This much I know: Jack Harte, writer

I wouldn’t bother to write if I didn’t have something to say. Writing is the one thing I am reasonably competent at. 

For me writing is about communication. 

I don’t enjoy disputation or polemics, so I try to convey my insights through creative writing — storytelling in one form or another.

I was a pathologically shy child. In the west of Ireland in my time confidence was not instilled in children. Quite the opposite. 

Still, my experience was what made me, so regrets or complaints are silly.

Even before I could write a school composition, I had the ‘sense’ that writing was something I could do and wanted to do. 

Originally it was poems I wrote, and I had them published while I was still at secondary school.

I earned my bread as a teacher in Clondalkin for many years, and later as principal of Lucan Community College. 

During my teaching years I wrote 24 English textbooks, which sold over 400,000 copies — if only they had been novels.

I loved the engagement with young people, and the camaraderie of being part of a dedicated staff. 

I got enormous satisfaction from our successes and those of our students. However, teaching is the most demanding of jobs. 

I have been around and know what I am talking about, unlike many who are constantly negative about our schools. 

In teaching you expend your heart and soul and every ounce of energy. So it is not such a good choice for an aspiring writer!

My idea of happiness is watching the sun set over the sea at midsummer in Easkey.

I have never achieved a real work life balance. I am always doing what is most pressing; sometimes that is writing, sometimes housework, or whatever. 

And often I suspect that I give my other chores undue importance so that I can postpone applying the backside to the chair.

The trait I most admire in other people is generosity of spirit.

My main fault is being unable to recognise faces even if my life depended on it.

If money was not an issue I’d be doing much the same as I am doing now, but with a lighter heart.

One of my great loves is The Irish Writers Centre which I helped to found in 1991. 

When I came to Dublin I had great difficulty in ‘connecting’ with writers. The recognised mating places were the so-called literary pubs. But these operated as little clubs, not open to new members. 

Many of my friends were visual artists spending years learning their craft in the College of Art. But there were no avenues for aspiring writers to similarly learn their trade. 

In fact the idea of a writer having to learn his trade was frowned upon — writers were supposed to drop straight from heaven fully formed and equipped with their god-given skills. This kind of arrogance always annoyed me. 

If musicians and visual artists saw fit to spend years honing their crafts, why not writers. 

So I always felt the need for a place like the Irish Writers Centre, a home from home for established and aspiring writers, where they could meet and engage with one another and with their readers. 

But also a place where experienced writers could share their experience with the less experienced.

If I could change one thing in Irish society I’d establish a Constitution which would end the sectarian control of education and the health service.

The most useful invention is definitely the computer. A gift from the universe to writers.

My play, Language of the Mute, goes on a National Tour in May. It received wonderful notices when it premiered and it was extremely satisfying to find the audience was engaged from beginning to end.

I like the idea of the traditional Irish spirit world where the rejects of Christianity have gone, unbaptised babies, suicides, people like that. If there is a life after death, I want to join them.

If I could pass on one piece of advice about life to the next generation it would be that life takes precedence over any entity that is spelt with an ‘ism’ at the end.

* Jack Harte’s play Language of the Mute: May 7, Riverbank, Newbridge, Co Kildare; May 9-10, Civic, Tallaght, Dublin; May 11, Hawk’s Well, Sligo; May 12; Backstage, Longford; May 13; Roscommon Arts Centre; May 14, Taibhdhearc, Galway. 


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