Martin Figura

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© Dave Guttridge

the poet

Martin Figura’s collection and show Whistle was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award, and won the 2013 Saboteur Award for Best Spoken Word Show. His books Shed and Dr Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine were published in 2016 – the spoken word show to accompany the latter earning Martin a shortlisting in the 2018 Saboteur Awards. That same year saw a new edition of Whistle. Martin had hoped to showcase his theatre show Shed in 2020. He lives in Norwich with the poet Helen Ivory, and sciatica.

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the poems

Land of Opportunity

‘This is a new start for everyone in the UK … so let's get going.'

 

Michael Gove, July 2020

00:00 / 01:00

Here we are then, huddled on 
the exhausted stained mattress 
in the seaside boarding house of state.

Rusty springs squeak out 
Rule Britannia whilst we make love 
to ourselves. The bed, digging its heels

into a tidemark carpet that’s shrinking away
from the chipped gloss of the skirting boards 
and the terrifying flora of the wallpaper.

Thin rayon curtains spill yellow light 
onto our gilt-framed Boots the Chemist 
reproduction of Constable’s The Hay Wain,

picks out the greyed varnish craquelure 
of the wardrobe quietly looming in the corner
containing who knows what – a little shoebox

of secrets perhaps? Suitcases sticky with dust 
sit atop – their handles ripped off.

Failure

after Gillian Wearing's 2 into 1 (1997)

00:00 / 01:22

He loves me
I suppose.  I am a failure,
there's a better way of doing things.
I am a dramatic woman. I know
I think too much of myself and I should
be submissive – a proper wife.
He's very caring really.  He says I like to
be dominated.  When he's jealous
he's abusive towards me.  I'm afraid I won't
grow old – I sometimes tell him that.
He's beautiful looking.  He will
try and tell me about love,
but hate is something he needs
and I don’t.  He says I am a failure

and I don’t.  He says I am a failure
but hate is something he needs.
Try and tell me about love. 
He's beautiful looking, he will
grow old.  I sometimes tell him that
he's abusive towards me.  I'm afraid I won't
be dominated when he's jealous.
He's very caring – Really?  He says I like to
be submissive – a proper wife.
I think too much of myself and I should.
I am a dramatic woman!  I know
there's a better way of doing things.
I suppose I am a failure,
he loves me.

Harold Wilson Rows

Towards Bishop Rock

00:00 / 01:10

Harold, knees like little moons, bends 
his back, puffs through the clamouring
halyards of the bay.  Always six moves ahead 
of the other buggers, be they Old Etonians 
or fellow grammar grubbers.  And where else 
to escape serious concerns, but these Scilly Isles.

The cormorant is attentive company 
at the blunt end of the boat, kinked wings 
hung out to dry, Harold’s words gulped down 
like slippery fish.  The oars are worn soft 
in their locks, while he rows he recalls himself
a boy in a school cap, at the steps of Number Ten.

On the slipway, Mary diminishes to the red dot 
of her coat.  The lighthouse lays down her path, 
tugs the glow of Gannex mac and pipe smoke 
through the net curtain of mizzle.  Mary turns,
heads up the slope towards the archipelago’s 
clustered lights and their ugly little bungalow.

Publishing credits

Land of Opportunity: The New European

Failure: Dr Zeeman's Catastrophe Machine (Cinnamon Press)

  Originally commissioned in 2011 for the Norwich Castle Museum

  Family Matters Exhibition

Harold Wilson Rows Towards Bishop Rock: The Rialto (Issue 89)

  Placed second in the 2017 Rialto/RSPB Nature Poetry Competition

© original authors 2020

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