Whistle by Martin Figura

If I were to tell you that Martin Figura’s father murdered his mother when he was a boy and ended up in Broadmoor and that Martin has written a book of poems about his childhood I can already see you stepping back and turning away. I can imagine you thinking how sad and what a bleak and gloomy book it must be and not the sort of thing you’d want to read but you’d be entirely wrong. This is a book about growing up and as much about ordinary childhood experiences, about being naughty….

I can be trusted on my own for a few minutes.
First off, a big spoon of Andrews in a glass
followed by orange squash and water – instant pop
then the loaf and carving knife

Cutting soft white brad isn’t easy when you’re seven,
You do your best – two ragged doorstops.
Rewrap the bread and put the knife back
exactly where you found it

from How to steal

We all know, that a pen should be kept
in a pencil case in your satchel. But

At times for convenience, you will leave it
on a wall, or stuff it in your pocket, so later

It can slip out onto a bus seat, if it hasn’t already
fallen into the grass during a handstand
From Fountain Pen

… about moments that are as sharply focussed as a black and white photo. Last night I went to the Roundhouse, Camden Town to listen to Whistle being read by Martin against a backdrop, a montage of images to go with the poems. He is also a talented photographer and his father was never without a camera. And there was his mother, June Figura, smiling, writing love letters, making perfect lemon meringue pie, Having her hair permed at the same saloon as Cilla Black’s mother and making sure her son was well turned out with a quiff looking like Cliff Richard’s (as if that was a good thing).

‘What if she had lived?’ Martin said

Listen the violins are playing
playing your favourite waltz
On the dance floor the accordionist is stamping
his feet in tune to your song

The singer
the singer
the singer
has words for all your lost years

For an hour or so in Camden last night she did live and his father Frank with his love of Polish sausages and his ambitions for his son to be a doctor or another Chopin, to make something of his life. Yes there were moments of sadness when I wanted to rush up on stage, take this small boy by the hand, give him a hug and tell him it was going to be all right. I didn’t move from my seat because there wasn’t really a small boy on stage but a grown man and Martin is about my age and much taller than I am and he didn’t need me to tell him it was going to work out because that was his gift to us, the story of his life.

Do buy the book 


and if you’re quick and can get to London this week you have a chance to catch the show.

I leave you with the closing lines

and dance until
we’ve covered the dawn with footprints
left midnight alone in its room.”


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