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...

The closest I’ll get to Michael Longley

One of my dreams when I got my publishing deal for Jewtown was to see my book on the shelf of a proper bookshop. Over the weekend that dream came true. Here is my book in Books Upstairs. 20160702_144906

Where most of the reaserch came from

Any time I've been interviewed, I'm always asked where did I get my research on the people who lived in Jewtown. There was very little there but one of the sources came from a really good book if one is interested in the history of the Jewish people in Ireland. Dermot Keogh's History of the Jews of 20th Century Ireland is a fascinating read. It mainly centres on the Dublin Jewish community and a lot about the politics during the Second World War but there were two pages dedicated to Jewtown. The two pages consist of a map of Jewtown and a summary of the census records from 1901 and 1911. There are a few links to other texts and some autobiographies, which made things a little bit more interesting. From these snippets, I tried to reimagine the lives of some of these residents and how they must have felt. In the larger image, you should be...

Hey from Hay!

I had a great time at the Hay Festival in Kells last weekend. It has to be the most friendly festival I've ever been to. The organisers couldn't do enough to make one feel like they were a superstar! There was even a green room with all the coffee, food and treats that you could ever want. I also got a goodie bag with a t-shirt and I even got lunch and dinner. [caption id="attachment_1575" align="alignnone" width="225"] Second billing to Peter Fallon. Not bad![/caption] My reading was at 5pm, which, unfortunately (for me) was at the same time as Francis Brennan who pulled in about 400 people. There were two other well known writers on at the time too. As well as that, Northern Ireland were playing Wales in the Euros. Poetry rarely draws in huge crowds so I wasn't expecting anyone to show up except for these two below. Thankfully...

In the Nationalist

I was delighted to have my launch featured in the Carlow Nationalist. Text is below the photograph A BOOK of poetry about a generation of Jews who emigrated to Ireland from Lithuania during the late 19th century was the inspiration behind a new book of poetry by Simon Lewis. Simon, who founded and is the principal of the Educate Together school in Carlow, launched the collection Jewtown in Carlow town library last week. “It’s been five years in the making so it was a privilege to see it in paper form,” Simon told The Nationalist. The title of the book comes from an area in Cork city, Jewtown, so called because of the Jewish people who settled there. Simon was prompted to use his own religious background as a source of material after it was suggested to him by Derek Coyle, the director of the Carlow Writers’ Co-operative, of...

South Terrace Synagogue: March 2016

South Terrace Synagogue, the main synagogue in Cork, used by much of the community of Jewtown, closed its doors in February 2016. The building was deconsecrated before being handed over to the Church of the Seventh Day Adventists. While it is understandable that the building had to be gutted due to it being in terrible disrepair, it is sad to see in the photo that the new occupiers did not leave a single trace of its predecessors. Thanks to Mike Garde for sharing this photograph with me.  

On Writing Jewtown

This article appeared in the Irish Times yesterday. Thanks to Martin Turner for publishing the article. - * - I became a poet by accident. When my wife, Rozz, and I moved to Carlow during the Celtic Tiger years, we knew nobody. Both of us dabbled in writing so we decided to join a local writing group to try and meet some of the natives. Rozz sent me first to scout out whether it was safe. Among the group was a guy called Derek who lectured in the local college. Over the next few years, Derek brought me from having never written a poem to publishing my first collection. Derek, (and indeed all the members of the writers’ group), encouraged and mentored me at the exact pace needed to bring me stage by stage to being a better poet. One of the key moments in this journey was when he advised me to think about writing about my own heritage. I was...

Grace Wells’ Launch Speech

I was very lucky to have chosen such an inspiring person to launch my poetry collection. Grace Wells, very kindly, allowed me to publish the speech she made about Jewtown at the launch. [caption id="attachment_1457" align="alignnone" width="170"] Me and Grace Wells at my launch[/caption] Firstly I want to say how very honoured I feel to be launching Simon’s beautiful book: Jewtown. Honoured and moved. This isn’t an ordinary collection of poems, it’s a very special, very rare book. I’ve been at so many launches where someone has grandly said ‘this is an important book’, and I’ve inwardly cringed. But I genuinely believe that this is an important book. It’s importance lies in three things, firstly: in the quality of its poetry, secondly: that this book recreates and immortalizes an almost-forgotten part of Irish history, and...

Jewtown – the Launch

Tonight was the launch of my first poetry collection, Jewtown. We had a small get together in the house with some friends and family. I made cholent, a Jewish-Lithuanian stew that takes 16 hours to cook, and the title of one of the poems in the collection. It seemed to go down ok and hopefully lined the stomachs for the night ahead! Before the launch, it was lovely to have the 3 Carlow finalists in the second level 1916 commemoration poetry prize read their poems and I presented them with their medals with Fintan Phelan, who organised the competition. It was then down to business. John Shortall, the head librarian in Carlow Libraries, introduced the evening. John Walsh from Doire Press, spoke about the publishing journey and the relationship he has with Carlow. I was honoured to have Grace Wells to launch Jewtown and her speech was amazing -...

Article in Irish Examiner

I was delighted to see a huge article in the Irish Examiner about my upcoming collection, Jewtown. The article is mostly about the area of Cork which was known as Jewtown but also concentrates a little bit about my own background and heritage. The full text can be read on the Irish Examiner web site, which I'm also pasting below. Memories of Jewtown in Cork recalled in poetry collection Tuesday, May 24, 2016 Simon Lewis’s collection of poetry was inspired by his family’s heritage in the Albert Road area of Cork, says Marjorie Brennan IT’S an unofficial place-name with nostalgic rather than negative overtones, but people from outside Cork can still be startled to hear Leesiders of a certain vintage use the term ‘Jewtown’. For locals, it denotes the quarter of the city comprising Albert Road and its environs,...