Mairtn Crawford remembered

A tribute to Mairtín Crawford by personal friend and fellow poet Naomi Foyle

When Belfast born poet and writer Mairtín Crawford died unexpectedly at the start of 2004, the arts and cultural scene in Northern Ireland went into collective mourning. Naomi Foyle, editor of the Collected Poems of Mairtín Crawford, published in June 2005 by Lagan Press, pays tribute.

I knew Mairtín in Belfast, in New York, in Toronto, by the cliffs and in the nightclubs, at home with his mother and in his laser sharp mind in cyberspace. Mairtín was with me when my own mother died. She was in Canada and I was in Belfast. July 12, so Mairtín took me to the woods. There was a moment, he said later, when he looked at me and knew she’d gone. A stream of comets were hitting Jupiter. Now the Beagle II is lost on Mars and we have lost Mairtín, faithful friend, devoted son, passionate and provocative explorer of dark regions.

I had a long and sometimes turbulent relationship with Mairtín on many levels: literary, romantic, spiritual. Every strong emotion there is I experienced with or through Mairtín. I was in love with him, I was furious with him, I was afraid for him, I was jealous when he said he was going to have lunch with Susan Sontag on his birthday. I remember him with a baseball cap on backwards, shooting people with a water pistol in New York. I remember him telling me about a ‘magic’ day he spent on a friend’s boat, awe in his voice. That sexy voice. Those flashing eyes.

Mairtín saw things in all their original excitement and potential. Two years before he would be buried there, I went walking in city cemetery with him, among Catholic and Protestant graves, bird watching. We saw a hawk as big as an albatross. He saw things in people that impressed him, and he gave them his full attention and approval. He gave me personally opportunities to express and realise myself that fundamentally shaped my life.

I bitterly regret not having had the chance to see him in his latest incarnations as filmmaker and festival director; I am somehow consoled knowing that he was getting the recognition he deserved as a true son of Belfast, this divided city seeking peace. He gave his intensity to this city and his city is mourning him now.

Once he told me he had a vision of a boat filled with poets, travelling the rivers between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Can someone make it happen?  Mairtín liked happenings. He was involved in his culture to a degree that is rare anywhere, but I knew him mostly as a private man, vulnerable, unruly, beautiful. There has been a terrible mistake. He should still be here among us. Now we can only unite to see his poetry collected, his film completed. His name resounds.

By Naomi Foyle, reproduced with kind permission of Fortnight magazine.