THE NEWSLETTER OF SLAPERING HOL PRESS
Slapering Hol Press, the small press imprint of The Hudson Valley Writers' Center,
was founded in 1990 to publish emerging poets and thematic anthologies.
Issue 8, January 2008
2008 SLAPERING HOL PRESS
"Echocardiogram" is reprinted with permission from Trick Pear (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2007, ©Suzanne Cleary), and was also collected in Enskyment, an online anthology of poetry.
Cleary is co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. Her poetry collections are Trick
Pear (2007) and Keeping Time (2002), both from Carnegie Mellon University
Press. Winner of a Pushcart Prize, she is Professor of English at SUNY Rockland.
to a Creative Challenge
Many poets love the creative challenge of writing poems about works of art, but how often does a museum invite poets to write about an artwork—and to read their poems before the artwork? This summer, the Neuberger Museum posed this challenge to poets studying at Manhattanville College with poet Suji Kwock-Kim and to poets studying at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center with poet Suzanne Cleary. The result: a 16-poem tribute to Cleve Gray’s “Threnody,” a series of monumental paintings created in 1972-73 for the opening of the Neuberger Museum. “Threnody” is Gray’s meditation upon the anguish of the Vietnam War, and was on exhibit until September 9, 2007.
The “Threnody” poetry reading took place on July 11, 2007. Noted author Francine du Plessix Gray opened the evening by reading an essay about her late husband. Following the poets, Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), read from his acclaimed memoir Chasing Ghosts.
The “Threnody” poems ranged from literal descriptions of Gray’s canvases to narrative memories of the Vietnam era to meditative poems on the theme of war and peace; from poems that were personal, even private, to poems that were overtly political. This reading reminded me that good poets are explorers. They may begin at the same point, with the same subject, but from there they set out to discover unforeseen and mysterious places.
This reading inspired by “Threnody” was also inspired by poet Cindy Beer-Fouhy of the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and poet Linda Simone, Associate Director of the graduate writing program of Manhattanville College. Working with Thom Collins, Director of the Neuberger Museum, Beer-Fouhy and Simone have designed several collaborative arts programs in Westchester County.
At the 10th annual National Graduate Creative Writing Conference, “Writing by Degrees,” at the University of Binghamton from September 27-29, Margo Stever, Co-editor, represented the Slapering Hol Press on the Print Publishing Panel. Jeremy Schraffenberger, Editor of the new online literary journal, Elsewhere, served as moderator. Other panelists included Mike Burnside from Etruscan Press, Robert Dugan Nightshade Press, and Karen Schubert from Whiskey Island Magazine, a literary magazine of Cleveland State University. Each of the panelists discussed the history, mission, and future of their respective presses.
Other panels at the conference included creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and online publishing panels. Graduate students also gave readings in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The conference keynote speakers included poet Vijay Seshadri, recipient of grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and The Paris Review’s Bernard F. Conners Long Poem Prize (Wild Kingdom and The Long Meadow); nonfiction author Jo Ann Beard, recipient of nonfiction fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2006 (The Boys of My Youth); and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half A Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, 2005).
At Vijay Seshadri’s craft workshop, he described his personal struggle to reconstitute his conception of the poetic line after the publication of his second book. Among others, he looked to Theodore Roethke, one of the greatest American poets. As a model writer, Seshadri noted that Roethke continually reinvented his poetry through pyrotechnic breakdowns and renewals.
Margo 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
Slapering Hol Press’s Second Annual Veteran’s Day reading
The Slapering Hol Press’s second annual Veteran’s Day reading, “Poets and Writers on War and Peace,” was held on November 9. Seven poets read poems that were chosen from open submissions for their compelling treatments of the horrors and aftermath of violent conflicts, past and present. The diverse range of voices and subjects highlighted the far-reaching and complex effects of war, and stressed the need for a collective call for peaceful resolutions.
In “Dirty Bomb,” Irene O’Garden identified the defensive origins of the war-making impulse: “a quark of a spark of fear triggers the fuse.” The poem then dramatized the futility of war’s outcomes by moving into an utterance of repetitive desperation: “And then what? And then what? And then what? We wail.”
Turning to the more distant past, Nancy Connors reconstructed the circumstances surrounding a Civil War casualty in “James Willson, Dead at Appomattox, April 9, 1865.” Willson, she surmised, was “Likely . . . the last Confederate to die”:
Connors’s poem resonated with contemporary conflict when she gave voice to Willson writing home to his sister: “I do not think I will see you again, Dear Rebecca. / What a waste of men it will be for a war already lost, / a cause already lost.”
Throughout the evening, poets implicitly and explicitly addressed the Iraq War as it approaches the end of its fifth year. Reggie Marra, in a sequence that turned on images of amputees and war casualties entitled “Five Ways to (Not) See What’s Missing,” focused on “the empty smoking boot.” Mimi Moriarty also addressed the emptiness of war and the vacuity of the promises of the powers that be, writing of “the empty anthem memorized.”
The reading featured the work of Maxwell Corydon Wheat, Jr., who was named Poet Laureate of Nassau County in June at the home of poet William Cullen Bryant, in a ceremony organized by poets 20 days after the Nassau County Legislature turned down—because of the anti-war position of his book, Iraq and Other Killing Fields: Poetry for Peace—Wheat’s unanimous recommendation to the post by the Legislature’s Poet Laureate Panel.
Wheat challenged poets to literalize the claims of poetic language for change, asking “Can avenues be evolved by which poetry of Rupert Brooke, a World War I casualty, and his poem, Safety (‘War knows no power’) can actually be read at a crisis meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?”
Barbara Fischer’s poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Boston Review, Ekphrasis, Western Humanities Review, Maryland Poetry Review, and other journals. She is the author of a critical study, Museum Mediations: Reframing Ekphrasis in Contemporary American Poetry (Routledge, 2006), and is a frequent contributor of review essays to Boston Review. Her essay “Noisy Brides, Suspicious Kisses: Revising Ravishment in Experimental Ekphrasis by Women” is forthcoming in In the Frame: Women’s Ekphrastic Poetry from Marianne Moore to Susan Wheeler (U of Delaware P, 2008). She holds an M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from New York University, and has taught writing and literature at Columbia, NYU, and Marymount College.
Radios with special guest
Photos by Lynn Butler
Dan Archer is a guitarist and producer known for his work on the albums of the legendary jam band Phish, and the group Pork Tornado that he formed with John Fishman, Phish's drummer.
Joyce Bowden is a multi-talented singer/songwriter from North Carolina who has worked with the late great composer, cellist Arthur Russell, with Jerry Harrison's band, Casual Gods, and with David Byrne as a touring and recording vocalist.
Ernie Brooks is a bassist and vocalist, and member of the seminal pre-punk Modern Lovers. He has played New York City and the world with pop and art-rock ensembles for years, working with Gary Lucas, David Johansen and other downtown notables.
Steven Hall is a rhythm guitarist/vocalist who is also a songwriter and producer of several albums of Chinese pop music. A published poet too, he has played with the late Allen Ginsberg and Arthur Russell in various musical contexts.
Jerry Harrison, special guest for the HVWC benefit, was also a Modern Lover, then a Talking Head and Casual God. Now a sometime part of Gary Lucas' Gods and Monsters alongside Mr. Brooks, he is also a multiplatinum record producer.
Bill Ruyle, drummer and marimba specialist, is a gifted veteran of the New York experimental scene. He has played with countless downtown ensembles, orchestras and dancers, and teaches at Julliard as well.
Peter Zummo, trombonist and composer, has been a major figure in the world of new music in New York for a long time, working with luminaries from Trisha Brown to the Lounge Lizards as well as fronting his own ensembles at venues around the globe.
Everytone Radios play original music, songs of the composer Arthur Russell with whom many of the members worked, and familiar tunes.
Newsletter edited by Susana H Case
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