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16 Years of Chapbook Publication, 17 Years of Anthology Publication


Slapering Hol Press, the small press imprint of The Hudson Valley Writers' Center,
was founded in 1990 to publish emerging poets and thematic anthologies.


"The chapbook, if it has an aesthetic kinsman, is the cassette tape of literature. Intimate, antiquated, often homemade and frequently beautiful, it's the foundational vessel of any poet's work, the chief hash-mark by which she judges her ascendance. Finding them at online booksellers is an occasion of fortune rather than science. In the future, they may be the ultimate prizes of book collectors: rare, small, and unique. Existing as they do under the radar, they aren't beholden to many of the rules of the publishing world. They're almost like letters in scope, missives to one particular subject, a sock puppet, a tea kettle, a pair of headphones, or they're so varied that they hardly make any sense at all, the only unifying aspect being the poet herself.

Excerpt from P. Scott Cunningham, Poetry Editor, Gulfstream Magazine, v. 26, 2006, reprinted by permission

Issue 5, April 2007







What Feathers Are For
I don't want to be a daddy because daddies die.
—Jack Shanaberger, age 4, to his mother after his father was killed in Iraq.

That racket's a baby woodpecker, plump and soft as a gland.
It's tinier mother—a clockworks toy—drills for bugs
upside down, and swivels to stuff
her squawking fledgling's craw.
It's June: baby crows refuse to grow up.
Half-hopping, half flapping oversized infants,
they won't trust wings and pretend to forget how to fly
in clumsy pursuit of one more free meal.
Even eaglets, born to be lords of the air, plummet
as much as they soar. In the absence of instinct,
heir learning curve is a precipice, sheer trial
and mortal error teaching them what their feathers are for.
When baby Astyanax howled the truth on a tower in Troy,
shining Hector put off the bronze helmet.
Godlike, he laid the terrible plumes in the dirt.
Yes, he said. And, mortal, kissed his mortal boy.

Ann Lauinger from The National Poetry Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily October 21, 2006.

photo: Ann Lauinger, by Scott SansAnn Lauinger's book, Persuasions of Fall (University of Utah Press, 2004), won the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Measure, Missouri Review, Parnassus, and Zone 3, among other places. She teaches literature at Sarah Lawrence College and is co-editor of Slapering Hol Press

Photo by Scott Sans




Review of Late for Work, by David Tucker
Houghton Mifflin, $12.00, 53 pgs.

David Tucker is the winner of the 2003 Slapering Hol Press
Chapbook Competition for Days When Nothing Happens

If the two major forces of human life are love and work, then David Tucker has struck gold with his first book, Late for Work, the 2004 Winner of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize. This major first book is compelling not only for Tucker’s ability to write highly literate and elegant poems such as “City Editor Looking for News” about his workplace, the Star Ledger where he is Managing Editor, but also for his lyrical musings about the off hours, the out takes, the silent moments, the phenomenological ramblings that we notice, but rarely document.

In “And This Just In,” the poet’s concluding stanza features, “A watchman humming in the parking lot/at Broad and Market—we have that—/with a sidebar on the bronze glass/of a whiskey bottle cracking into cheap jewels under his boots. A boy walking across the ball field/an hour after the game—we’re covering that silence.” Tucker, the reporter, misses nothing, neither the sensory reality of glass under the watchman’s boots, nor the loneliness of the boy left to contemplate the empty field after the game is over. Tucker, the poet, compresses visual observations into powerful, compact images.

In “Newsroom Still Life,” as expansive as Whitman, he captures the quiet and calm that infiltrate the newsroom after deadline:

I love the who-cares, who-gives-a-damn mood and the phone ringing
under a hill of newspapers on the desk of the investigative reporter—
gone for the weekend. Let it ring. Let silence take over for a while,
the silence of Vermeer’s pitcher, the silence of atomic water heavily dripping.

Anyone whose father, while driving a bulldozer, recites lines of Shakespeare learned in high school and whose mother comes out of an asylum better than before entering could have mastered Poetry 101 on opening class day. Two attributes that make this collection unforgettable are the depth and dispassion of Tucker’s delineation of his relationship to those he loves. Some of his most plaintive poems address the loss of his mother to the asylum and their later reunion. Their expression of yearning gives these poems their haunting quality.

In “The Brief Life of the Box,” Tucker chronicles the life of the inanimate, then celebrates its desecration and later renewal as elements of tomatoes. “It was the summer for strange events like that/ The boy’s mother was in the asylum, hearing words/Boxes became heroes; tomatoes made you pray/ It seemed she would never come back.”

Rendered from the perspective of the child, “That Day,” gives the reader a flashback of the boy and his mother lost in the woods in a forgotten past moment. Tucker elucidates the enigma of the mother’s descent into insanity. As a portent of the menacing reality that will soon grip his family, the poet notes “a quail whirs up from a thicket,/the wingbeats fan the boy’s hair as he grips/ his mother’s hand and turns to watch the bird disappear…” Tucker frequently describes not simply the ordinary, but the super-ordinary, how objects become symbols for mystery, for forces of the unknown.

At a time when too many trendy (or, as the current cliché goes, “edgy”) American poets churn out voluptuous stanzas that turn on nothing, when the poet’s life history is often more important than the poem, when the Emperor’s new clothes have not yet made it out of the drier, Tucker’s refined, but accessible and simply stated poems resonate with an elegant airing of the mystery embedded in ordinary love and work.

—Margo Stever from the Winter, 2007 issue of Home Planet News, ed. Donald Lev.

photo: Margo Stever, by Mark SadanMargo Stever’s Frozen Spring won the 2002 Mid-List Press First Series Award for Poetry. Her chapbook, Reading the Night Sky, won the 1996 Riverstone Press Chapbook Competition. Her poems and essays have appeared in the New England Review, West Branch, Connecticut Review, Rattapallax, and elsewhere. She is the founding editor of the Slapering Hol Press.

Photo by Mark Sadan

Dear Margo,

Your review really touched me. Thank you, thank you for such a sensitive reading of my poems and for writing about them so well. I am especially grateful for your singling out some of the poems that were the toughest to write or, at least, took the longest to finish, the poems about my mother in particular. And I love the concluding paragraph, especially the line about the Emperor's new clothes.

This has been a busy summer. I went to Breadloaf, part of my Bakeless duty. I was a teaching fellow, assisting Toi Derricotte in a class of ten aspiring poets. That was fun, but I think I am not a big fan of these workshop writing exercises, though I learned that most creative writing teachers seem to have an arsenal of them. I met some nice people, Linda Gregerson, for example, and a 59-year-old teacher from Houston who has just started writing poetry and is really incredible. I encouraged her to enter the Slapering Hol contest. It was an interesting mix at Breadloaf: a lot of youngsters but also a fair number of geezerish folks like me.

Last Thursday I read at the Library of Congress along with Galway Kinnell. I was picked by Poet Laureate Don Hall, my old teacher. There were about a 130 of 140 people I would guess. Here is one moment you will like I think: At the signing table following the reading, a young couple grilled me about Days When Nothing Happens. The woman is taking a course on book binding somewhere in DC was totally blown away by the beautiful work Slapering Hol did on the book. She professed she hadn¹t read the poems inside it but was buying the book because it is so beautiful! She kept inspecting it, rubbing the type on the cover and admiring the inside pages type. I share her admiration, of course. The book still strikes me as understatedly elegant.

I hope you are well and writing and that things are good at the Center which has done so much to help me continue writing and get my poems out there.

With warm regards and lasting thanks,

(David Tucker, personal letter to Margo Stever, 2006.)

David Tucker won the 2005 Bakeless Prize for poetry and a 2007 Witter Bynner Fellowship; his book, Late for Work, selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Philip Levine, was just published by Houghton Mifflin and includes this poem, from his prize-winning chapbook for Slapering Hol Press, Days When Nothing Happens. His poems have appeared in dozens of magazines, most recently Atlanta Review and Mississippi Review. He is a Deputy Managing editor at the Star-Ledger in New Jersey and part of the team that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news.



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