Shane Martin, a published poet who is from Carrickmacross and presently teaching in St. Macartan’s College in Monaghan.
What are your earliest memories of growing up in Carrickmacross?
We lived on Farney Street until I was about six years old. Then we moved to a newly built house on the Dundalk Road. Both places were close to St. Joseph’s Primary School. I have very pleasant memories of primary school. In particular I have great respect for Brother Gregory, as he introduced me to music. It was the tin-whistle at first but I graduated to the piano accordion soon afterwards. I was very proud to march in the St. Joseph’s Boys band and childhood innocence prevented me from having a complex about wearing a kilt in those days!! I was blessed with excellent teachers throughout primary school. I also remember Gartlands shop, and regularly sprinting from school to there for penny bars and the Dundalk Democrat after 10 o’clock Mass on Saturday mornings. My mind is full to the brim of many memories of Carrick. My poem I Turned My Back On You deals in detail with those years.
Were you encouraged to write poetry in school?
No. I have no recollection of any such exercises. I never really was that interested in poetry until Leaving Certificate year. I fell in love with some poems by Dylan Thomas. I also liked Kavanagh and Kinsella. I started writing that year and in 1984 I had my first collection Where Shadows Met the Hill professionally typed and bound. It remains unpublished. Five of those poems have survived and are in my first professionally produced book entitled The Dark Room. It was launched in Monaghan on December 1st 2001.
How did your writing career begin?
When I went to Maynooth National University I concentrated more on song-writing and poetry suffered for a number of years. Indeed I only wrote now and again. A few years ago I started writing a novel. I have most of it written at this stage. I had originally planned to bring the project to fruition in 2001. However my late father was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in November 2000 and I embarked on writing a book of poems in his honour. I knew time was precious and I was inspired to return to poetry during those difficult months. He was a Carrick man through and through and has been an inspiration to me in all my artistic pursuits. The book The Dark Room fondly remembers my Carrickmacross childhood and many of the poems refer to times spent with my father. This book was my first professionally produced book but I had written many poems for poetry journals at home and abroad over the last decade or so.
Has your style changed over the years?
Style has to change as the person changes. When I read the poems from 1984, a part of me cringes but another part of me recognises their bold honesty, their willingness to be truthful about me at that time. I only allowed five of them into the book because they were bordering on being too simplistic and restricted in their subject-matter. I am older now and would like to think I have seen more of the world since then!!
Was Carrickmacross ever an inspiration for your material?
A poet can never be detached from his home town. Even if he leaves it for years it still leaves pictures in his or her head. The Patrician High School did not offer art on its curriculum when secondary school beckoned for me. I loved art and had a flare for it. As a result I left home to become a boarder in St. Macartan’s College, Monaghan. Because of this I often feel I have withdrawn from Carrick. Life is fast and you lose people. You move on and they move on. However I have very vivid pictures of Carrick, its people and places. I visit my mother regularly.
Do you have any published material?
Yes. I have had many poems published in poetry journals in Ireland and abroad. The book The Dark Room has been on sale since early December 2001. It contains 100 poems and a selection of my own ink drawings. I would like to think that I have made the poems accessible to ordinary people. I am humbled by the great response to the book and many people have contacted me to talk about the poems. Indeed even more encouraging is that Keegans Bookshop in Carrick have recorded very impressive sales over the Christmas period. So Carrick must have not forgotten its lost son!! The book has sold enormously well in my home county. I have also been invited to visit some schools in the area, which I really look forward to doing. I love poetry and believe that it is a gift awaiting discovery for many people.
What do you hope to do in the future?
Well, I really would like to finish my novel this year. I also have started writing my second collection of poems. Even when I do complete the novel it will need to be professionally edited and this may delay its publication for a number of months. Editors are busy and one has to wait in turn. The poetry book should be on the market in November. The national launch of The Dark Room is being planned at the moment for a Dublin venue.
Check out Shane’s web site on: www.shane-martin.com
Many thanks Shane,
Web Master, Carrickmacross.ie