1967 - 2004
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with deep regret of the death in hospital in Belfast of the poet and writer Mairtin Crawford on Sunday, January 11th 2004.
Mairtin was a significant figure among the younger generation of writers in Northern Ireland and his importance was marked last year by the granting of an Arts Council award of £10,000 towards his work as Writer-in-Residence at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast.
Mairtin was educated at Rathmore Grammar School and the Queen’s University of Belfast where he gained a BA in English and Scholastic Philosophy. In 1991, he completed an MA in Irish Writing, focusing on the work of WB Yeats, Derek Mahon and Paul Muldoon.
He was a full-time professional writer, whose work spanned all aspects of the art – journalism, screen-writing, criticism, editing, teaching, festivals, readings and film-making. In the early 1990s, he was a key player in the influential group of poets gathered around Giro’s Poetry Collective and was, up to his death, editor of the long-running radical poetry journal The Big Spoon.
From 1995 until 2002, he was Production Editor of Fortnight magazine, also managing the artistic and cultural content of that publication.
His eight years as a part-time Creative Writing tutor at the Crescent Arts Centre, developing new talent and providing outlets for publication and readings, led to what many regarded as the most promising period of his career. As a full-time writer-in-residence at the Arts Centre, he was engaging with new writers systematically, professionally and with his customary good nature, bringing to his task the sense of mission which characterised his creative life, focusing on special needs groups (including people with disabilities and mental health illness).
In the same period, he had become Director of the Between the Lines Festival of Literature, a post to which, it was widely felt, he would bring a new and forceful alternative energy in a forum uniquely suited to his talents. Mairtin had forged a friendship with the great poet Allen Ginsberg and in 1993 brought that monument to American eclecticism to the Crescent Arts Centre for two memorable readings.
Mairtin’s preoccupation with the idea of ‘America’ was fuelled by his frequent research visits to the States (several funded by the Arts Council) and found expression in the wide range of friendships he maintained across the Atlantic. It provided a special bond between himself and fellow poet Padraic Fiacc – himself with a strong ‘American’ spirit. Fiacc’s anarchic voice, but with a firm grasp of poetic form underlying it, found an echo in Mairtin’s own work and personality. Their creative exchange was epitomised in Mairtin’s film, Storm Bird, on Fiacc’s life and times, which premiered at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast in May 2003.
In 2001, Mairtin was awarded an Individual Artists’ Award to travel to the United States to meet with NASA personnel to research a book of poetry dealing with the concept and implications of space flight. Poems on this theme appeared in journals and magazines and were aired at readings at home and abroad. A collection was due to be published later this year.
His very many friends and colleagues in the world of the arts, and in poetry especially, will greatly miss his distinctive perceptions into everyday life.
For honour and promotion we built her.
A mining town that didn’t exist. Two hundred
miles south of Kazakhstan. Baikonur. Nowhere.
Our Cosmodrome. We’ve launched hundreds
from here. Some you don’t even know about yet.
Rockets. Spaceships. Proton. Soyuz. Gagarin.
Pride, yes – we won it from the skies and beyond.
Wild horses and camels roam our vast ranges.
We have a child. Her name is Zarya. She will live.