Simon Lewis: On Writing Jewtown
I set about writing poems about these Jewish immigrants in Cork and tried to imagine how they felt coming to this strange country after fleeing Russian pogroms
Simon Lewis: Part of my research in writing this collection involved me visiting the area of Jewtown, looking at windows, almost hoping to see a Star of David or Menorah. The cover of my book is an image of one of the lanterns in Shalom Park and I feel it is a very fitting symbol
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 raised in a typical Irish Jewish family. This meant that we kept most of the laws and traditions with the odd Big Mac consumed when we thought no one was looking! I was raised in the liberal Jewish community in Dublin, which at the time was significantly smaller than the Orthodox community. Liberal Jews are often not taken seriously as “proper” Jews so it was interesting being an outsider among outsiders.