Books From The Pantry: Survivalism by A. K. Hepburn: Reviewed by Giles Turnbull

A.K. Hepburn’s poetry pamphlet, Survivalism, leaves you in no doubt that these poems are deliciously dangerous. The very first lines of the first poem alert the reader to the inescapable intrusion of shadows under the trees:

Lauren was a pianist.
I could tell that from the way
her fingers played the protrusion
of my hip bone, sprawling on the
ignoring something threatening
brewing just below the horizon.

Poets have always battled with matters of life and death. In the poetry of Ted Hughes, crows are symbolic of creation. In ‘The Crow People’ Hepburn gives us her take on crows:

The crow people
Walk upright,
Smudgy charcoal outlines
On grey concrete

To me this reads like a picture of a city full of commuters who:

Leer and gape,
Gaudy faces open
In mockery

evoking a scene similar to that in part 1 of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

By the third poem, ‘Coracle’, we have images of dead animals and dead trees:

He drifted up the spine
of the Pennines.
Peaks jutted from the water
like the vertebrae
of a long-dead whale
breaching the surface
an English sea,
breaking over the
skeletons of old oaks
littering the sea floor.

A few poems further on and we find pianistic Lauren again. This time it is ‘On the Coldest Night of the Year’, with the:

electricity off, fractals
forming inside the glass.
Outside, it’s eighteen below


Lauren’s fingers glide
through a Nocturne, until
they’re too blue, too numb
to wring out another tune

the last notes of this poem bringing with them further death.

As we get to the title poem, Survivalism, we have almost become accustomed to the world being none-too hospitable. I was reminded of The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins. In that book, Katniss Eberdeen risks her life to salvage a bright orange backpack which contains a ‘half-gallon plastic bottle with a cap for carrying water that’s bone dry’ amongst other things. In this poem our survivor also has a knapsack and a:

Water bottle, leaching
chemicals, probably

There are, appropriately enough, 13 poems in this pamphlet, beginning with ‘Before’ and ending with ‘Apocalypse, Then’. If you enjoy your worlds dystopian, as I do, you will love them — it may be wise to wear thimbles on your fingertips whilst reading, lest turning the pages slices them clean off.

Get your copy of Survivalism

Poetry Drawer: Modern-Day Ms. Dickinson’s 5am Diary Entry-Sleepless Starting Summer Not In Seattle by Gerard Sarnat

A blue-blooded rock-ribbed Amherstian —
Confined to home — I do seem quite adverse
To going out much — except by poem or coffin.

Often one niece might bring me her new baby
— Liav’s quarter Turkish + quarter Iraqi — post
Hebrew diaspora she equates it to be half Israeli.

Then Sis’s 2nd girl — along with both boys — will
Fly in a blue metal bird – from what maybe were
Mexican Possessions when Emily was born in 1830.

After Memorial Day holidays — recognitions of fallen
U.S. soldiers which once were thought to have begun
as markers decorating graves during our unCivil War —

Around about the time that Woman in White became
Reclusive – whispering to visitors from the other side
Of a hewn oak door – started getting carted to doctors.

If these innards & outards score A-OK, you ladies I grew
Up near but haven’t seen since turning 30 — are slotted to
Spend July 4th convening here within my garden cottage.

Inky Interview Exclusive: Award Winning Poet Sara Hirsch at The Storyhouse, Chester: with Claire Faulkner

I often find poetry at its most magical when I least expect it. So when I stumbled into The Storyhouse in Chester one rainy afternoon, looked up at the balcony and saw in child’s handwriting ‘this poem is a map made of lines. Just lines. Why don’t you take one and see where it leads you’. I was immediately hooked and spent the next hour walking around the building reading the poetry installations which emerged from the WayWord festival.

The poems are written by children from three local schools; Tushingham-with-Gringley C of E Primary School, J.H. Godwin Primary School, and Queen’s Park High School. The pupils took part in workshops with award winning poet Sara Hirsch, and together they created poems about identity, libraries, history, and stories.

The verses are all surprising, inspirational and delightful to read.

‘I Come From…’ opens with the lines:

I come from reading at the dead of night

as quietly as a fingertip turning a page.

Each poem appears on the walls in the child’s own handwriting, and this adds an extra impact when viewing the installation.

In ‘This Library…’ The Storyhouse is described as:

a tornado

sucking you into an adventure

it is another dimension

When trying to answer the question in the poem ‘What is History?’, the children have written:

It is a complex question waiting to be asked

It is a record player that has stopped working

A guitar that has been played a little too much.

And further on in the poem, history is described as:

a locked door

a code waiting to be cracked

it is lonely

a broken time machine

I enjoyed the experience of finding the poems, and took delight from the positive input that the children must have had in the writing and creative process. I wanted to know more about the installation, so I contacted Sara for more information.

What was your involvement in the WayWord festival?

I worked with local primary school children in January to create the poems for the walls of the Storehouse, to be unveiled during the WayWord festival. I then returned during the festival itself to perform a family show and lead a workshop for the 16-25 youth theatre group, so I got to see the finished poetry murals for myself. They look fabulous and I was so proud to see the children’s poetry displayed in such a unique way around the building.

How did the children react to the poetry workshops?

They really loved them! I never know in advance what the reaction will be and how the children will take to me and my workshops. But these ones were particularly memorable, perhaps because we were working towards an end goal. The fact that they knew their words might make it onto the walls of this amazing building really got them excited and it created a brilliant atmosphere in all 3 schools I visited. I usually really like the fact that my workshops aren’t leading up to anything in particular, as it takes the pressure off the kids to create something ‘finished’. But this was really different and really gave the kids a sense of pride in their work, because it was being valued by a venue that they love and respect.

Were you surprised by their reaction?

I was surprised with how they stepped up to the challenge and worked together to produce something really grown up and professional. I usually set no expectations on a workshop so that the children are free to explore their ideas and imagination. So the fact that they were so focussed on creating something they would be proud to show off to the public was really amazing.

Seeing the verse displayed in the children’s own handwriting is extremely effective. How did this idea develop?

Isn’t it! I really can’t claim the credit for this idea. It was thought up by the Storyhouse and the designer (Matt Lewis) and I just did what I was told! However, it was a big part of the workshops – to get the kids to write up their lines in their own handwriting and it was really fun to be a part of it. My rule in all my workshops is to be as messy as possible (scribble things out, say whatever comes into your head etc.) and so giving them permission to carry this idea on for the final product was really liberating. I love that there are spelling mistakes in the poems. It makes them feel really authentic.

Do you think it’s important to encourage children to write poetry?

Of course! Regardless of the fact that it is fun, educational and creative – giving young people the chance to express themselves in different ways is so important for emotional wellbeing and development. Creativity is being sucked from the curriculum, which is an absolute travesty and so the more poets, authors, artists and creatives we can get visiting schools, and giving kids an alternative to the academic standards they are constantly measured against, the better.

Can you share with us what other projects you’re currently working on?

I am currently setting up a spoken word production company in New Zealand called Motif Poetry with Kiwi poet/producer Ben Fagan. I will be heading up the education side of it and hopefully it will eventually be an international venture to connect poetry scenes in the UK and down under. I am also running a lot of international workshops at the moment (I will have performed in 7 countries before the end of March so far this year!) and am working on my third poetry collection which explores feminism and architecture. So lots going on…but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Image credits: Mark Carline

Poetry Drawer: Closure by Michael Murray


Bricks and mortar layer-cake. Dearly behoven,
loom workers and machinists, here gather to witness
this severance, divorce, of mill and money.
The empty machine hall, flown nest, distressed
and rendered, jollied out with Victoriana.

Say hello to granny, her poor-house museum existence,
while money sprees his freedom. Fresh blooded,
begets wealth on the city – the waifs, the bullyboys
who barge through homes, communities.
They partition the streets into no-gos
until there is only one road in, and it‘s theirs.

The come-on of laptop glitz, tablets high on gizmos –
the fondant, and the faux-royal icing, the ganache.
The city sweats and river stinks, coin-chunky,
swears – Just One More Drink. Perspective teeters
in smoked-glass, whose interest is offshore;
and maybe thinking of us, wiping memories, accounts,
as if just the dust of passing showers.

A body, face down in the river. And no claimants.

Poetry Drawer: Ahem by Michael Murray

To meet his mother for a coffee in the market place:
not the best café; to take in the shops: not the best shops –
a lightweight coat, a pair of shoes, camel gloves.
To have grown up with catalogues, delayed payments,
life as a web of transactions, gratifications.

To dip into the hot malted froth of a cheap cappuccino.
The dutiful son; does he, ahem, convince?
Attentive, yes interested, in this wrecked relationship;
love, like meaning, is a concern with ephemera,
the comestibles and glue of gossip, is in the tut, shh, smirk.
The smear of emotions, like face powder over moisturiser,
in a kiss as the day ends. There is talk of meeting more often.
That is all. But that is not all.

Poetry Drawer: Let Them Eat Tenderloin Words by Gerard Sarnat

Before doing centrist Op-Eds, Frank Bruni
was chief restaurant critic for The New York Times,
Top Chef guest judge and struggled with bulimia…

Though some fat or sassy ragazine guidelines
caveat their submitters, Do not write about writing,
I assume we poets are among our top-heaviest

consumers of poetry: so how does it feel
for you now after that feast-of-acceptances
gobbledygook gorge’s followed by publication famine

of pan-African proportions greater than when half
the tattered inhabitants of Timbuktu starved
in 1738-56, hunger beyond any known

statistically significant shortages
within a twenty-five hundred year recorded history
of cutting food reviews by the civilized literary world?

Books From The Pantry: Testing The Delicates by Deborah Edgeley: reviewed by Kev Milsom

Testing the Delicates is a collection of poetry to raise awareness about the stigma surrounding mental health, ignorance about it and prejudice towards it, identity, isolation, memories, and understanding the past through photographs.

The voyage of this short (but perfectly formed) book plots the course of personal thoughts, emotions and memories of its author, Deborah Edgeley, as she retraces many poignant steps of her life, particularly in relation to her early years, and the connection to her mother.

Initial, cursory glances at Testing the Delicates reveal unto the reader a cocktail of emotional depth, portrayed within the forty-three pages of poetry, and prepare us for the literary voyage ahead.

As with all personal journeys, the largest challenges for the author involve:

a) including us readers as enthralled passengers for the duration of the journey.

b) providing us with relevant sources of information and education and

c) allowing us to gain a sense of empathy from our voyage into often-choppy, emotional waters that may easily infringe into whirlpool eddies formed from mental illness and depression.

For this, we naturally require a competent captain at the helm to guide us safely through these waters. Thankfully, for the reader, Captain Deborah Edgeley’s literary skills enhance our journey in two main aspects.

Firstly, the writing is beautifully expressed. This allows all passengers to relax and ease into the words, without fear of any misunderstanding, or vagueness, about the importance of the emotional messages being relayed to us.

An excellent example of this lies within the poem, ‘Thought Pictures’, which focuses on the particular aspect of depression, and how isolating this can make us feel, meaning that expressing our feelings to others becomes much more difficult. The severity of the mental downsides of watching a beloved soul dealing with mental/emotional difficulties is balanced beautifully with lighter, more comforting tones, especially when dealing with ‘imagined’ conversations with the self, at such difficult times. If the beauty and skill of wordsmithing is to conjure up relevant and powerful images via literal expression, then this nails it for me personally, as each line conjured up images of my late mother in a very similar state. Through Deborah’s words, I was able to return to my thoughts from a decade previous; each description supremely apt and meaningful.

…’See your stare, your blink
your unkempt eyebrow raise…
your tongue poke
through your wetted lip

I taste your imagined words
as you jigsaw another shade
to my thought pictures
that float in my head.

Secondly, our understanding is greatly increased, as the author has provided us with a detailed map of our journey with the inspired addition of nine full pages of notes, relating to every given poem.

This is genius, and I sincerely wish that more writers employed this option, especially within the expression of personal poetry. As passengers, we instantly know exactly where we’re going, as we are in possession of a skilled ‘tour guide’, providing us with precise information about every valuable sight along the way.

On a personal level, as someone who can easily empathise with various aspects of the subject matter, so beautifully relayed via Deborah’s words, this ‘map’ addition increases both the closeness and power of the poetry, allowing me to nod along throughout the verses, and relate them to my own personal experiences.

Criticisms? I have two:

Firstly, I got to the end of this book and eagerly wanted to hear more. The writing is so ‘spot on’ that I didn’t want the voyage to end, and became disappointed to return to the home port and disembark back on shore.

Secondly, Deborah is clearly a very skilled writer, and the prose contained within her ‘Notes’ section is relayed both simply and effectively.

As such, if there is to be a follow up book (hint hint) I would personally love to see this aspect expanded into some sections of ‘life writing’.

Like Deborah, I gave up my job to care for my ailing mother. One poem leapt out at me, ‘Act One, Scenes 1-12’, because it so beautifully emphasises those days when emotional closeness is eclipsed by the dark difficulties of basic communication, both within everyday, mundane topics, and those covering more difficult scenarios.

Shall I take you to Daddy’s grave,
tulips or sweet peas?
Talk to him or stay silent?
Trace the gold letters
with your hand or mine?

From the heart, exemplifying intelligent, thoughtful, caring words which stretch both the mind and soul, aided perfectly by illustrations from the talented artist, Mark Sheeky.

Encore please!

Whose Apple Thou Art? 

In Greenwood, studded with crab and perry,
out of tempest mind tumbled Caliban.
So say yeomen of sixteenth century,
‘Bring thee where the crabs grow,’ said the madman.

Drinking proverbial acidity,
Gossip’s Bowl was spice sipped by Bidford folk
in restaurants of ancient forestry
acid draughts intoxicate shallow jokes.

But three crabbed months had soured themselves to death.
‘He’ll never have Miranda,’ they concurred.
The Bidford souls muttered under their breath
‘Goddess and a madman?’ with spoon they stirred.

‘Whose apple thou art, gem grown from deep root?’
‘Yours, but I will never bear sweet fruit.’

Testing The Delicates from Amazon

Deborah Edgeley on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud

Mark Sheeky ArtFacebookTwitterSoundcloud

Verve Poetry Festival 2018 review by Claire Faulkner


I can’t remember how I found out about the Verve Poetry Festival, but I’m glad that I did. I think I needed to find an event like this.

Now in its second year, Birmingham’s own festival of poetry and spoken word took place in February. Its four days full of readings, performances, workshops and children’s events and prides itself on celebrating local writers, performers and the creativity of the city.

There was so much going on, it was almost impossible to decide what to attend, I was spoilt for choice. Imtiaz Dharker opened the festival on Thursday, but the list of poets involved across the four days was just staggering. These included; Karen McCarthy Woolf, Sasha Dugdale, Asha Lul Mohamud Yusuf, Liz Berry and Luke Wright.

The festival took place in Waterstones, and what a great venue. Easy to find, everything in one place, and more importantly, lots of poetry books on sale. The volunteers were helpful and approachable, and still smiling on the last day.

The first poetry event I attended was Mad and Glow with Jacqueline Saphra and Tania Hershaman. It was a clever mix of theatre and performance. Entertaining words and prose about family relationships, food and motherhood. I’m not sure if they were reading their own work, each other’s, or a combination of both, but the style and presentation worked well. It’s the first show I’ve seen where the performers have a cup of tea half way through and offer the audience marmite sandwiches.

The afternoon was destined for spoken word, and performances from Nymphs & Thugs. Four contemporary poets; Salena Godden, Matt Abbott, Maria Ferguson and Jamie Thrasivoulou. Each poet brought something completely different and unique to the stage, if you get the chance to see any of them perform I would highly recommend it. They were all brilliant.

I had such a good time at Verve. I left with more poetry books and plenty of inspiration for my own writing. The welcoming atmosphere, positivity and encouragement of this festival is infectious. It has a spirit of its own, and I’ll be back for more. I have found my poetry home, and it is at the Verve festival.

Pictures by Claire Faulkner courtesy of Tania HershamanJacqueline Saphra, Jamie Thrasivoulou and Matt Abbott.

Inky Interview Special: Colin Dardis: with Claire Faulkner

After reading your bio and website, I think you must be one of the busiest poets around at the moment. You must love what you do, but how do you fit everything in?

Geraldine O’Kane, who co-runs Poetry NI with myself, we both love poetry, and we both love seeing other people grow and develop in their writing and their discovery of poetry. So I guess if you are really passionate about something, you just find the time and energy somehow. Poetry has been very important in helping me deal with my depression: it’s created social circles and new friends, and given me a sense of self-worth, so although at times it might feel busy, it still feels vital.

You champion local poets and co-run Poetry NI. What’s the poetry scene like in Belfast at the moment?

Belfast, for a long time, had very few opportunities for poets outside of the Universities. Purely Poetry, our open mic night, has been running for over six years now, and back when we started, poetry wasn’t really seen as something to do on a night. Now, thankfully, more and more places are seeing poetry as viable, something that audiences want. We still have a long way to go – what Dublin has on in the space of a week would easily outnumber what happens in Belfast in a month. But it’s improving slowly.

As an editor and publisher you must see and read a lot of work. In some cases, you might be the first person to see it. What’s it like discovering new poetry and poets?

I think as an editor, you have to have a responsibility to discover new writers and showcase them. You can’t just publish your mates. It’s amazing to publish someone, perhaps for the very first time, and then a few years down the line, see how they have advanced. We’re fortunate in having our Purely Poetry open mic night, with new readers coming and being able to hear their work. But we are also wary of being too Belfast-centric, and want to push more North West and rural voices moving ahead.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read. Simple as that. You can’t be a writer if you don’t intake words and revel in the output of others. Join your local library. If you’ve a student, definitely read beyond what’s just on your course reading list. Subject yourself indiscriminately to books, read widely with an open mind, and don’t be afraid to try out writers that might be completely different from your own style or what you’ve read before.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to create bad art. Not everything you pen has to be prize-winning. As long as you are engaging with that creative element, and exercising your brain, the really good stuff will come eventually.

What inspires you to write? (If you have time!)

Often, I write to try and make sense of things, either of what is happening in the world, or simply how I see my own place in it. My own mental health impacts on what I might write about; often, it’s just feelings and behaviour. But I guess like most other writers, I just react to what I see and experience. Anything really can be inspiration, from a news article to the shape of a cloud, from falling in love, to making a cup of tea.

What works are you reading at the moment? and what or who would you recommend us to read?

I’ve just finished Joan Newmann’s new collection, Dead End (Summer Palace Press, 2018). All the poems muse on death to a degree, some with black humour, some with a startling candour. It’s fantastic, and I definitely recommend checking it out. I also finished reading a collection from Hungarian poet Attila József while on the train the other day. I was in the middle of Lost for Words by John Humphrys too, although I have to say some of his recent comments in the news has put me off that…

For recently released poetry, two of the best collections I read last year were Ruth Carr’s Feather and Bone (Arlen House), inspired by the lives of Dorothy Wordsworth and Mary Ann McCracken, and Michael Farry’s The Age of Glass (Revival Press).

You’re involved in so many projects. (One of my favourites is Panning for Poems, I love the design aspect.) Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment, or what’s coming up for you in the future?

Panning For Poems is Geraldine’s project: Geraldine greatly enjoys micropoetry, so she wanted to give a platform to that which didn’t necessarily deal in formal structures like haiku, tanka, etc. All the poems are printable on one A4 sheet, to fold up and keep in your pocket or bag in case of a poetry emergency!

Otherwise, Purely Poetry and FourXFour Poetry Journal are continuing as normal. The next issue of FourXFour will be out for Poetry Day Ireland, on 21st March. We’ll also be looking at doing some more live readings and slams, and ideally, we will want to release more chapbooks through Pen Points Press.

I noticed that a lot of the projects you’re involved in make poetry very accessible for readers. (FourXFour, micropoetry journals and P.O.E.T. – Poets Opposing Evil Trump are all available freely as pdfs on the Poetry NI website.) Do you think poetry is becoming more accessible than ever before?

PDFs are an easy and cheap way for us to distribute poetry. Distribution is a massive challenge. If you publish a book, how do you get it out there, to the wider reading audience? Online publishing allows you to circumnavigate that issue somewhat, but importantly, poets still need to earn a living; there needs to be a paying market alongside what is being freely accessed. So hundreds of people might download a free PDF, but if you charge for it, what happens then? Hopefully, if it’s really strong writing, people will still be willing to pay, and help a poet buy a notebook or pay the rent.

I’ve always loved poetry, so I’m biased, but I’m interested if you’ve seen or noticed a rise in the popularity of poetry in the last few years? Do you think poetry is becoming more political?

Poetry has always been political – ask Plato and Socrates. Poetry has been used through the centuries to make political points and to rebuff them. It goes back to accessibility – instead of printing a poem and nailing it to the door of your town hall, or handing them out in the market square, you now upload it, or tweet, or blog, Youtube, Soundcloud, etc. Poetry isn’t becoming more political, just more people are exposed to it, which is a damn good thing.

Would you like to share one of your poems with us?

Thank you. This one was originally published in Abridged, and will be in my upcoming collection, the x of y, available from Eyewear Publishing later this year.


We group instruments of sleep about us:
gum shield, throat spray, ear plugs, bodies given
in set agreement.

In Summer, we require less than our skins.
Dreams ruptured from the heat; stray images,
kindling for the stars.

Come November, additives of blanket,
socks, pepper the bed with one poppy red
hot water bottle.

We take up our positions, defenders
to each other’s rampart. Security
of unified arms.

Soon, you are drowsy; I begin the slow
pilot of my torso towards the moon,
moods tucked around us.

We go to our little deaths together,
awaiting the morphine touch of Somnus.
These are our soft times.

Colin’s Website

Colin on Twitter


PoetryNI on Twitter

Geraldine O’Kane on Twitter

Inky Interview Special: Dorli Nauta

You have recently written and published your book From A to A and Back Again which is based on your father’s experience of forced labour in Auschwitz 1943-5, and his letters home to Amsterdam. How fascinating. Congratulations, Dorli. Could you tell us more about it?

The first time I found out that my father, Wim Nauta, had been in Auschwitz during the Second World War, was when he told me that he was applying to the German Forced Labour Compensation Programme.

In 1942 The German State began to suffer setbacks; the advance of the army was halted, and the troops stalled at many fronts. More and more German men were sent to the front, more and more German women had to work in the war industry. There was a severe shortage of labour and the Germans started to look elsewhere for workers. The Netherlands had to supply labour also. In June 1943 there was a call up announcement for all males between the ages of 18 and 20 to report for work in Germany. When my father and his friends returned home from a rambling weekend away in the countryside, their call up papers were waiting, informing them to report to the Labour Exchange the next Thursday.

About 550k Dutch people were forced to work for the Germans. That represented, with regards to the number of inhabitants of 9 million, more than 6%. The Netherlands were hit hard. A total of some 30k people died of the consequences of this forced labour.

But Wim Nauta came back to Amsterdam, hence the title From A to A and Back Again.

In translating the memoirs, how did you try to get your father’s voice across?

I made several attempts at translating the letters. I was trying at first to keep very true to his voice, with the slang and upbeat tone of the letters. But it didn’t make for the best English, as my daughter Jessica pointed out!

After a few tries I became more relaxed about wanting to translate ad verbatim, and I concentrated more on getting the meaning across in good English.

With so much information to work on, with letters, diaries and memoirs, how did you begin to organise the structure of your book? It must have needed a lot of patience?

On the 27th January 2013, Holocaust Memorial Day, I met Chava Erlanger at the Imperial War Museum North, where she unveiled her artwork; ceramic stars representing the Star of David.

We got into conversation about the mutual connection we both have with Amsterdam. We became Facebook friends and stayed in touch that way.

When writing the book I tried to fit everything in chronologically, with links in my own voice. I found it hard to make a selection out of all the material that I had, especially all the old historical documents. I tried several ways, but nothing was ever quite right.

In May 2015 I made a version which was printed and passed around family and friends.

You have included colour reproductions of original photographs in your book with co-designer Gwen Riley Jones, a freelance photographer who works at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. What are some of the images you included, and are any images of the letters included?

Around that time I met up again with Chava in the John Rylands Library, she introduced me to the photographer Gwen Riley Jones. This time I was able to give her a version of the book, which had as working title The Ticket.

Then Chava got in touch with me and said this story needed to be published. She approached the Six Point Foundation, a charity for Holocaust survivors; they agreed to sponsor me. Gwen Riley Jones, photographer and publisher came to help me. Gwen and I worked together, editing, designing and re-editing. At last on 1st of December 2017 the book was published.

The book starts with images of my father’s photo album, followed by all the letters in Dutch on one side of the page, with the translation in English on the opposite page.

There are also images of wartime documents, notably a train ticket and a Red Cross Telegram and family photographs.

Your father was called to Germany with two of his friends. They were all musicians. Which instruments did they play, and what kind of music? How much insight did you get into all three characters through your father’s memoirs?

My father and his friends played several musical instruments; guitar, accordion and mandolin. In the photograph album A/Z Oberschlesien you can clearly see the instruments slung over their backs. The music they played were popular songs of the time such as Drei Vagabunden, which they played on stage as part of the Dutch Cabaret performance. The show was called Seltene Witzen (Silly Jokes).

I have a collection of the music they played in a folder that my father gave me. It is quite a mix amongst others: Stardust by Duke Ellington, Bye Bye Blues, Samoa Eiland, Polish folksongs, Oh Suzanna, Do You Remember The Night In Zakopane, Bing Crosby’s Cowboys’s Medley, You Are My Lucky Star, Caravan, Pagan Love Song, Poor Nelly Gray and many more in German, English, Polish and Dutch.

I don’t think I ever met the two friends Jan and Carel, but reading the letters gives you some idea of what they were like. My grandmother mentions that Wim was very lucky that his friends came with him.

Could you please share with us an extract from your book?

Extract from a letter from Wim to his family in Amsterdam:

Auschwitz, 2nd November ‘43

Dear All,

I have just received your letter dated Sunday 17th October, so that didn’t take that long to arrive; only a fortnight. You wrote that you had sent a parcel two days previously, well that was so, because yesterday I got a card to say that I could collect a parcel in Kattowitz. At five o’clock I jumped on my bike and was off, then onto the quarter to six train and at half past seven I arrived in Katto and quickly went to the Express department to collect it. Fortunately everything went really quickly and the parcel was completely in one piece and everything you wrote about was in it. It’s fantastic and of course I thank you very much. Then I had something to eat and back on the nine o’clock train.

I arrived back in Auschwitz at half past ten at night. I went to the bike shed and started pedalling so as to be back quickly. I was about halfway, when passing the bus stop I saw a girl of about twenty five years old. She asked me if there were still any buses going. Well of course there weren’t any buses anymore; she had two suitcases with her and was on her way to the station. I decided to do the gallant thing and put the suitcases on my back and together we went to the station. On the way she told me that she came from Vienna and that her husband had been stabbed to death in a street fight, during the revolution. So she was from the right side, and according to her, almost all Viennese are. When you go into a shop there to buy something, you wouldn’t dream of giving the Hitler salute, not like here, because there you wouldn’t get served. According to her, Vienna is still the way it was before the war. At half past eleven we arrived at the station and we said our goodbyes. She gave me three apples, a handful of cigarettes (eight!) and 5M. Of course she also asked me to write to her sometime. Great wasn’t it? The only thing was I didn’t get back until half past twelve, but that did not matter.

As regards moving on Moe, that’s nothing you know, we would like to, but you can’t leave here at I.G.Farben.

As forced labour my father and friends were allowed to travel on specific times and days within a 100 km radius.

Another extract taken from the memoirs my father wrote; I paraphrase, it concerns the immediate aftermath of the night of 13th February 1945 in Dresden:

After 5 am there was no ‘all clear’ siren. The electricity had been cut. They waited until they heard no more bombs drop, then they went outside.

The first thing Wim saw was a dead horse lying on the pavement. The house next door was on fire. The inhabitants were taking their furniture outside and Wim and his friends helped them to get it all out. They debated what to do next. It was clear that they had to leave Dresden as fast as possible. They made their way towards the Elbe. Dresden was a big, smoking rubbish heap. The anti-aircraft gang had made little paths where possible, between the debris. Along these paths they arrived at the river, but they didn’t know what was safer; to stay on this side or to go over the bridge, which miraculously had hardly been damaged. They decided to cross the river. At the other side they walked down the steps, to get to the sandy riverbank. Under the arches they saw an unbelievable amount of dead bodies; people who had lost their lives during the bombardments. When Wim saw this he became very frightened and realised that it would only need a bomb fragment or a splinter of the anti-aircraft fire, for him to end up amongst these victims.

They were walking along the river’s edge, when they heard the buzzing of aircraft up high. From the bombardments on Auschwitz, Wim had heard about the theory that a second bomb never falls in the same place. So if you were too late for a shelter, you had to jump into a bomb crater, stand to the side and hope for the best. The three friends put this theory into practice and ran from crater to crater.

Where is the best place to get a copy of From A to A and Back Again?

My publishers are a small company and I am my own agent. To get a copy of my book you can send a cheque for £16.99 plus postage of £2.90 together with your address to:

Dorli Nauta, 16 Eaton Road, Bowdon Altrincham WA14 3EH Cheshire UK.

I also have a Facebook Page and you can message me on there, or on Messenger.

Have you any future plans for further books, or projects?

I haven’t used all the material and documents I have in my possession, so I might write a kind of ‘follow up’ to this book. I also write and tell stories for children; so far for my grandchildren but I have plans to publish a small collection sometime.