Crucifox, Geraldine ClarksonTrademark pamphlet design colours for Verve: white background, central design in pink, turquoise, dark blue and mustard. The graphic fills most of the cover and shows a fox's fax against a wallpaper of blue petals/leaves in a cross shape, and set against panels of pink and dark blue. The author's name and pamphlet title are in small caps, left justifed, in the top left hand corner, against a white background. Author's name dark blue. Title in pink. The bottom right hand corner holds the publisher's name in mustardy yellow.

Verve Poetry Press, 2021     £7.50

The muse, here to slay

Crucifox is all about turning points and defiance, right from the first poem, ‘Janus’:

           I’d had years of the turn,
a hateful hagiography of dragging winters


           and now the worm was feeding
at the lintel, ready to rear up.

‘After ‘IF — ’ ’ seems to me the most accessible poem in the pamphlet. It’s a gloriously apposite parody of the Rudyard Kipling original. It has real emotional impact, speaking for all of us who were not born to rule:

                            if you can taste the flavour
of mistrust, metallic, and transfer it from yourself
to those who placed the rules in metal struts
across your mental shoulder blades, before you knew what rules
were — old rules — and yet knew


                                       then you’ll dispossess
the angel and the demon, and own living, as woman-made-man-made-woman,
bashed in but unabashed

Throughout the publication, there’s rule-breaking fun with form (eg the pair of poems, one made up of crossword clues and the other the near-homophonic completed crossword itself ‘FOX NEWS: CREATRIX’ and ‘CROSSFOX:CROSSBOX’), wordplay and the surreal:

the muse, here to amuse […]
glimquist and sunkissed on a burgundy chaise longue
she turns phrase after phrase on the lathe of her tongue
until fluted and threaded, drilled, joisted and planed, she produces
five flights of solicitors banisters
     ['lemonjim hour: brittle England']

Nothing here is conventional. ‘FILTH’ niggles me: it’s a noirish murder(?) story with the word ‘mult’ as refrain. I looked ‘mult’ up: it can mean multiple/much or (according to Urban Dictionary) a person lacking mental stability and friends. I still don’t get it, and I wonder why that matters to me, when I can read Chandler quite happily for the prose and not follow the plot at all.

I feel similarly mystified by some of the other poems, but maybe the point is that the nonsense is defiance, and so key to what is going on.

The poem titled ‘I could murder a prose poem’, with its Cluedo and Poirot references, seems to be playing with plodding readers like me:

Given a chance, a wide-open goalmouth,
I could; all things being equal.
I could relish leaving clues in the margin

Ramona Herdman