The Time We Turned (2014)

TTWT Cover image

Published in June 2014 by Shearsman Books: for more information.

Reviewed by Ian Brinton on Tears in the Fence – “I urge you to get hold of this little thirty-page volume: you will return to it time and time again”: Read the full review here.

Reviewed by Andrew McCulloch as one of the “this year’s best” chapbooks, submitted for the Michael Marks Poetry Pamphlet Award: At the heart of The Time We Turned [. . . ] is a sequence of sonnets for the nineteenth-century Galician poet Rosalia de Castro. Her vernacular language and love of place recall Wordsworth – she asks you to “sing in a language you speak . . . praise / her country from the lips of your springs” (‘For Rosalia’) and Crucefix joins her in a “lovely wavering uneasy conversation” (‘A thousand chattering images’) which often turns – hence the title – on recovered ‘spots of time’. This is a modest sublime but its clear, compelling outlines throw long and complex shadows. (The Times Literary Supplement (November 21, 2014)).

Reviewed by Eileen Klein for Dundee University Review of the Arts: “glorious word landscapes . . . an impressive way to tell a story” – read full review here.

Reviewed by Geoff Sawers in Stride Magazine 2014:  Crucefix’s pamphlet centres on a cycle of sonnets for the nineteenth-Century Galician poet Rosalía de Castro, but wanders far from its north Spanish heartland, to Oxford, a Cumbrian pub car park and so on. But it is the sonnets that really held me, with their vivid language and their assured handling of quite folky rhythms. I confess I know nothing myself of de Castro beyond the fact that she wrote in her regional dialect, and even this I could have inferred from a poem that invokes the ghost of Franco, ‘The tyrant born in Ferrol’:

   he’d rather deny the dust between his toes
   since he preferred the idea that refuses to die
   of shaping his country in his own image
   willing even to trample his own language–

This, I think, is the central confrontation in the book: between this blanding of the world and one for whom ‘the love of small things must see you through’ (‘After Rosalía’), or the artist of ‘Rock drawings near Touron’:

   The clever one who thought to delete time
   the one who saw the running of the deer…


Martyn Crucefix’s new poems vividly evoke the landscapes of northern England and – in a sequence of sonnets inspired by the writing of Rosalia de Castro – the north west of Spain. But more than place, they explore the ways in which we inhabit time – how we are harmed and healed by it, how we deny, ignore, sublimate, repeat or reprise it.

I’d want to say it was past seven o’clock

or perhaps by then even seven-fifteen—
I’m sure of it now—a quarter past the hour

was the time we turned and part of what it meant

‘The map house’

from Sonnets for Rosalia de Castro

O Farso

To begin with not clear what the lighthouse does

with its absence of glass lens and bulb

at least to the naked eye—

just a spindly array of instruments up top
above the disappointingly stubby column

on a cliff-top with its padlocked metal doorway—

but no sooner has the walking begun

than its subtle powers become obvious
your every step determined by its position

the heather the stony paths the steep incline

each locked in communication with it
and where all might have flowed before you

in a salted windswept wide plenitude

the lighthouse utters its singular word

The old man of Carballedo

Leaves the preordained gloom of her kitchen

for the garden where he finds nothing

but colours and every one welcome—

there he stirs earth’s dusty August greys
the plain-handed greenery of the fig’s leaves

the bone-like stalks of tall brassica

that he cuts and cuts and it comes again

the brown immobility of six brooding hens
the silver tints in the fingers of the olive

and by evening whatever colours persist

in his voice unearthed long ago committed
to heart as light fades to become a part

of the sun’s darkening and caramelizing—

his singing shot through with the glitter of jet

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