Acutely observed, incisive and precise, The Remaining Men sees Martin Figura combining precision, wit and compassion to produce a collection that is linguistically dexterous and deeply effective. Keeping his gaze on those whose lives are too easily dismissed by society and government, he achieves this potent clarity without a shred of didacticism. Instead we are drawn into worlds of his characters to have our vision enlarged.
Martin Figura’s The Remaining Men is a bold, ambitious collection, a Condition of England book, written from the inside and from below the salt. Personal tragedy and loss are part of the larger state of things, while the State as we have understood it since 1945 is collapsing under the weight of the indifference and hostility of those who govern. Figura’s response to these conditions is to keep his attention fixed on the telling detail, the sign of life, the endurance of ‘ordinary’ people. Sentimentality would ruin such a book, but Figura seems to have none of it, and the poems’ richness of feeling emerges from fidelity to craft – to phrasemaking, to comic timing, and to a sense of dramatic life.
Martin Figura’s poems are humane, clear-eyed, and compassionate without the least sentimentality. He has written directly out of people’s lives, particularly in hospitals, in the army and workplace. He is laureate of the ordinary and overlooked. For all those reasons The Remaining Men is a very powerful collection that deserves to be read widely.
Precise and powerful, these are portraits of ordinary and extraordinary lives, interwoven with the poet’s own remarkable story. They form a collection of great intellectual rigour, skill and emotional force – but written with such tenderness, such a light touch, that you are willing to follow him into the most challenging territory. A good thing, because this book will deepen your understanding of the messy business of being alive.