
Days should be funny, sexy, intense –
sheer delight makes perfect sense.
I know he would never accept the part,
but I’m sure he’ll relish the cheek
if I write him with an honest heart.
Listen! let me make this master speak:
Laughter, love, the senses are profound.
Drink deep, remember, Jeremy Round.