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17 Years of Chapbook Publication, 18 Years of Anthology Publication

The Hudson Valley Writers' Center
Sleepy Hollow, New York

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

Special Inaugural Edition

In this issue

  • Elizabeth Alexander reads at Presidential Inauguration
  • The winner of the 2008 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition, Liz Ahl's A Thirst That's Partly Mine, and finalists:
    • Joan Dy, The Taste Of Saltwater
    • Ted Gilley, Password
    • Keetje Kuipers, Last To Be Told
    • Rhett Watts, No Innocent Eye
Issue 12, January 2009


Our reading series
at the Writers' Center resumes in March

March 13th, 7:30 pm
poets Kate Light and Matt Schwartz

See calendar for details


photo: Elizabeth Alexander, by Sunny McLeanIn 2008, the Slapering Hol Press (SHP), the small press imprint of The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, published Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, by Elizabeth Alexander and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. Ms. Alexander was chosen by President Barack Obama to read a poem at his recent inauguration. She joins the ranks of only four poets in American history to read at such an event. click here to watch a video of Elizabeth's Inaugural poem.

Two years in the making, the Poems in Conversation chapbook is the first in the Sleepy Hollow Chapbook Series edited by SHP founder, poet Margo Stever, and co-editor, poet Suzanne Cleary. The Poems in Conversation chapbook, which includes an established poet who chooses an emerging poet to appear in the same volume, sings of the black woman’s experience in America. The limited edition chapbook’s cover features the famous Romare Bearden print, “The Reclining Nude,” an image featured in several poems in the collection.

photo: Elizabeth Alexander and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, by Sunny McLeanMs. Alexander, who is currently Professor of American and African-American Studies at Yale University, has published four books of poems, The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), and, most recently, American Sublime (2005), which was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and one of the American Library Association’s “Notable Books of the Year.” Her first young adult collection of poems, co-authored with Marilyn Nelson, Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color, was recently published. Her collection of essays, The Black Interior, appeared in 2004. Lyrae Van Cllief-Stafanon is the author of Black Swan (University of Pittsburgh Press) and winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. She teaches in the creative writing program at Cornell University.

Barbara Fischer, poet and author of Museum Meditations: Reframing Ekphrasis in Contemporary American Poetry, Routledge (2006), says of the Poems in Conversation chapbook, ‘When Alexander and Stefanon scrutinize the variegated surfaces of Romare Bearden’s art, the intensity of their gazes give way to speech. In the blues of “Reclining Nude,” Stefanon’s speaker discovers “I could hear / her holding / her breath.” Alexander finds images transmute the sounds: “Flowered dresses. / A woman’s holler. River or guitar.” For both, the lacunae inherent in acts of reading and looking are openings for empathy, uncertainty, discourse.’

Excerpted from Margo Stever, press release for Slapering Hol Press.

photo: Elizabeth Alexander and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, by Sunny McLeanPhotos by Sunny McLean, Community Media on Hudson

(Top to bottom):

  • Elizabeth Alexander at her Slapering Hol Press Chapbook reading at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, December 12, 2008
  • Elizabeth Alexander and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon reading from Poems in Conversation, published in 2008 by Slapering Hol Press
  • Elizabeth Alexander and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon taking an audience question at their Slapering Hol Press reading, Dec. 12, 2008


The Bear
by Liz Ahl

The black bear on my deck at 3 A.M.
will not be rushed away from what she came for—
one plastic tube of birdseed carelessly left out
overnight during the season of her greatest hunger.
Except for the occasional glint of fur-shine
she’s all shadow in the crisp, liquid moonlight.

I tap on the glass, the pinch a dreamer asks for,
dimwitted by her appearance, disbelieving
the fifteen-foot climb she had to make
for mere handfuls of seed. She’s got the feeder
in her jaws, easily, like a dog on a bone,
and starts back down, rump first, over the edge,

thick claws scraping against the grain of the planking,
against her own growing winter weight.
She has to let herself drop the last feet to the ground,
and when I know she’s landed, I creep out for a look.
Now I’m a threat, through the glass and into her turf,
so she tosses a hoot up into the chilly air.

A rough rustling from the yard’s edge, snap of branches,
and then, one each, from two trees, her apple-round cubs
thump onto the grass, like the very fruit they’re full of.
They bumble into the brush together. In my head,
a stern voice recites the sermon about the ferocity
of mothers, what they’ll do for their young,

why I shouldn’t have opened the slider. She was hungry —
she weighed risk, parked her cubs, didn’t ever see me
as a genuine threat. I was just a ghost beyond the glass,
a random tapping at the edge of her consciousness,
small splinter in hunger’s gaunt side. I was uninvited.
I should have been sleeping, but instead

some fearful shadow in me was waiting to be scared awake
by noises, by suspicion. Maybe I should have rolled over
and sunk back down into dreaming. She’s plodding
in that direction — the long sleep calling her
to store up for another winter. Any creature might be
pushed by desperation, animated by gut fundamentals
to follow hunger’s taut rope through darkness.


photo: Liz AhlLiz Ahl is a poet and teacher who lives in New Hampshire. Her poems, some of which have received Pushcart Prize nominations, have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Four Corners, White Pelican Review, 5AM, Court Green, Margie, The Women’s Review of Books, Prairie Schooner, Alimentum, and North American Review. Her work has also been included in several anthologies, including Red, White and Blues: Poets on the Promise of America (University of Iowa Press, 2004), Mischief, Caprice, and Other Poetic Strategies (Red Hen Press, 2004), and Like Thunder: Poets Respond to Violence (University of Iowa Press, 2002).


by Joan Dy

For a year, my father killed turtles.
During the summer, he and his friends
waited for them to bank on the beach

at night like small, shipwrecked vessels.
Dressed in damp linen and old sandals,
they smoked cigarettes under the cliffs

until a turtle emerged from the white surf.
– see how the carapace flickers
in the moonlight, a blazing iron shell.

They do not wait for her
to dig her nest, deposit
eggs into the black sand.

They had seen that all before as children,
watching these mothers return
to their birthplace.

My father shines a lantern
on her, hind legs kicking up
showers of silt as four of them take

shovels to each flipper, tumbling her backwards
onto her shell, the burrow half finished.
A boy knifes her cleanly in the chest,

elastic belly swollen with eggs,
the skin white and moist like a cut pear.
They scoop out her eggs with rough hands.

The empty cavity flexes as they begin
to flay her. Tomorrow, the eggs will be sold
to the grocer. Her body will be used for supper.
He’s told me this story every year, since I can remember.
Although the story sometimes changes, he is never
the one with the knife. He merely holds the lantern.


This poem first appeared in the magazine Rattle.


photo: Joan DyJoan Dy's work can be found in Lyric, Southeast Review, Hiram Review, Rattle, Re)verb and Ink&Ashes. Her first chapbook, The Taste of Saltwater, is soon to be published by Finishing Line Press. She has recently taught ESL in Korea and Indiana .



by Ted Gilley

They arrive, but always late
in the day, the leather
of their suitcase skin creaking
in the twilight, and find the best places to hide,
     taking a small room for one.


Like me, they demand to be heard
and then, when the door swings open,
regret what they’ve said and seem,
by their black silence,
     to want to take it back.


photo: Ted GilleyA native of Virginia, Ted Gilley lives in southern Vermont and works at the Chapin Library of Rare Books of Williams College. He is the winner of the 2008 Alehouse Press poetry prize. His poems have appeared recently in Poetry Northwest, Free Verse and The National Review and his fiction has been published in New England Review, Northwest Review and Prairie Schooner and other magazines and anthologies.



Across A Great Wilderness Without You
by Keetje Kuipers

The deer come out in the evening.
God bless them for not judging me,
I'm drunk. I stand on the porch in my bathrobe
and make strange noises at them—
if language can be a kind of crying.
The tin cans scattered in the meadow glow,
each bullet hole suffused with moon,
like the platinum thread beyond them
where the river runs the length of the valley.
That's where the fish are.
I'll scoop them from the pockets of graveled
stone beneath the bank, their bodies
desperately alive when I hold them in my hands,
the way prayers become more hopeless
when uttered aloud.
                       The phone's disconnected.
Just as well, I've got nothing to tell you:
I won't go inside where the bats dip and swarm
over my bed. It's the sound of them
shouldering against each other that terrifies me,
as if it might hurt to brush across another being's
living flesh.
             But I carry a gun now. I've cut down
a tree. You wouldn't recognize me in town—
my hands lost in my pockets, two disabused tools
I've retired from their life of touching you.


This poem first appeared in the magazine 42Opus.


photo: Keetje KuipersKeetje Kuipers completed her BA at Swarthmore College and her MFA at the University of Oregon.  She has received fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Oregon Literary Arts, and SoapStone.  She was the recipient of the 2007 Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry.  Her poems are currently published or forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, West Branch, Southeast Review, and Willow Springs, among others.  You can hear her read her work at the online audio archive From the Fishouse (


Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1889
by Rhett Watts

He calls it Moonrise, though there’s no moon,
an experiment to prove colors show in the dark.
Vincent maps night, capturing shades from the close
amalgam of earth and air to the domed Arles sky,
nearly tonal in clarity.

When I have a terrible need of, shall I say the word,
Religion, I go out to paint the night sky.

Electric, he caresses sable brush, wood palette,
fits the ragged hatband around his shaved head,
touches the punk’s ember to candles
shoved in the band as the lamplighter tended
street-lights across the river at dusk.

Connect-the-dots and stars line the spine
of Ursa Major. Wax rivulets sear,
cool to cobalt veins. One fine stroke and
a spire at town center becomes the vanishing point.
Indigo mirrors gaslight aimed like spotlights
towards the shore, azure, saffron, laid to water lapping.

Just as we take the train to Tarascon or Rouen,
we take death to reach a star.

He flickers there, slightly above himself,
some celestial chart held up to identify heavenly bodies.
Van Gogh sees life and death round, wheeling
like the chart, one hemisphere visible,
the other waiting.


photo: Rhett WattsRhett Watts is a poet whose poems have appeared in Spoon River Review, Yankee, Samsara, Defined Providence, Peregrine, The Lyric, and other journals. She’s been nominated for a Push Cart Prize in Poetry and had poems included in the books Knitting into the Mystery, and Best Spiritual Writing 2000. A pastel artist who currently lives in Connecticut with her husband, she received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College and is seeking a publisher for her first book.

Newsletter edited by Susana H Case


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