Thursday, October 09, 2014

Rending the Garment by Willa Schneberg

                                   Rending the Garment        Willa Schneberg               New York: Box Turtle Press

Review by Pam Rosenblatt

Family has been defined as “a group of people who are closely related by birth, marriage, or adoption”; as “a group of people living together and functioning as a single household, usually consisting of parents and their children”; and as “lineage (or) all the people who are descended from a common ancestor”.[1] Most people have or had a family throughout their lives, unless a person is an orphan, a person without a mother or a father and perhaps without relatives.

                Willa Schneberg’s Rending the Garment is about family: its positives and its negatives, its ups and downs sides; its real and its imaginative sides; its life and death sides; and its religious and traditional sides. 

Schneberg writes about her parents and herself as a Jewish immigrant family adapting and not adapting to the American lifestyle. She has put together a book that many people, especially those individuals who come from Jewish backgrounds, can relate to, can understand. And Schneberg manages to achieve these common bonds through clear, articulate, descriptive writing developed from personal experiences. She develops her writings with the devices of persona and metaphor. She has compiled a 103 page book filled with poems, flash fiction, prose poems, and conjures up past ancestors and historical persons.[2]

This book is not an easy read sometimes. Often Schneberg deals with difficult issues and situations, like in the poems, “Tunnel Vision”, “Grief”, and “Teaching Poetry at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health”. 

“Tunnel Vision” deals with Schneberg’s father’s impending death and her father’s struggle to
outsmart it:

“Tunnel Vision”

Although tunnels never end,
when the young psychologist
he loves like a son
says he’ll wait on the other side,
Ben pretends he’s a rubber ball
that rolls in by mistake:

sick to his stomach,
gulping air,
his heart pounds
like when he lost his wife
at the behemoth department store
on Herald Square.

But the tunnel doesn’t chain him to stone
or cover his eyes with its black palms.
Instead he feels sunlight on his face,
and bellows: fuck-you all,
I licked this thing!

But death eventually does come to Ben Schneberg, as read in “Grief”, which is about the mourning of Willa Schneberg’s father. In this poem, Schneberg understands her family structure has changed and imagines how an almost mystical chaos that is happening because of her father’s passing:  


The sorcerers are bored and frustrated
standing in their glittery robes and pointy hats
in the corner of my parents’ small kitchen
where the cupboards never close properly,
the pilot light always goes out, and
my father remains spindly and mute
as before he died.

They kill time rolling small glass balls
In their palms and conjuring
the electric can opener
to delid all the tuna cans,
but finally the incantations and
wand waving work.

My father is morphing
into his debonair self, tall if carriage
as if a picture were about to be taken
in three-quarter profile, a pipe in his mouth.

He vanishes.
Ashes burn in an ashtray,
the room thick with sweet smoke.

He reappears plumper, but still translucent
holding a bowl with a puddle
of vanilla ice cream and canned peach juice.

He floats down and sits.
The index cards are still
where he left them
waiting for names of uncracked books
and Dewey decimals.

The sorcerers do my bidding
and free him to be
who he never was in life.
Today he knows origami.
Under his hands
library index cards moonlight
as snails, whales and kangaroos.

The sorcerers are delighted with themselves.
Now, in search of my mother
they squish together for a ride
In the motorized stair chair
my father used at the end.

They find her fast asleep in the den
bent over a crossword puzzle.
When she awakens
all the empty squares are filled-in with:

                       I LOVE YOU  I

                                          Y O U

Dealing with the death of a loved one is usually trying, but having to tend with people who are in emotional and/or psychological pain is sometimes just as painful. In “Teaching Poetry at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health”, Schneberg  writes, “I fear I will end up like Anne Sexton,/ a patient in the same mental hospital/where she taught poetry to ‘Mayflower screwballs’/with names like Higginson and Bowditch.”

                In “Teaching Poetry at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health”, she describes her “students (who) subsist in childhood bedrooms,/group homes, flophouses, efficiencies,/having earned their diplomas/from Creedmore, Pilgrim State and Bellevue.” 

Her “students” have mental health problems, as implied when Schneberg writes:

In group they write:
“I hate my finger. It is bent and ugly…”
“Is madness madness?” “…with you, neither female/
nor male, simply both…”
“… but one day I was going and I met myself coming
so I killed myself.”
Schneberg writes about the pain that she senses from her students.

Sometimes while teaching I see myself
squinched up, facing the wall;

Instead of croaking alone,
we O.D. in our poems.

“Teaching Poetry at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health” concerns itself with mental illness – how it affecting her students and the fear of it for herself.  
                Willa Schneberg’s Rending the Garment is a book that deals with tough situations, focusing mainly on inner family issues. It’s about life. This book is a good read.


[1] “Family”, Encarta Dictionary: English (North America), Microsoft Word 2010.
[2] Willa Schneberg, Back cover quote, Rending the Garment, New York: Box Turtle Press, 2014

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Jennifer Matthews debuts her new single ‘Oh Don’t, She Said’ with special guests

Jennifer Matthews

Jack Holland

Doug Holder

     Jennifer Matthews debuts her new single ‘Oh Don’t, She Said’

Celebration of the Marriage of Poetry and Song
Saturday, October 18th 7:30 pm
@ Arts at The Armory
191 Highland Ave. Somerville, MA
Come Celebrate in the Release of the song “Oh Don’t, She Said” A collaboration by Songstress
Jennifer Matthews and Poet Doug Holder. Enjoy live musical sets by Sam Franklin & his band, Jennifer Matthews with Jack Holland on electric guitar, and special guest  Jennifer Greer. Also, a poetry reading by Doug Holder and live, interactive drawing/painting with Syed Zaman.

doors 7pm
About Jennifer’s new single ‘Oh Don’t She Said’ - Jennifer wrote this song after her friend and notable Boston poet, Doug Holder, showed her his poem: “Oh don’t, she said, it’s cold.” After reading it, Jennifer felt inspired and heard a song in it. She had to change some of the words to make it work lyrically with the music, but she made sure to stay close to the original poem as much as possible. Jennifer played all the instruments on it and engineered it. It was mixed by Phil Greene at Normandy Sound, who worked with the likes of Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and many, many other noted artists.
For more info, interviews, pictures or advanced copy of the new record/single please e-mail or call.

Oh Don’t She Said

"Jennifer Matthews, a troubadour known to swing vocally from the sweetness of Kate Bush to the sass of Janis Joplin"
"At times as individual as PJ Harvey and Kate Bush, at times as hippie-sensual as Neil Young and Joan Osborne, Matthews covers a lot of ground.  She's an appealing chameleon." -- Steve Morse , Boston Globe

"Jennifer is an artist of great versatility with the ability to play any of her songs with great emotion... and musical beauty... Her talent as an artist is not to be ignored." ---Michael Friedman, Skope Magazine

"Jennifer is the specter of Patti Smith meeting Nick Drake, Rumi whirling with Billie Holiday, the perennial Girl-with-a-Guitar, a Radiohead having "better days", a little Joni Mitchell and David Bowie, Yes, multifaceted!" -- Mike Amado, Open Bark

"Her melodies are as appealing and azure as her guitar
"--  Richard Hill, BBC radio

Thundamoon Records Take a risk to be your own creative self
artist management · rose gardina · · 508-654-3205 · usa

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Pillowman: Black Box at Arsenal Center for the Arts: Now Playing: A Play by Martin McDonagh

Black Box at Arsenal Center for the Arts
Now Playing
A Play by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Joey DeMita F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

There is always this question: do playgoers go to see a play or to see the actors. The FUDGE presentation of Pillowman answers the question, at least for this play: it is the

The play itself is gruesome. It is advertised as presenting murder, torture, infanticide, patricide, matricide, suicide, executions, totalitarianism, abusive police, toxic relationships, mercy killings, dysfunctional families and impossible choices. It lives up to the description which is what makes it gruesome.

It is, however, Matt Phillips and Paul Kmiec who make it an exciting evening event. Phillipps plays Katurian at first as a meek writer then as a madman and a killer. At various times he speaks in the voice of a small girl and on another occasion with an Englishman’s accent. Seemingly there is nothing he cannot do on the stage and as the star of the show he lives up to what a star is. Paul Kmiec as Katurian’s brother Michal provides an astounding performance in the highlight scene when he and Katurian confront each other.

All this praise does not take away from stellar supporting roles by J. Mark Morrison as Tupolski and Ryan MacPherson at Ariel. The two play a detective (Tupolski) and a police officer (Ariel) in a totalitarian state. At one point Tupolski tells Katurian that he
is the good cop and Ariel is the bad cop. But in reality, both cops have their secret pasts and both show cruel and tender sides.

The play itself borrows themes from a number of plays, movies, stories most prominently perhaps, Of Mice and Men. Although it won two best play awards and received three other nominations for best play, it is the acting, not the story that makes this an experience worth encountering.

And one can thank Director Joey DeMita for bringing out the best in his actors. Okay, so
forget the plot, the story, the ending. Go see this because Phillipps and Kmiec are terrific
and Morrison and MacPherson are excellent.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer, Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and Author, Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 8
Publisher, Muddy River Books