… who settles upon all things.
In my budding effort to open my blog to host others, today I am featuring Martin Shone, intuitive writer of poetry and prose, profound observationalist and thinker.
Martin lives in the UK and has three grown-up children and a four-year-old granddaughter. By day he works as a school cleaner where his mop and bucket are his tools, but in the evening he swaps those for his keyboard. He’s had various other jobs including Postman, Egg Packer, Security Guard, Soldier, Painter & Decorator, Retail Assistant, and General Dog’s Body, amongst other things. Fun fact: Considering he doesn’t own a TV or listen to the radio very often, he once applied to have a go at reading his poetry on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. He didn’t get very far though, not even passing the first stage; nerves got the better of him and he fluffed his lines.
I’ve been following Martin’s blog, taken pleasure, been reassured and inspired by his poetry and reflections for many years. I keep his first two collections close by and often pick them up to randomly open and be guided by as I might my Little Zen Companion.
He has published three poetry collections: Silence Happens: Little Thoughts of Life, Nature, Peace, Freedom & Love; Being Human: Little Thoughts of Life, Nature, Peace, Freedom & Love; and, his most recent, After the Rain, (in his own words) over 100 poems of Love, Nature and Humanity with an essence of Romance & Passion running through their veins.
I expected Martin’s latest collection to be companionably soothing, sensory, and enlightening. And so it was, inhaling and exhaling poetry in caressing arrangements of words, light as a feather while defying gravity, rising out of Martin’s intuitive observations and perceptive reflections, as well as his experience, imagination, and belief that, as I wrote in my review of Silence Happens, “beauty, peace and love are always available”.
Just a few pages into After the Rain, I had to stop and take a deep breath before reading further—for the best of reasons. I realized I was witnessing a favorite poet’s maturing, strengthening, and deepening. He was still offering the music of his soul for me to “sing along”, but, also, a new complexity of rhythms, sounds and understanding. Without losing any of his writing’s freshness and delicacy, his lyrical musings had become more inspired and inspiring, confident and courageous, distinct and layered.
Martin’s poetry often reminds me of that of the Victorian poetess Christina Rossetti, because of its inclination to let nature—weather, birds, insects, flowers, trees—direct its metaphors and meaning. There are so many poems in this collection that stood out as favorites for me, but the one I return to more than any other is As Bluebells Distract My Mind (Page 57), too long to quote in full here, so I offer its last two lines:
How can I write anything to compare with this magic
therefore I regard the distractions around me and put down my pen.
After the Rain offers a sublime invitation to live and breathe through all the senses, contemplation, conscience, the heart’s joys and sorrows, spiritual reflection, and, especially, magical distraction, which is, after all, the poet’s best muse and his audience’s best reason for attending to what he creates.
Read my full review of After the Rain on Goodreads or on Amazon.
I’m thrilled that Martin took me up on participating in a little interview!
DMD: Why/when did you begin writing poetry? Was there something that made you feel you needed to express yourself in this way?
MS: I wish to start by saying thank you to Diane, for your continued support of my work over the years, for your help with getting my first book Silence Happens off the ground, and for choosing to interview me. It is an honour.
DMD: You’re so welcome! It’s my pleasure.
MS: I always have a poetry book on the go and nearly always fail to understand what it is I’m reading, although some poems hit the spot, hit that thing inside which then opens and breathes. Mostly, poetry for me is a thing I do not understand, something I can’t get to grips with when reading it. I don’t remember any from my school days or even if I was taught poetry, but school was a bit of a blank. August 2011 was when I began writing poetry in earnest, with maybe a few here and there beforehand. I created my WordPress blog and out it came, pouring from me and most of it, to be honest, was not worth the digital ink it was written with. Slowly I began to see changes and the poetry began to attract more followers ’till at some point the poems became more than the poetry I’d written. Something changed inside me and these poems needed to come out as if it wasn’t me expressing myself but the poetry.
DMD: What has been the greatest influence on and/inspiration for your poetry? How would you describe your poetic voice?
MS: Inspiration comes when the mind is empty of requests for inspiration. Having said that I know nature inspires me, humanity inspires me, death, silence, candle flame, and any number of things, ordinary daily things, conversations, off the cuff comments, life, spirituality and our ongoing quests to find answers to things already here within us. Sometimes I get asked to write a poem there and then, but I say it doesn’t work like that, not for me anyhow, and, yet, on the odd occasion I can. Generally, the poems turn up at my door needing to be watered. I don’t have a single main thing which inspires me to write and, as for an influence, I’m not really sure unless it’s those demons inside. As for my poetic voice? It took me a long time to accept what others were telling me. I was asking myself: how can I be a poet when I don’t particularly like poetry and my grasp of English grammar and punctuation is, to say the least, pretty bad? I refused to accept it. I wrote poems about how I wasn’t a poet—how could I be when I wasn’t the one “writing” them? It was difficult to understand and, at one point, I stopped and closed the site, but with encouragement I started again and out they came: ants from a nest. I don’t know what my poetic voice is and, besides, I don’t think it’s up to me to say or think about.
DMD: In my review of After the Rain I state that, because of its romantic melancholy and its inclination to let nature direct its metaphors and meaning, your poetry reminds me of that of the Victorian poetess Christina Rossetti. It is said that Christina didn’t do a lot of revision to her poetry. Do you do much with yours?
MS: I forget, that’s my problem, I forget. I have a form of Aphantasia, which means my mind’s eye doesn’t see, or in my case doesn’t quite see. I have, what I called in some of my poems, before I knew or even heard of Aphantasia, my darkness, because I can’t see, in my mind, the words I type. I can’t visualize the scenes, the poetry, any colours or voices etc., but occasionally I “see” shadows or glimpses of silvery images and less occasionally a video busts upon me so colourful and violent it makes me shudder. When I’m writing I don’t have the poem just a vagueness of something, sometimes it sits in my stomach—a feeling, a warmth—and so I write and when the poem is finished I have forgotten how it started, so I have to go back and read it. Sometimes I’m shocked at how the ending seems to fit with the theme or the balance of the poem. They still need a bit of editing and revising, and my thesaurus and OED are always at hand. They don’t always appear like this, sometimes I have to stop because the meaning is there but I don’t have the word in me (as I say, school was a blank). And, you know, a poem is never finished; there’s always something in it which needs a change.
DMD: How do you find/make time for writing? Can you write anywhere or do you need a certain space and quietude to do it?
MS: In the weekdays, I write in the evenings if I’m not too tired from work, but falling asleep, reading, or a lack of motivation sometimes gets in the way. I guess I can write anywhere within reason. My laptop is the main place and on the village green at the weekends with my notebook is a favourite, with a coffee, but I’ve written on trains and planes, too. On the whole, I write in silence but sometimes I need a distraction, something loud. I remember writing a spiritual poem a few years ago while listening to a quite loud thrashing piece of heavy metal type stuff—I guess I needed to blank everything else out.
DMD: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
MS: I’m happy when I’m in the flow; I can’t say I’m energized by it, just happy. Occasionally, when something comes to me, I could be writing it and the world is not here; nothing is here but the poem and when it’s finished doing its thing it feels like I’ve been unplugged from whatever or whoever is controlling the poem and I’m exhausted. I need water and silence.
DMD: Do you write anything other than poetry? What writing projects, poetry, and otherwise, are you working on now.
MS: Apart from poetry and the second collection which I’m working on now, I write short stories, not many though. I’ve written a short Young Adult novel of 30,000 words about bullying in school and how the two main characters go about their days with chess as their friend. One is the bully and a genius level chess player, the other is the bullied and thoroughly loves chess. The school tournament is where they find themselves. I have a couple of starts of other novels, one is a fantasy story where I’ve written about 3,000 words and has not been touched for a few years. Amongst other things, it involves an otter who finds an egg and this is no ordinary egg for what comes out of it will change the world. The other novel or maybe novella is a kind of elemental spiritual love story and I have no idea where the words came from; they appeared while watching a spider as I was drinking coffee outside my local café. They came as 12 separate paragraphs, which I originally assumed were going to be the beginnings of 12 chapters but they have since sort of melded into one thing. I think I’ve written about 6,000 words of this and again not touched it for over a year or so and I seem to have lost the thread. I am an idle writer; the times I look at the pile of poems for my next book and turn away!
DMD: What, besides writing, do you do that taps into your creativity and helps you to relax and enjoy yourself?
MS: I’ve dabbled with painting but that came upon me in a burst too, just like the poetry; then it went away and I can’t seem to find it again. I enjoy walking through nature, along the towpaths, forest tracks etc. Photography is another thing that takes me away from stuff and reading too, I always have a couple of books on the go. I enjoy silence, chess, and, I reckon. I’m a bit of a solitary creature by habit. Maybe I should be a monk! I have a nice collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with books by and about him and his creations, which pleases me. I’ve been collecting him for over 30 years now. I must say though, I don’t think I’m all that creative especially with the poetry. I just write the things and I like the things I write.
Thanks so much to Martin
for such an open and honest and fascinating interview.
And I beg to differ: he certainly is “all that creative”!
I encourage you to treat yourself to all of Martin’s publications.
And they make beautiful, heartwarming, soul enriching gifts!