Martin Figura was born in Liverpool in 1956 and works part-time at the Writers’ Centre, Norwich and as a photographer. He is a member of the poetry ensemble The Joy of 6. A spoken word version of his new collection Whistle (Arrowhead Press, 2010) is being produced by Apples and Snakes and begins touring in 2010. Nasty Little Press is publishing a pamphlet of his amusing poems in November 2010. He is Chair of the Café Writers Live Literature organisation in Norwich.
Martin Figura’s riveting sequence of poems about his childhood, his father killing his mother, and the consequences of that upon the whole family is remarkable for the story he doesn’t tell, as much as for the story he does. Exercising a humanising restraint, delicately balanced, these poems are an attempt to excise memory, to fill in some of the missing gaps, but the sense one is left with most of all is absence and loss. Moving, brave unsentimental, Whistle doesn’t blow the whistle on the family. Instead it rather heartbreakingly tries to piece together the fragments of a life, shattered by murder. Sometimes lyrical, rarely angry, often tender, Figura’s soul mate throughout is the understanding and watchful eye of the camera: ‘One day I shall hold them with white gloves,/carefully brush away the dust and look/through their shadows and fingerprints.
– Jackie Kay
Martin Figura has a strong stage presence. His subject matter is so challenging it makes the audience gasp. In spite of this, he engages the listener with warmth and humour. Pitch perfect, he knows his lines and knows how to deliver them. You will be entertained and moved in equal measure.
– Patience Agbabi
Martin’s one man show promises that quality of being at once profoundly honest and at the same time joyfully entertaining. His subject matter is dark and dramatic, a personal journey into family tragedy, against a backdrop of history and politics. But Martin’s stage-presence, his humour and his warmth makes this a shockingly enjoyable journey. His skilful blend of anecdotal story-telling and poetry help to build up powerful emotion without ever becoming manipulative and his use of still image (he’s a photographer as well as a poet) give the show a visual poetry.
– Francesca Beard
Martin Figura’s luminous reading made the audience hold their breath as he read from a new collection rich in warmth and pathos. Strongly recommended.
– Caroline Gilfillan, Poetry-next-the-Sea
My mother and I pose in Sunday best
in front of a cottage with roses
around the door. She dreams
it is our house, where white gloves
will not be smudged or snagged on a thorn
and be left with a pin-prick of blood.
I could print this photograph
so dark, there would only be
her hand on my shoulder.
In my Parents’ Bedroom
On this spring night the curtains burn
with distant fires.
The ceiling is blank sky,
the wallpaper a rose garden.
The dressing table’s arms are full
of fallen objects, its mirror dumb.
Through the wall, it causes no more than a ripple
on the surface of milk.
My toy soldiers are stilled
and I dream on, not of a pale throat,
a kitchen knife, a pyjama cord
The whole thing tips upside down
at the news. Cups and saucers
spin away – disappear
into the infinite Artex swirl.
I am in the middle of the room,
the centre of a small universe
equidistant, not just from the walls
but the floor and ceiling too.
I begin a slow shadowless rotation
through the silence, heads are planets:
the doctor’s few thin hairs
the rings of Saturn,
Uncle Alan is the ginger sun,
my sisters and I small lost moons,
Auntie Margaret’s cloud cover,
Uncle Philip’s oil fields,
Father Lightbound’s black jacket
shouldering its own Milky Way.
The rear window flickers into life as we pull away,
the uncertain image of a boy on a bicycle appears,
behind him a painted backdrop of the avenue,
its sycamore trees and pebble-dashed houses:
Piggotts’, Mitchells’, Mrs Donnelly’s with all
its confiscated footballs, her poodle yapping
at the fence. Children’s games are caught
in mid-air, at the height of their action.
Uncle Philip turns onto the busy road. The boy
pedals like mad to stay with us, but we stretch away
and leave him stranded, disappearing.
Then there is just white light
and the loose flapping sound
of a film end escaping its gate.
The boy who
bend after bend
Keep this last film
dark and tightly rolled,
hold its tongue
between your teeth;
its boiled down bones
and animal hides,
its twenty layers of celluloid.
Published in Whistle (Arrowhead Press, 2010).
Order Whistle here.
Listen to Martin reading four poems at PoetCasting.
Visit Martin’s website.