Review of Jewtown from Israel

Today I received another review of Jewtown, my first from a Jewish reviewer and my first from someone outside of Ireland. Natalie Wood of PerfectlyWritePoetry published her review on the eve of Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year, and I was very pleased with her words. She also published "Tashlich", one of the poems in the collection, which is set around this time of the year. I always find people's favourite poems in the collection interesting and I was surprised that this was Natalie's. Tashlich nearly didn't make the collection. On the 1st edit, it was one place above the cut-off point so I made a few changes to bring it up a bit. On the 2nd and 3rd edit, it still hovered above, what I called, the "relegation zone" and just before the 4th edit, I cut out the bottom half of what was the poem and changed the last line. Natalie also...

RIP: Shirley McClure

I was very sad to hear of the passing of the poet Shirley McClure today. Since meeting Shirley at the launch of her second collect, Stone Dress (Arlen House), she has been very kind to me in my own writing. In Carlow, we had the pleasure of her company with Jane Clarke and Breda Wall Ryan, which Derek (director of the Carlow Writers' Group) coined as the poetic version of the Woman's Heart tour when she read in Carlow Library a couple of years ago. I almost could have been labelled a "Shirley Groupie" after seeing her read in Kilkenny around this time last year with Jane Clarke and Mark Roper. Stone Dress is one of the few poetry books I have lent to my friends as I am generally insecure about recommending poetry, but this book, for me, is one I have had no hesitation in recommending. When I went to the launch last August in Dublin, it was...

Culture Night, Galway

I had a brilliant time in Galway as part of the Over the Edge Culture Night event in Kenny's Bookshop and Gallery. Any excuse to come to Galway is always welcome but with Emrys staying at home with grandma, it was lovely to go away for a night with Rozz on our own. We got some great food recommendations from our food journalist friend on where to eat and she wasn't wrong with her choices. In between eating and poetry, we managed to have a quick look around the city with a visit to another book institution, Charlie Byrne's Bookshop. The Over the Edge Reading was good fun and Rozz came 3rd in the prose open mic competition. We also had readings from Elizabeth Reapy and Karl Parkinson who were fantastic. I was one of the two judges for the poetry open mic and got to do a reading too, which went down well, I think. I decided to read a few different...

Galway Advertiser Review of Jewtown

I was delighted to hear that Jewtown got another review, this time in the Galway Advertiser by Kevin Higgins. Here is the text of the review below: JEWTOWN, SIMON Lewis’s debut poetry collection, published by Connemara's Doire Press, tells the story of Cork’s Jewish community, from their arrival fleeing pogroms in 19th century Czarist Russia, to the closure of the last synagogue at South Terrace in February 2016. Reading the final poem, ‘The Last Sabbath at South Terrace Synagogue’, it is impossible not to feel something of the stoic grief the man portrayed must have felt: “His face red with the strain,/gave in by the first Kaddish, drooping back into the pew,/knowing he was part of the furniture, ready to be moved on.” You do not have to be Jewish, or religious, to mourn the passing of such a community. Immigration always brings...

A Night in Bray

I had a lovely evening in Bray where I read some poems from Jewtown. I was among 4 artists who showcased their work including a visual artist, a singer and an actress. The Bray Arts Group were celebrating their 20th anniversary with around 40 people in attendance. It was nice to meet a number of people who had connections with Jewish people in Ireland and thanks to Michael and Julie Rose for inviting me along. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="1731,1732,1733,1734"]

A Jewtown Mitzvah – talk

It's interesting that it appears the closing of the Cork Jewish Synagogue seems to have resurrected some form of community in the Munster region. Interestingly, from my own perspective, it is not an Orthodox community that is coming together, but a Reform Jewish Community, a more modern version of Judaism, which confirm to more of a modern lifestyle, for example, men and women are treated equally. I suppose it might ask an uncomfortable question of the Cork Jewish Community and whether the synagogue could have been saved, but that is not for me to judge. What I will do is let you know that this new Jewish community in the Munster region are really making waves around the region with a number of activities going on over the next few months. One that may be of interest to Jewtown readers is a talk from Marnina Winkler, who will be presenting her...

Cork City Reading

Last night I read in Waterstones, Cork City, with the well-known writer William Wall. William has had his latest collection of short stories published by Doire Press and it's well worth checking out. For me, I was much more nervous than usual because this was the closest I've ever read my poems to the actual place where they come from. I was less than 2km from the area known as Jewtown. However, to make matters worse, who was sitting in the front row with his silver crutch? For those who have read my collection, there are a few poems near the end set in the 21st century. The last poem is called the Last Sabbath at South Terrace Synagogue. In this poem, I refer to Freddie leaning on his silver crutch. Most people with a knowledge of Jewish Cork would know Freddie referred to Mr. Freddie Rosehill who has been responsible for the survival of the...

Reading in Cork City

I'm looking forward to my next reading in Waterstones in Cork City this coming Thursday with William Wall. When I say I'm looking forward to it, I'm also feeling most nervous about this reading because it's going to be the closest I've been to Jewtown physically for a reading. I assume some of the crowd that will be there will know the area much better than me so hopefully they won't be displeased with my interpretations of their city. Hopefully, William will bail me out if it gets nasty!

Some Jewtown-related Reading

I'm having a few days away in Mayo with the in-laws and decided to buy a couple of books with me. There's no wifi or phone connection in my mother-in-law's house so Internet is limited to a few snatches of connection whenever I'm in an area where there is coverage, hence this very very short post. I decided to bring two sort of Jewtown-related books with me and neither of them are poetry books. The first is Ita Daly's memoir of her late husband David Marcus. For those who don't know, David Marcus' family hailed from Cork's Jewtown and he went on to be one of the most important figures in the Irish literary scene. The second book is from Ruth Gilligan and is called Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, which actually starts off in Jewtown in the 19th century.  Both books were only released in the last few months, which is an amazing...

Blackwater International Poetry Festival

We had a great time at the Blackwater International Poetry Festival. Rozz and Emrys joined me for their annual Poetry Bus, a super idea, where we are whisked around Co. Cork stopping off in lovely touristy places. Poetry is read and food is shared and we get to see parts of the country we don't usually see. After the trip, which took in places like Blackwater Castle, Doneraile and Castletownroche, the Carlow Writers' Cooperative joined me for a reading. It took place in the Rockforest Bar in Castletownroche and there was a lovely atmosphere. I read a few poems from Jewtown and sold a few books. Thanks to Gene, Margo and all the organisers for the opportunity to read at the festival and we look forward to going back again soon. [gallery columns="4"...