Poet Series #8 – Rending the Garment
Poetry. Jewish Studies. RENDING THE GARMENT is a narrative tapestry encompassing persona poems, prose poems, flash fiction, imagined meetings with historical figures, ancestral appearances, and ephemera. This series of linked poems explores the life and times of one Jewish family.
What they are saying…
“RENDING THE GARMENT tells a familiar tale, the Jewish immigrant family romance, but with an important difference: using shifting points of views and narrative interruptions (biographical essays, scolding notes from school Principals, diary entries), not to mention a cast of characters as lively as a borscht belt revue, Willa Schneberg tells her story from the inside, where grief and love live side by side in bed, ‘neither old, nor young’ bodies outside of time. A fresh, original and moving addition to our literature.”—Philip Schultz
“RENDING THE GARMENT draws us intimately into one family—and through them into the world of immigrant Jews born almost a century ago and their lives in America. Willa Schneberg has a fine ear and her poems capture their voices, their cadences, the way they think, mixing Yiddish with English, the old and the new. The people of her poems come alive on the page: irreverant, beautiful, flawed, funny, sad, loving, opinionated, stubborn, real. They embody a wealth of contradictions, perfectly exemplified in these lines that her mother—who smoked so glamorously and lost her voice to cancer—writes in a notebook near the end of her life, ‘I’m Jewish. / There is no God.’ I recognize these people and I come to care for them deeply.”—Ellen Bass
“In RENDING THE GARMENT, Willa Schneberg juxtaposes humor and heartbreak, Jewish Brooklyn’s cultural/ linguistic referents and post-modernity. Readers hear the iconic, self-mocking conversation of familial bickering and the deep devotion of a daughter charged with helping her parents die ‘good’ deaths. ‘Soon it will be as if language never knew him,’ says one speaker of her father. With precise, unsparing detail, Schneberg’s language rewards our journey into the difficult, mortal territory we all share.”—Robin Becker
“In one memorable episode in Willa Schneberg’s RENDING THE GARMENT, the author’s dying mother sits by the hospital bed of the Israeli poet Abba Kovner. ‘Stars don’t go out when we die,’ he writes on her notepad. ‘Now you’re talking,’ she writes in reply. This funny, poignant imagined moment is representative of the moments Schneberg has gathered to create her richly woven memoir in poetry of a loving, contentious Jewish family and the world they lived in of junk men, corset shops, and immigrant ambitions.”—Lee Sharkey
Willa Schneberg has authored four other poetry collections: In The Margins of The World (Plain View Press), recipient of the Oregon Book Award in Poetry, Box Poems (Alice James Books), STORYTELLING IN CAMBODIA (Calyx Books, 2006), and the letterpress chapbook The Books of Esther (Paper Crane Press) produced in conjunction with her interdisciplinary exhibit at the Oregon Jewish Museum, Fall of 2012.Willa has read at the Library of Congress; her poems were heard on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, and she has been a fellow at Yaddo and MacDowell. She is a social worker in private practice and a visual artist. Willa lives with her husband in Portland, Oregon. You can visit her website at www.threewayconversation.org.