Save the Dates! 2015 Event Calendar

VoiceCatcher women reading and sharing:

Thursday, January 29, 2015
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions – Reading
Rain or Shine Coffee House
5941 SE Division St.
Portland, OR
7:00-9:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 28, 2015
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions – Reading
Multnomah County Central Library
US Bank Room
801 S.W. 10th Avenue
Portland, OR 97205
1:00-3:00 p.m.

Monday, April 20, 2015
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions  Reading
The Glyph Café and Art Space
804 NW Couch Street
Portland, OR
5:00-7:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 14, 2015
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions  – Reading
The Waypost
3120 N. Williams Avenue
Portland, OR
7:00-9:00 p.m.

Update: 2014 VoiceCatcher Event Calendar

Events Brochure August 2014 for downloading or printing (PDF)

VoiceCatcher women reading and sharing:

Monday, April 28, 2014
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & vision – Reading
Conversations with Writers
(Find the details here)
Hillsboro Main Library
2850 Brookwood Pkwy.
Hillsboro, OR 97124
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 18, 2014
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions – Reading
Peregrine Literary Series
Holy Names Heritage Center
17425 Holy Names Drive
Lake Oswego, OR 97036
7:00 p.m.

Saturday, June 7, 2014
VoiceCatcher Fundraiser: Workshop with Susan Degreitas
“Poetry of Witness: Speaking the Unspeakable”
5441 SE Belmont St.
Portland, OR 97215
10:00 a.m. – noon

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions – Reading
Milepost 5
900 Northeast 81st Avenue
Portland, OR 97213
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 (New Location)
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions – Reading
(Details here)
Mountain Writers Series
The Glyph Café and Art Space
804 NW Couch Street
Portland, OR
6:00 p.m. Social Hour
7:00 p.m. Reading

Monday, September 22, 2014 (NEW)
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions  Reading
The Glyph Café and Art Space
804 NW Couch Street
Portland, OR
7:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 (NEW)
VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions Reading
Thursday Night Reading Series
Rain or Shine Coffee House
5941 SE Division St.
Portland, OR
6:30 – 8:00 p.m.


Join Us Monday, March 24, 2014


Verse in Person at the Northwest Branch Multnomah County Library
2300 NW Thurman (at NW 23rd), Portland
6:00 pm – 7:45 pm

Thank you Verse in Person and Multnomah County Library Northwest.

VoiceCatcher 24MAR14 event details (link to printable or sharable PDF).


Capturing the Essence of Things: A conversation with Willa Schneberg

by S. H. Aeschliman

The first thing I notice about Willa Schneberg when I meet her in person at the Oregon Jewish Museum is that she’s wiry, compact and energetic. She gives off an aura of strength, or maybe it’s resilience.

The second thing I notice about her is the accent: East Coast. New Jersey? Later I’ll be reminded that she’s from Brooklyn.

She has invited me to join her and her friends today on a tour of her exhibit, “The Books of Esther.” She is business-like. Certain. She reminds me of a teacher giving instruction to a class. In a way it makes sense: She is the expert here. But I can’t help thinking that her manner is a little at odds with the subject of her exhibit.

My larynx “The Books of Esther” is about the life of Schneberg’s mother, who is dead. She had cancer of the larynx, her larynx was removed, and for the last several years of her life she wrote down everything that she would have otherwise said aloud. Esther’s notebooks are here, as are excerpts of her writing that Schneberg has scanned. There’s a photograph of the mechanical voice box Esther refused to use. A video with snippets of Esther speaking in a time before her larynx was removed.

Willa's exhibit I am surprised to see ceramic replicas of some of Esther’s things. Why has Schneberg recreated her mother’s notebooks and WAAC cap in clay?

She says she wanted to capture the essence of the things. It is her act of interpretation, her way of drawing the viewer’s attention to what she finds important: the designs on the notebooks, the names on the cap.

I will take care We have finished our tour, and Schneberg wants to know if we have questions. “Why did you choose to make this a public exhibit?” I ask. “Why not keep these mementos of your mother private?”

She says the exhibit is to help anyone who has ever experienced loss and grief. For anyone who has lost a parent or who will lose a parent. Which is all of us.

I try to imagine how it would feel to refashion my dead mother’s things in clay with my own hands, as Willa has done. My mother is still alive. The word loss haunts me.

When I start to cry, Willa touches my elbow and asks, “What’s coming up for you right now?”

In my head I’m already calling her Willa, though she has not given me permission to do so.

The stories behind the work
A few days later, Willa and I have a Skype date. We talk about her process for her most recently finished work, A Good Time to Die. It’s a collection of linked poems about her father, her mother, and herself: line poems, prose poems and “found poems” – poems she found in transcripts of conversations between her and her parents.

Because the book is a mixture of poetry genres, she’s been having a hard time finding a publisher. But she says, “I’m interested in breaking through traditional genre constraints.” My heart beats a little faster when she says this. I too am interested in defying conventions.

Though she doesn’t say specifically how long she’s been working on A Good Time to Die, I get the impression it’s been a long time. Years. As evidence: the original title of the project, Three-Way Conversation, inspired the name of her website.

Her husband, Robin Bagai, was her first reader. “He’s a great editor,” she says. “He has a wonderful ear [for poetry].” Then John Morrison and Francis Payne Adler – two writers from her monthly peer writing group, The Odds – read her manuscript. She also relied on Barry Sanders, a professor at PNCA, about whom Willa speaks with respect and affection. When he said he thought the manuscript was ready, she started sending it out. “When the rejections start coming in, then you look at it again,” she says. Every time she sends it out, she finds something new to revise.

“Writing is about truth telling”
When I ask Willa why she writes, she tells me the story behind a poem from her third collection, Storytelling in Cambodia. In Cambodia during the genocides, a woman living in a village controlled by the Khmer Rouge was able to get an extra ration of soup – just weak broth with a few grains of rice – because she hid the body of her dead son. “People need to know about stories like hers,” she says.

I ask her why she makes her work public, and she gives “The Books of Esther” as an example. “We all know what it’s like to lose someone,” she says. “Everyone has a mother, and everyone’s mother will die. It’s a metaphor for people who don’t have a voice. I wanted her words to be sung.” She’d wanted to show her mother’s ability as a thinker and a writer. To make people think about their own mothers.

“There is a universality about personal experience,” she says, and I start getting really excited. “That’s what we know is the best writing anyway,” she says. “You use specific descriptions. You paint a picture with words.” This is something I’ve been thinking about and trying to do with my creative non-fiction: connecting with others through the specifics of my experience.

She explains her work as an artist as looking carefully at the world and transcribing what she sees. “Writing is about truth telling,” Willa says. “Emotional truths, not factual truths.” One advantage to writing poetry over memoir, she mentions, is that there is “a seamlessness between emotional and factual truth.”

The company of people who care about creating
But Willa also makes her work public because it’s a way of participating in community. “It’s wonderful to feel there’s some validation coming from the external world,” she says.

Some of the communities she’s involved in include Oregon Book Award winners, Friends of William Stafford, Literary Arts, The Odds (her writing group), VoiceCatcher, the Jewish community, and a Buddhist Sangha in Portland. She’s also on the board of Calyx Press, a feminist press out of Corvallis, Oregon. And she’s participated in communities through winning fellowships and residencies. She appreciates feeling respected by other writers and being in the company of people who care about creating.

Willa encourages other writers to find support through their local writing communities. When I ask her for ideas, she suggests going to open mics like the ones at Stonehenge Studios or Back Fence. Willa also suggests going to readings, joining or forming a peer writing group, and taking classes at The Attic Institute.

Where truth and beauty intersect
Later, after the interview is over, I reflect on what we’ve talked about: social justice, community, process, concrete details. I think about Willa’s poem “Tiny Monuments,” the one that was published in VoiceCatcher6. The image of these rusted metal canisters shining like multi-colored jewels. Whole worlds in themselves. I think about the poems from Storytelling in Cambodia that are on her website and the photo she took of a pile of human skulls. I think about the ceramic sculptures of Esther’s notebooks and about the notebooks themselves.

Willa’s art is where truth and beauty intersect. The subjects she chooses are often painful or horrifying. But she chooses details that bring out the beauty in those subjects. Not in a way that romanticizes them or downplays the sadness. The beauty and the sadness exist side-by-side. She helps us see both. Somehow her art manages to present the horrible truth while offering comfort at the same time.

As such, Willa’s poetry is a form of witnessing. She gives voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. Like the woman in Cambodia. Like her mother, Esther. Like the people at the mental hospital whose cremated remains went unclaimed. And that’s exactly what Willa has set out to do: to archive, to be political, to narrate the emotional realities of those who would otherwise go unheard. Willa Schneberg, too, is a catcher of voices.

More examples of Willa’s ceramics and photography

Willa SchnebergPoet, ceramic artist and photographer Willa Schneberg moved to Portland in 1993 after spending a year doing social work in Cambodia. Of Portland, Willa says, “It suits me. I love living here.” She has a private psychotherapy practice in the Pearl and teaches poetry workshops. Willa’s poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, and her book In the Margins of the World won the 2002 Oregon Book Award for Poetry. She’s currently shopping for a publisher for her manuscript A Good Time to Die. You can learn more about her work by visiting her website.

S.H. AeschlimonS. H. Aeschliman is a native Oregonian living in Portland with her dog, Milton. By day she’s a freelance writer, editor, educator and learning assessment consultant. By night she’s a writer, reader, learner and dreamer. She blogs about culture, travel, food and lifestyle and writes poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and cross-genre work. Her prose piece “On Voice” appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of VoiceCatcher, and she’s thrilled to be volunteering for the organization. You can learn more about her work on her website.

Cindy Williams Gutiérrez Teaches “Narrative Poetry: Turning Story into Poetry”

Headshot of Cindy Williams-GutierrezPoetry and storytelling share the same roots of the ancient oral tradition. So why not tell a story as a poem?

What turns a story into poetry? We’ll explore the narrative poems of Ellen Bass, Elizabeth Bishop, Marilyn Chin, Louise Erdrich, Martín Espada, Lawson Inada, June Jordan, and Larry Levis. The focus of this class is to generate new work, to tell the story of your own life and the stories you have witnessed. There will also be time to share our poems and become curious about how, in the words of poet Jeanne Marie Beaumont, “to go further, deeper, wilder.” Together we’ll discover what can emerge in a poem that might lay hidden in a story.

All genres are welcome.

Friday afternoons, 1 pm – 3 pm

February 10 – April 13, 2011 (8 weeks, no class on 3/2 or 3/16)

At my home in the hinterlands of Oregon City (I will send directions)
$250 ($75 deposit)

Register by e-mailing: Class size is limited to 6.

Cindy Williams Gutiérrez is a poet-dramatist who collaborates with artists in music, theatre, and visual art. Her collection, the small claim of bones, is forthcoming from Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe (Arizona State University). Her poems and reviews have been published in Borderlands, Calyx, Harvard’s Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Quiddity, UNAM’s Periódico de poesía, Rain Taxi, Rattle, Windfall, and ZYZZYVA, among others. Cindy has performed her Aztec-inspired poems accompanied by pre-Columbian instrumentalist Gerardo Calderón through AWP, Washington Humanities, and the Miracle Theatre’s Luna Nueva Festival. In 2009, she and Calderón released their CD “Emerald Heart.” Three of Cindy’s plays have been produced by the Miracle Theatre Group and the Insight Out Theatre Collective.

Cindy has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine Stonecoast Program. She has taught creative writing through the Attic, Annie Bloom’s Books, the Oregon Poetry Association, USM’s Stonecoast Program, Wordstock, and Writers in the Schools. In 2009, one of her ESL students won the Tin House Poetry Prize.