Released 28th of February 2023
Imperfect Beginnings lays its poems out to rest on uncertain terrain. Visa paperwork deadlines hang in the air. New-borns, torn too early from their mother’s breast, learn to adapt to harsh guardianship.
Belonging and exile are mirrored in the stories of having to leave one’s birthmother—or motherland.
From narrative poems such as ‘My Father Sold Cigarettes To The Nazis’, Fogel takes us on a journey throughout history, spanning ancestry, wartime, adoption and peacetime, as life settles. Family, work, love and the natural world provide purpose, meaning and a sense of coming ‘home’.
My Father Sold Cigarettes To The Nazis
for Itzaak Weinreich b.1903 - d.1988
blue-eyed and handsome, he nodded and grinned
at them through the coffee houses of Berlin, the cakes
and cabaret, a sweet tooth and an eye for women.
He wrote funny verse, made his friends laugh,
turned horror into humour, played the joker,
protected me from the truth.
My father loved to polish: wooden banisters,
brass door handles, candlesticks—our boots;
Buchenwald was his camp: ‘but Butlins it was not!’
I wasn’t meant to hear about the officer’s
leather belt, his polished boots,
of the baby tossed
into the air, skull
cracking beneath the boot.
And once, he upturned the kitchen table,
mouth foaming, as plates slid
cracking to the floor.
He died a year before the Wall came down,
the year my baby was born.
I sat by his bed and fed him,
as once he fed me. I stroked his baby head,
made him smile at my jokes,
as his watery eyes were fading.
I traced his burnt-scarred arm, tapped
my fingers along numbers the same blue-grey
as his veins, longing to unlock his story.
He held my baby in his arms, just once,
a little awkward, a little shy,
a big man grown small.
- Fogel’s poems are concerned with what she refers to as re-membering and dis-membering. Things have been torn apart and are in the process of being put together again. Themes of broken intimacy, traumatic family histories, uprooting, and the bloody trail of the Holocaust run through these moving poems, seeking and finding healing. George Szirtes
- This is a book about love, loss & survival, a long life well-lived; an authentic account of disconnection and connection. These poems, set against the backdrop of a history of displacement, exile and trauma do not make a comfortable read, but a thoroughly worthwhile one, carrying the reader on a journey towards hope, healing and redemption. Jacqueline Saphra
About the Author -
Viv Fogel’s poems have been published in various magazines and anthologies since the mid-70’s. She has a collection Without Question 2006 and two pamphlets (Witness 2013 and How it is … 2018) Her poems and her work are influenced by having been adopted by refugee Holocaust survivors. London based, once an art teacher, involved with community, social housing and education projects, and since the mid-80’s has worked as a psychotherapist. She is a grandmother to 3 dual-heritage grandchildren. www.vivfogel.co.uk