Now Celebrating 21 Years of Anthology and 20 Years of Chapbook Publication  

The Hudson Valley Writers' Center
Sleepy Hollow, New York


In this issue...

Poems from the 2011 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition

Finalists, in alphabetical order:

A poem by Suzanne Cleary and her review of Enjoy Hot or Iced by Denise Duhamel and Amy Lemmon 

Slapering Hol Press authors Amy Lemmon and Liz Ahl out and about.

A poem by Lynn McGee and her review of Driving Montana, Alone, by Katie Phillips 

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Poems from the 2011
Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition

2011 Winner

Burn Pit
By Mary Armstrong from Burn Pit

Today we burn the sediment:  a crust of oil
that lines the pit behind the Hoffman Well.
Smoke sends the stench of sulfur through
the woods, clouds windows of the Hoffmans' house,
and drops a mist of ash into the wide eyes
of a wooden cow, staked in front yard grass.

Mrs. Hoffman watches from her porch,
one hand across her mouth, the other
at her heart. We keep our distance
from the flame, let it have its way
with what has hardened in the pit.
In the swift exchange from heat to blaze,
a burning harvest mouse runs circles in
wild grass until it is more fire than mouse.
When it falls into the last glow of its flame,
one of us stamps what is left into the dirt.

Bees rise like sparks from yellow grass.
The Hoffmans' dog pulls at his chain.
Old dog, there's nothing you can do,
but stand the smoke and wait, as we do,
incidental now to what we've set, waiting
for the end of fire.

Mary Armstrong is a native of Los Angeles, where she serves as financial officer of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival. She previously served as co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets Series. Her poems have appeared in more than fifty literary journals, including The Missouri Review, Nimrod, The Burnside Review, The Potomac Review, and the anthologies Grand Passion: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond, and Open Windows. She has been a finalist in numerous poetry contests, including the Strokestown (Ireland) International Award. She is president of an independent oil and gas production company and lives in West Hills, California with her husband.


2011 Finalists

Monkey Spinning a Prayer Wheel
By Lisa Bellamy from the manuscript Nectar

I staggered out of the theater after watching Waiting for Godot.
Jeez, I griped to Peter, That's it?   We're all just wind and gristle?
Yep, he said after a minute, and I knew he was trying to remember
whether he'd stuck the parking ticket in his wallet or pocket.
He rather gallantly takes the notion of a meaningless universe in stride,
while I feel like a bewildered monkey spinning a prayer wheel
when I attempt to contemplate the so-called larger questions.
At the Tibetan Buddhist center downtown, we recite the Heart Sutra:
Perceiving that personality is inherently empty saves beings from suffering,
as monks, red cheeks puffed out like 20 Dizzy Gillespies, accompany us,
blowing long horns, strident heralds announcing ego's apocalypse,
and I'm thinking, what? What are we talking about here? 
I recite daily my version of Marvin Gaye's mantra as fast as I can:
What's going on, what's going on, what's really going on?
Oh God, send me someone wise and shimmering,
send me the archangel who carries the sword that cuts through confusion
or, if there's no archangel handy, send me a soothing, jazzy brunch voice
and an arm pulling me onto the raft as I thrash in the river of dukkha,
in my memory of chipping my tooth on the granite rock in our backyard,
and me wailing as my mother ran from her chaise lounge
where she'd been sunbathing and reading Leon Uris; her freckled arms
and the smell of her suntan oil-where is she?  Where is she?

Originally published in The Massachusetts Review, Autumn, 2010


Lisa Bellamy teaches at The Writers Studio. Her poems and prose have appeared in Triquarterly, The Sun, Massachusetts Review, New Ohio Review, Cimarron Review, and Tiferet, among other publications. She won the 2008 Fugue Poetry Prize. She graduated from Princeton and lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.


From Juvey
by Brian Patrick Heston from the manuscript Barking at the Storm

It's like when your fist connects to that sweet
spot between the jaw and neck. One jaw shatters
as easily as any other, and if you listen, you can
hear it. But it's not how they say, that your mind
goes blank and all you see is black. Everything
gets bright, so I could see weeds being born
from the sidewalk beneath his head. They asked,
"Was it planned?" It wasn't and it was. Dude
probably thought we'd kick him a while then let him
jet. That's what we thought, too. We cornered
him in the lot behind Newt's Playground; we were
far from any window or door. Doug was the first
to use the bat. We took turns after that. No one
punked out. We were long gone before the first siren.
No one even said "cops." What really stopped us
was boredom. After a while, it didn't mean anything,
like burning a dead cat. I'll tell you, it does stay
with you, attaches itself to some unreachable place
you never knew. They say you're hollow after.
That's not true, either. Dr. Lester says I need to take
personal responsibility, so he gives me an exercise
where I have to write a letter of apology. Sends me
off by myself with a paper and pen. All I've
managed to write so far is: least you weren't there
for most of it. Next time you know not to get caught.
That's when I remember there isn't any such thing
as a next time. So I grab another sheet and try
to figure out how to fill all this empty space


Brian Patrick Heston grew up in Philadelphia. He holds an MFA in fiction from George Mason University and an MFA in poetry from Rutgers University. He has won a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and been a finalist in the River Styx International Poetry Competition, the Sow's Ear Chapbook Contest, and the Seven Kitchens Press Chapbook Contest. His poetry and fiction have appeared in such publications as West Branch, Many Mountains Moving, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Poet Lore. Presently he teaches writing at Rowan University and Delaware Valley College and is an associate editor with Many Mountains Moving Press.


The Cow Callers
by Cindy Hunter Morgan from the manuscript The Sultan, the Skater, the Bicycle Maker

It is summertime and the cows
are grazing in mountain pastures,
stalked all day by women in white
aprons who sing wordless songs,
calling the cows, calling each other,
calling forest trolls hiding
beneath mushroom caps and
last autumn's leaves.
The music is clear and pure
and travels easily through woods
and over hillsides, a high arc of sound
so beautiful that men three kilometers away
pause, lean on the handles of their scythes,
too charmed to work.
It is hard to find time to churn butter,
knit stockings, make cheese.
The days are so long,
the nights short and light,
all the women seem to do
is herd cattle.
The cows will follow their music
anywhere, and the women
have fallen in love with it too,
so easily does it pour from their mouths,
a liquid they are scarcely aware of producing,
a sound that is never low enough,
never far enough back in the throat
to swallow, to claim.
It is no wonder they are thirsty,
dipping ladle after ladle into their milk pails,
desperate for some trace of their art -
a taste of something they have sung,
music they ache to posess.


Originally published in Frostwriting (, titled as "Sweden, 1847."


Cindy Hunter Morgan's work has appeared in West Branch, Tar River Poetry, Bateau, Sugar House Review, Weave, The Christian Science Monitor, The Michigan Poet, and elsewhere. For ten years, she worked in the orchestra field, directing publicity for the Grand Rapids Symphony and, later, the Lansing Symphony Orchestra.


by Michael Schmeltzer from the manuscript Elegy/Elk River

I know things. For instance,

when I talk to certain men
about how a hummingbird's tongue

laps up nectar, their eyes
donut-glaze, and they bore a hole

clean through to the core
of me, right where I hide

my secret-self like a pit

of a cherry. I'm not psychic,
but I know what they're thinking.

I also know the exoskeleton
of a cricket

is cousin to the jaw harp,
but one plays music for the moon,

the other for the sun.
I listened to one chirp,

caught between the screen
and bedroom window.

For days I listened, feeling awful
for my curiosity, needing to know

what happens when we're trapped.  
Some nights I hear hissing

from my mother's stove.
Her homemade nectar boils over

on the hot coils, bright red snakes
laying eggs of steam. I know heat;

I know how to hatch anything.

Originally published in Gulf Stream Magazine

Michael Schmeltzer earned an MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. He is a poetry co-editor for A River & Sound Review and is a three-time nominee of the Pushcart Prize.

Out and About with SHP Authors


Amy Lemmon with Kentaro Fujioka at his exhibition at The Nippon Club in front of the art (paper with acrylic) used for the chapbook cover of Enjoy Hot or Iced: Poems in Conversation and a Conversation.

Liz Ahl, former Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition winner, at Frost Place where she was invited to read Frost's poem "Acquainted With the Night" this past summer.


A Poem and Review

Postcard from the Art Colony
by Suzanne Cleary

Consider this: that anything can become a poem
if arranged into lines, anything, as long
as there is, behind the lines, a confidence, a willingness
to reconsider. People who work at Yaddo, I mean who live in town,
soon after dawn drive up the long hill. They walk through the mansion
carrying baskets of bedsheets. A young woman sits cross-legged
at the top of the grand staircase, polishing each spindle
with a spray-bottle of bright blue fluid, a small cloth.
This morning, outside my study window, a project:
the long-needle pine needs pruning. When I go to my desk,
I discover a ladder propped against the tree,
but no one in sight, as if this is all that is necessary:
choosing the tree, and the ladder,
and leaning them against each other.


An SHP Chapbook Review by Suzanne Cleary:

Enjoy Hot or Iced Poems in Conversation and a Conversation
by Denise Duhamel and Amy Lemmon

Enjoy Hot or Iced: Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, invites the reader to spend quality time with two of contemporary poetry's liveliest voices. Denise Duhamel and Amy Lemmon are long-time friends who clearly relish the opportunity to participate in SHP's new collaborative chapbook series.

The title poem, written by Lemmon, begins, "You've brewed this stuff, now drink it--/these dreggy-dregs, this filter-silt,/the tiny bits that cling to tongue." Ostensibly spoken to an estranged lover, the "you" of this poem wants also to read as "I," the poem's speaker thus addressing herself as well as the lover. A smart and insightful poet, Lemmon welcomes such complexity into her poems. She writes, "You think you're kind, you think/you're sensible, you think you're something/I can't quite imagine. What of the Monet's/lily-pads of mold on Earl Grey cooling in the jar?/The brown scrub-nulling scum that clings/to the worn Picasso mug?" 

Lemmon's language is delicious. One wants to roll these words around on the tongue before swallowing the bitter and hilarious sense of them.

Duhamel commiserates with poems of failed relationship, as in "Instead," which opens, "I want to be 31 again, the night before our wedding/when my mother said, "You know you don't have to/do this, honey." Fans and critics have noted the emotional directness of Duhamel's poems, but the craft of her lines bears close attention. Notice these line-breaks, which deliver each moment for maximum impact; notice the missing comma at the end of the first line, which produces in the reader the anxiety felt by the speaker of the poem as she pushed herself into marriage.  

Enjoy Hot or Iced is chock full of vivid images of contemporary life. In addition to Lemmon's art museum mugs, one finds bubble-wrap, croutons, the LEAVE SAMPLES ON THE COUNTER sign hung in the medical office bathroom. One finds lifeguards, Albuterol asthma inhalers, Madonna and Guy Ritchie, and a glitter-encrusted tee shirt with a heart in the middle of the chest.

In addition to good eyes, Duhamel and Lemmon share a passion for form. Lemmon contributes the sonnet "Asymptotic," and "Audacious: An Acrostic," its lines built upon the phrase "hoping for change." Duhamel's "Boxed Set Sestina" is a wild and pointed exploration of the word box that manages to include caroboxyl, but I won't say how. You will want to see for yourself.

Enjoy Hot or Iced : Poems in Conversation and a Conversation is like one of those bottomless cups of coffee, which refills as long as you desire.  Poets and students of poetry will want to revisit this chapbook, and have their own animated conversations about it. 

Slapering Hol Press congratulates Suzanne Cleary for winning this year's (2nd Place) Nimrod International Journal's Pablo Neruda Award. Her poetry books are Keeping Time and Trick Pear, both published by Carnegie Mellon. Her poems have been published in Atlantic Monthly and Poetry London, and anthologies including Best American Poetry. New poems will soon appear in New Millennium Writings, Connecticut Review, and Poetry International.


The Tasmanian Wolf, and You
by Lynn McGee

Suspended mid-stride in a Plexiglas box
compact as a kennel,
the world's last Tasmanian Wolf,
lithe as a coyote,
pale as surrender,
stared into a stairwell of the American Museum
of Natural History,
and I stood, useless mourner,
before its reconstructed presence,
jostled by patrons rushing to more spectacular
displays-blue whale hovering improbable
as a dirigible,
grimacing totems,
dioramas' pastel deserts rivaling
any Hollywood set,
the Museum repeating its busy life,
the Tasmanian Wolf enduring just beyond
those sloping marble steps-
till one afternoon the Plexiglas box was gone,
and no information clerk,
no sleepwalking guard could direct me
to its new station,
one beige-uniformed man finally recalling,
with somber authority, Oh yeah, that thing.
We had to put it in storage-
extinction, then,
not the final insult,
and only this remaining-
that the Tasmanian Wolf,
stripes fanning down its sides,
jaws springing 120 degrees wide
and snapping
on the furtive heat of chickens;
the Tasmanian Wolf,
tight, marsupial pouch padding its belly,
able to rise up on hind legs
like an Egyptian god-head of a dog,
body of a man-and scan
the horizon; the Tasmanian Wolf
is absent from its eucalyptus-tangled island,
from the concrete of zoos
and stairwells of museums,
absent from the atmosphere
and oxygen where it swirled into shape
over millions of years;
absent, even, from memory,
though I can see those glass eyes gleaming
in the dark of a storage closet,
and the frosty walls of that Plexiglas box
holding everything that's forever lost,
no magic able to undo that silence,
animate that synthetic gaze,
and no harm in mourning the irretrievable-
love discarded, kindness withheld,
talent let slip unnoticed as a scarf
on the icy sidewalk. Measure the immeasurable
damage your life's amassed,
but leave your loss in dark storage,
and find something worth saving.

Click here for Lynn McGee's review of Katie Phillips' chapbook, Driving Montana, Alone, in Big City Lit.

Lynn McGee's poems are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Tilt-a-Whirl and Bluestem. Others just appeared in Big City Lit and The New Guard, one a finalist and one a semi-finalist in that magazine's contest judged by Donald Hall. Her work can also be found in past issues of The Ontario Review and many other journals. Lynn's chapbook, Bonanza, won the Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition. She received a MacDowell fellowship, won the Judith's Room Emerging Writers contest, and earned an MFA at Columbia University.


The Hudson Valley Writers' Center staff is:

Frank Juliano - Executive Director
Ryan J. Conatti - Slapering Hol Press Managing Editor/Assistant to the Director/Office Manager

Nicole Testa - Administrator

Let us know what you think! Feel free to contact us with any comments, questions, or suggestions! 

The Hudson Valley Writers' Center is located in the Philipse Manor Railroad Station in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Follow the Metro North signs to the station from Route 9, near Historic Hudson Valley's Philipsburg Manor. For more information, call us at (914) 332-5953 or visit our website, Our programs and events are made possible, in part, by grants from the Bydale Foundation, the David G. Taft Foundation, Maslin Foundation, Eileen Fisher Foundation, the Thendara Foundation, and the William E. Robinson Foundation; with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts; and by the Basic Program Support Grant from ArtsWestchester with funds from Westchester County Government.

The Hudson Valley Writers' Center, Inc. (HVWC) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1988 with a mission to advance the art and craft of writing by encouraging writers and readers at all levels to participate in and enjoy the literary arts. HVWC is a not-for-profit, IRC section 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions in excess of value received are deductible for Federal Income Tax purposes.

Wine for all SHP Readings and Events is donated courtesy of Grape Expectations in Tarrytown. Stop in for your favorite bottle today and tell them that the Hudson Valley Writer's Center sent you!
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