1. Your first poetry collection “Jewtown”, published by Doire press, was inspired not only by your own Jewish background, but by an interest in those immigrants who had fled their countries to form the Irish Jewish community. Could you tell us a little about that?
Jewtown is the name the people from Cork called the area in the city where most of the Jewish community lived when they came to Ireland initially. My own great great grandparents fled the Russian Pogroms in the late 19th century and my Great Grandmother was born in Cork City. I was interested in this smaller Jewish community and decided to reimagine how it might have felt for these people fleeing their native country to unknown pastures. The poems, I hope, give some sort of an indication as to how a migrant might feel moving to a new country so, perhaps, could be relevant to 21st century readers.
2. Your second collection “Ah, Men” is due to be published by Doire in October. Is there a theme in the new collection, and if so, is it informed by your own life experience?
I like themes! “Ah, Men!” is all about men. I’m trying to explore how the Irish male has adapted (or not) to 21st century norms. In some ways, in some cases, the rug has been pulled from under some Irish men and things that were perfectly acceptable before are, rightly, completely unacceptable now. I have divided the collection into 3 parts – fathers and father figures, sons – who are the sons of Ireland today? and spirit – how has this new era affected some Irish men in terms of their relationships to religion, alcohol and mental health? Very few of the poems are based on my own experiences and I’m very conscious that I am only looking at men through a very narrow lens, my own eyes.
3. You are the principle of the Educate Together school in Carlow. Does this career help or hinder your writing?
Yes, I’m the principal of a wonderful Educate Together school in Carlow. My wife and I originally helped to set it up so our son would have a school where he would be fully included in the every day of schooling as every other school in our county is church-based. Being a principal of this kind of school is more than a job to me; it is an obsession. I am passionate about equality in education and spend much of my time working in this area. I run a podcast called “If I were the Minister for Education” which runs through the many ways I’d change the education system to make it more equality-based. So, to answer your question, yes, my career does hinder my writing! However, my writing does help me escape from my career and I’d be lost without both.
Simon will read at our Literary Salon along with fellow-writers: Daragh Bradish, Niall McArdle, Celia de Freine, Olivia Fitzsimons and Robyn Rowland with music by Keith Burke.
Saturday 28th September 17.15, The Harbour Bar (upstairs)