The collection takes its title from the work of mathematician, Christopher Zeeman, who encouraging the application of mathematics to behavioural science. His catastrophe machine was a physical manifestation of Catastrophe Theory, which Konrad Lorenz drew on and extended to apply to human behaviour.

Amongst the poems here is a set of “machine poems” — ‘Washing Machine’, ‘The Difference Machine’, ‘Knitting Machine’, and ‘Life Support Machine’ among them — which act as metaphors for human behaviour and are rich in social and historical context.

Other poems extend the themes of both the machine and human motifs. A wife retrieves herself from a controlling husband by reversing the order of words; a man, two years, from retirement is taunted by sparrows playing in a gutter while he does physiotherapy exercises; a mod’s handmade brogues symbolise social mobility; a reservoir drains away in the night, its drowned village’s occupants stirring back to life at dawn, …

You’re here he says smiling
in the fold
on the cusp of catastrophe
where I’ve written growl.

“In Stag’s Leap (2012) Sharon Olds invites us to share every painful breath of her divorce. Figura is more reticent and at the same time deeper, combining playfulness with a fearless generosity that makes this an enriching, unforgettable read.”
-Rosie Johnston, London Grip

“… Wonderful, poignant, remarkable poetry – absolutely bowled over by it…….. it’s a wonderful book: reads like a novel. … have been recommending it to lots of my students too.”
-Jonathan Taylor

“On first reading they are deceptively spry, revealing in the absurd, even funny details of ordinary life….. an impressive book, almost childlike in its honesty, written from hard-won experience and crafted with great skill, tackling dififcult themes with grace and self-deprecating bravado, which is very appealing.”
-Pippa Little, Magma

“Figura displays a wizard’s sleeve full of poetic skill and fizz.”
-Charlie Bayliss, Stride