Martina Evans, poet & novelist at Keats House on 7.Aug. 2013

Writing Rights – Spotlight on Martina Evans

Today marks the last day in our ‘spotlight’ series on the authors who participated in the ‘Writing Rights’ project.  To mark Human Rights Day 2015, we partnered with The Irish Times and invited seven highly acclaimed Irish authors to participate in this project, creating written responses – ranging from poetry to creative fiction to factual pieces – to various Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our final featured author is Martina Evans, the only participant to contribute a poem for ‘Writing Rights’.

In her poem, ‘Fine Gael Form a Coalition Government with Labour, 1973’, she drew inspiration from Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: ‘Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.’

Martina evokes a quintessentially Irish rural scene, where barriers between the old and new teacher in a two-teacher country school are broken down by the need to discuss politics:

“They never seemed close – the old whiskey

Master and the young pastel-lipped teacher…

But when they met over his coffee flask

the day after the election, somehow

they couldn’t separate. Fine Gael were in!

The party of professionals and well-heeled


She goes on to describe the freedom enjoyed by the schoolchildren while their teachers’ minds were elsewhere:

“We weren’t called in after the eleven o’clock break

we ran wild for miles, for hours, for weeks,

deep scratches along my thighs, Betty’s old 60s

mini-dress with the pink and orange circles

no protection against the waist-deep briars

in the woods behind the church where everyone

who had them was smoking Carrolls No. 1.”

Throughout her career, Martina’s poetry has won critical claim.  Most recently, ‘Burnfort, Las Vegas’ was shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award 2015.

‘Mountainy Men’, a new narrative poem, is the recipient of a Grants for the Arts Award in 2015.

‘Watch’, a pamphlet, will be published by Rack Press in 2016 and her ‘Selected Poems’ will be published by Carcanet in 2017.

As well as being a poet, Martina is a novelist and a teacher.  She received the Betty Trask Award in 1995 and the Arts Council England Award in 1999 for her novels ‘Midnight Feast’ and ‘No Drinking No Dancing No Doctors’ respectively.

She grew up in Cork in a country pub, shop and petrol station and is the youngest of 10 children.  You can find out more about her work here.