Storytelling in Cambodia

This moving and image-rich cycle of linked poems journeys from Cambodia’s mythic time, through the “killing fields,” to the UN presence during the first “free & fair,” since the French colonial period. It bears witness to the plight of the Cambodian people and to all people who have endured holocausts.  

Find the book here:
Calyx Books
From the Author


"In Storytelling in Cambodia Willa Schneberg writes a searing account of one of the darkest moments in modern history, Schneberg's haunting verse testimony, her portraits of those who dragged a once peaceful country into the nightmare of genocide, her passionate homage to an ancient culture now irrevocably lost move the reader even as they horrify." 

Carolyn Forche 

"At their best, these poems are intimately, despairingly human, with fabulous stories to tell.”

William T. Vollman

“Storytelling in Cambodia bears witness, in poem after poem, to the rawness of remembered passion. Willa Schneberg’s poems about Cambodia, where she worked in the early 1990s for the UN, beautifully convey the sensuousness, excitement, and uncertainty of a peculiar, tumultuous time. All of her poems take us with her as she catches often painful experiences in her hands like water from a tap and then, with transcendent skill, into creations that shimmer in the heat.”                                                                          

David P. Chandler

Author of The Tragedy of Cambodian History and Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot 

 Registration Site Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 1993

Willa Schneberg was recently interviewed for Kickstart: The Newsletter That Gets Writers Writing on the relationship between art and healing and social justice writing. To see the article please click here.


Anticipating the lovers
who will soon be voices with bodies again,
the comforter on the bed fills with light
the color of sky when day puts up her feet and
slips on royal blue slippers.
Outside their window
the man on the roof dangles a dancing bear
or a baby grand or whatever
the lovers want to unhook and haul inside.
Finally, their bodies are fields
of yellow tulips fringed purple
slowly opening their fists,
the bells of St. Bavo singing scat,
fire-breathing dragons barreling out of children's books
to race through the streets of Haarlem.
Belts daddies used for beatings
stay in the loops of their pants.
Charred bodies resurrect themselves noticing
a faint smell of smoke in their sleek hair or
the tweed of their jackets, while lovers
who parted without declaring their love
feverishly lick stamps on envelopes
of yellowed love letters
or claw at blood-red wax seals.

Book Review, B.T. Shaw, The Oregonian, July 23, 2006

"Two Poets Grapple with Legacy of Holocaust," Eleanor Berry, Oregon State Poetry Association Newsletter, Vol. 49, No. 4, March 2007 

Book Review, Lori Tsang, Multicultural Review, Spring 2007 

Book Review, Judith Massee, Oregon Writers Colony Colonygram, Vol. 22, No 1, Jan / Feb 2007 

Book Review, Camille-Yvette Welsch, Foreword Reviews, Nov/ Dec. 2006 

"One of the ways we can fight oppression," Josephine Bridges, The Asian Reporter, Oct 10, 2006 

"New Local Books," Jewish Review, Sept. 15, 2006