In Cargo of Limbs, a modern re-imagining of Book Six of Virgil's Aeneid, two Western journalists document – in their contrasting ways – the ordeal of Syrian migrants fleeing war and persecution, trying to cross the Mediterranean in search of safety in contemporary Europe.
The tone and narrative of this new work – as in the original – is dream-like and nightmarish. As their journey unfolds, the journalists and those they travel with approach a shoreline. But this is not the River Styx; it is the inhospitable edge of the Mediterranean and the ferryman’s boats – "the black dinghy squeals / the leaking boat groans" – seem to promise danger more than escape.
Dan O’Brien, US poet, playwright and author of War Reporter, writes: "Martyn Crucefix knows in his bones that “what / happens is what’s true” and his liquid, propulsive poem records, like the accompanying photographs by Syrian artist Amel Alzakout, the horrible adventure of survival. Cargo of Limbs sees or struggles to see; it is a lament and a rebuke, a concise saga of our savage time".
Amel Alzakout captured the photographs that accompany the book on a camera strapped to her wrist as she was fleeing Syria. During the crossing, the boat she was travelling on capsized; she was extremely fortunate to survive. Amel's images appeared in Richard Mosse's film Incoming, part of Forensic Architecture's Turner Prize-shortlisted investigation of the incident; they will also form the basis of the upcoming film Purple Sea.
The book also includes an essay on the current migration crisis by the Kurdish poet Choman Hardi, and an essay on the process of writing the poem by the author.
Cargo of Limbs by Martyn Crucefix
Size: 42pp, W125 x H140mm, full colour throughout. First edition, limited to 300 copies, signed by the author. ISBN 9781916197107. Published November 2019