Words Without Song

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By Martin Knox

About the Book

Format Dimensions Pages
Softcover 5x8 184

The urge to write, whether in poetry or prose derives, at least in part from vanity, but I would also suggest more serious reasons for the endeavour: explicitly to raise awareness around social injustice, environmental destruction, and human suffering. Injustice and suffering derive, in the main, from avoidable catastrophes and resource misuse, which are either planned or are allowed to continue with impunity, by and large through political intrigue. There are, of course, many other reasons as to why writers engage with the craft.

This book has been inspired by another contemporary Irish poet, Conor Farrell, who lives and works in Spain. It is also inspiring to read other poets such as Seamus Heaney, Paddy Kavanagh, Simon Armitage, Michael Hartnett and writers in prose and song, namely, Bertrand Russell, Noam Chomsky, George Orwell, John Prine and Bob Dylan, amongst others.

It is widely accepted now, especially amongst those who reflect earnestly on the human condition, that serious societal inequalities are widespread and that there are significant imbalances casting shadows over our lives. For instance, there are the wealthy, who haven’t enough: they are entitled. Sadly, they seem to be utterly indifferent to the plight of children dying from malnutrition, mindless conflicts and preventable diseases. It is scourges such as these that motivate me to write: social disparities ought not be permitted to exist in a civilised world.

Where I can, I like to paint pictures with words, as Hartnett does in his poem A Falling Out

…..There, on the cobbles of the market square,
where toothless penny ballads rasped the air,
there among spanners, scollops, hones, and pikes,
limp Greyhound cabbage, mending-kits for bikes,
velvet calves in creels, women’s overalls,
she shook my hand beside the market stalls……….

And as if the disregard of inequity and injustice is not enough, it is now commonplace for those in power to denigrate and abuse scientific endeavour. Those at the tiller also try to deceive us by means of the fraudulent use of language as well as through tax concessions for the wealthy. Poor governance also seems to facilitate unjustified privilege for the few enabled by corrupt manipulation of the democratic process. I believe these practices must end through education, rational persuasion, participative democracy and progressive taxation. I sincerely hope that we can succeed in turning the tide before it’s too late.

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

― Bertrand Russell

About the Author

Martin Knox Publishing Bio and Background

Martin Knox was born on the 22nd of April 1946, in Kilkenny, Ireland. He went to school to Clara primary school, also in Kilkenny, when he was 5 years old, walking five miles per day through farms and fields to learn the basics of reading writing and arithmetic. We weren’t materially well off though love abounded. There was a lot of emphasis on Irish and religion in primary school in those days and this hasn’t changed that much. The environment in school was brutal and threatening; really scary at times. All primary schools in Ireland in those days were controlled by the major religions, Catholicism (the Vatican), Protestantism (a less centralized agglomeration of various groups doctrinally different from each other). To this day, in the main, primary schools continue to be controlled by the bishops: there are some exceptions however. Yet nobody speaks out about this anomaly, or at least very few do, including the government. Indoctrination and good mental health are incompatible.
On the first Sunday of September 1959 Martin Knox went to Castletown Co. Laois, Ireland to begin training for a life of prayer and teaching with the De La Salle brothers. These years of ‘formation’ as they were subtly called were to last until he left the organization ten years later having completed the Intermediate Certificate and the Leaving Certificate in between. In 1967 Martin went to University College Dublin to pursue a degree in science, majoring in Chemistry. The minor subject pursued was mathematics.
In 1990 he graduated with a PhD in physical chemistry under Professor David Feakins who had a deep love of chemistry and Beethoven. The freedom and excitement associated with the pursuit of original research cannot easily be put into words.
Looking back on the education path taken and on reflecting on childhood and adult experiences, it is hard to escape the conclusion that ‘education’ is designed to make the recipient into a product of some kind subservient to established order, whether in language, history, ideas, politics, religion, and mathematics even. Independence of thought and expression was not the primary focus of the endeavour. On the contrary there was no room for agnosticism and of course, atheism was totally beyond the pale: atheists were all destined for hell. Dogma was core to education, take it or leave it: a type of Hobson’s choice, indoctrination or damnation. Honesty, particularly intellectual honesty was eschewed. Honesty wasn’t valued: we weren’t educated to be honest, either with ourselves or others.
Martin Knox started his professional working life in teaching in Dublin as a brother and as a jam (untrained teacher) in a classroom with twenty boys in third class. It was fun. I didn’t know what I was doing really as a twenty-one-year-old. I was certainly brainwashing the children.
Following graduation Martin Knox taught secondary school science and mathematics, again in Dublin while doing research for a PhD degree. The experience was most exciting. It was easy to keep one’s head below the parapet when teaching science and mathematics. Regrettably, I never questioned authority in any real way because the prospect of losing one’s livelihood was real.
In the mid-seventies Martin Knox was engaged to lecture in chemistry in the Institute of Technology, Athlone, Ireland. Those twelve years proved to be very challenging indeed.
I late 1980’s he joined big pharma in Co Clare Ireland and remained there for fifteen years – a most enjoyable experience where creativity was encouraged and rewarded mostly, though one’s intellectual property was owned and profited from by big pharma.
Subsequently Martin became self employed as a consultant in water management, quality, safety and environmental auditing. Martin is still working.
He began writing poetry while visiting northern Spain in 2012 with his partner of many decades, Ann O’Connell from Killimer, Co. Clare.
My colleague and fellow poet, Conor Farrell considers my writing to be too serious and that I need to include more romantic poetry in my endeavours. However, I’m inclined to go by what Simon Armitage holds: the writer must, in his/her writing underline and reflect the social context of the times we live in. I don’t always hold with that counsel: there is a place also for other stories away from the darkness.
Martin has four children and five even more beautiful grandchildren.