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A poet's passion


A metro-area writer uses empathy to connect with readers and youth.

Ryan Querbach June 15th, 2011

If you saw Robert Swain Lewis, you wouldn’t be surprised that he’s an Army veteran. You might not even be surprised to learn he works for the Oklahoma County Office of Juvenile Affairs. But, you would almost definitely be surprised that he is a published poet.

Lewis, a tall, stocky man, has been writing poetry since high school. This interest has spanned across his days as an athlete, and even his time in the military.

His life, which had its beginnings in what he described as the rough streets of Cincinnati, has been far from easy. He’s endured losing close family members, losing jobs, and even losing his wife through a divorce.

His new book of poems, “The Bumps in the Road,” touches on these struggles. He wants people to know they are not alone, and that there are ways to overcome such struggles.

“It’s not the fact that you go through bumps in the road that makes you stronger; it’s the attitude in which one embraces the bumps in the road that makes you stronger,” he said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter what a person is going through.”

According to him, it’s all about maintaining the right attitude — something he highlights in his poetry. He strives to be a form of inspiration and motivation for others.

As a juvenile justice specialist for the Oklahoma County Office of Juvenile Affairs, Lewis said his duties are similar to a social worker or parole officer. He got into the job partially as a way to give back. He grew up without a father, so he understands what many of these children go through.

“My father died when I was 3, so it was difficult for me to have a male role model,” he said, “and so my notion was to be some type of mentor or role model to these kids, whether male or female.”

He said he definitely sees parallels between his poetry and his job.

“Sometimes it’s difficult, but it’s always encouraging,” he said. “Stay encouraged; know that you can succeed if you don’t give up. I think that’s the correlation between the two.”

He even allows some of the youth he works with to read his poetry, and believes this inspires them to do better things in life.

He would like his poetry to speak to everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion or any other factor.

“Whatever it is that you have been through, I can talk to you about that because I have been through everything that a man can go through,” he said. “And that’s where ‘The Bumps in the Road’ comes in handy.”

The first part of his book is about reflecting back. Part two dips into his personal trials, and part three details what he saw on Cincinnati streets.

“I think about these things, and I reflect back on them, and just put them in a poetic format,” he said. “Something that is simple, but insightful; something that is simple, but educational.”

The fourth and final part, and maybe the most important for him, contains prayers.

“Without prayers, I couldn’t have made it. There were times when I didn’t know if I was going to make it,” Lewis said, noting that the church has played a large role in his life. He even described his writing as a God-given gift.

“This is what I was meant to do: Write, and reach billions of people, which I know will happen,” he said.

His book was released earlier this year, and he already has three more on the way, all of which will include deep personal expression.

Although it’s available for purchase, he does not see book sales as his primary goal.

“If I could just help one person, whether I sell a million or no more, then I have achieved this purpose,” he said. “If I can inspire one person, then I have done what I wanted to do.”

 
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