The poem Victor from it won the Poetry Society’s Hamish Canham Prize in 2010. The collection along with the Spoken Word show was shortl-listed for the 2010 Ted Hughes Prize for new work.
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.
“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.”
“A rare gift, his photographer’s eye and poet’s ear tell his story with candour, restraint, and perfect detail…”
“…..scrupulously expressed and rewards even further re-reading as a description of how it feels to have your childhood wholly destroyed; how it feels to be aware of the finality of that obliteration; and how it feels to stare across, as through a film, to a far shore from which you’ve departed forever. …Of all the books of poetry I’ve read this year, Whistle is the one that haunts me most. It touches a place within you that will never heal. You push it away like a ghost. You pull it towards you in memory.”
-David Morley, Magma
“… a record of personal survival and renewal after the very earth of life and love has been scorched and devastated. Figura, keeping his nerve, guides us through a limbo of shifting and shadowed memories, through places where the encroaching Furies rampage, out into the clarity of comprehension and forgiveness, where it is possible for him, and for us, to claim life’s paradoxical riches.”
-Penny Shuttle, Ink Sweat and Tears
“………Last, but certainly not least, there was Martin Figura’s Whistle. …. a collection that’s genuinely uplifting and (this actually makes you feel guilty, at first) hugely enjoyable. It’s a genuine poetry page-turner, but for all the right reasons, with Figura’s precise, restrained telling of a story of family tragedy deserving great praise.”
-Matt Merritt, Best Poetry of 2010