The Story of Slapering Hol Press
Named from the Old Dutch for Sleepy Hollow, Slapering Hol Press (SHP) was founded in 1990 by Margo Taft Stever to advance the national and international conversation of poetry and poetics, principally by publishing and supporting the work of emerging poets. For close to three decades, SHP has published forty finely crafted poetry anthologies and chapbooks by promising new poets whose work has not yet appeared in book form and has fostered collaborations between new and established authors.
Through publications, readings, and workshops, Slapering Hol Press, the small press imprint of the Hudson Valley Writers Center, has featured poets whose diverse themes of survival and hope cross cultures. On a strong foundation of aesthetic quality, Slapering Hol Press has sustained an enduring tradition of discovering new and significant voices in contemporary poetry.
In 1990, Slapering Hol Press launched its first publication, the anthology, Voices from the River. With its simple and elegant design, this anthology, which featured established poets and soon-to-become luminaries such as Hayden Carruth, Jean Valentine, Dana Gioia, Stephen Dunn, and Billy Collins, set a high aesthetic and literary standard.
After its inaugural publication, the original SHP co-editors, Margo Taft Stever and Stephanie Strickland, focused the mission of the press on publishing emerging poets. Since 1991, SHP has conducted an annual anonymously judged national competition for the publication of a chapbook by a poet who has not previously published a poetry collection.
Meet Our Press Editors
SHP Advisory Committee
A BRUISE IS A FIGURE OF REMEMBRANCE by Toi Derricotte & Dawn Lundy Martin
A Bruise is a Figure of Remembrance: Poems in Conversation and a Conversation by Toi Derricotte & Dawn Lundy Martin (2020)
Toi Derricotte is the author of I: New & Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), The Undertaker’s Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), and four earlier collections of poetry, including Tender (University of Pittsburgh Press), winner of the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her literary memoir, The Black Notebooks (W.W. Norton), received the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her honors include, among many others, the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize for Sustained Literary Achievement, the 2012 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, the 2020 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, three Pushcart Prizes, and the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists. Professor Emerita at the University of Pittsburgh, Derricotte co-founded Cave Canem Foundation (with Cornelius Eady), served on the Academy of American Poets’ Board of Chancellors, 2012-2017, and currently serves on Cave Canem’s Board of Directors.
Dawn Lundy Martin is a poet and essayist. She is the author of four books of poems: Good Stock Strange Blood (Coffee House, 2017), which won the prestigious 2019 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Life in a Box is a Pretty Life (Nightboat Books, 2015), which won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry; DISCIPLINE (Nightboat Books, 2011); A Gathering of Matter / A Matter of Gathering (University of Georgia Press, 2007), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize; and three limited edition chapbooks. She also co-edited with Erica Hunt an anthology, Letters to the Future: BLACK Women / Radical WRITING (Kore Press, 2018). Her nonfiction can be found in The New Yorker, Harper’s, n+1, The Believer, and Best American Essays 2019. Martin is a Professor of English in The Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics. She is also the recipient of a 2018 NEA Grant in Creative Writing for prose.
For the missing mothers
In heaven I will know the souls
of the missing mothers—the suffering
when their eyes turned
away, when they were
somewhere else, citizens
of unreachable kingdoms.
I will know why
they left—not as stories—but as
heart in my heart.
It is I who must mother
them, for switches
murders practiced. I too was
lifted, I too was
We will be returned.
Each to the other.
Flowers will be our
will carry us.
Then death came like a hammer not a metaphor
As if to speak the body is to stroke the sack of it.
As if what remains will be comprehensible.
We name it over and over, call
it into what would be being if being were
simply insistence. I want to believe in something.
I want to believe that effort is effect.
Meanwhile, a girl’s head is crammed
between her mother’s knees,
the smell of her, the grease in her palms,
the pull of the girl’s hair—tight tug into
neat cornrows. How many people
does it take to make a person?
I have had so many lovers, I forgot
the one rape—me, a punishment
fusion. Float off down any stream, aimless
driftwood, the hollow of—
The I feels nothing about it now, is
gibberish to say, to healing.
We could say, instead, we sand the hardened—
like rip, like why even bother with refusal.
THEY BECOME STARS by Liz Marlow
They Become Stars by Liz Marlow (2020)
Liz Marlow’s poems have recently appeared in B O D Y, Potomac Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Greensboro Review, The Rumpus, Tikkun, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA from Western Michigan University. Currently, she lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and two children.
Liz Marlow’s collection, They Become Stars, is a book of real-life horrors revolving around the controversial World War II figure, Chaim Rumkowski, each one exquisitely rendered.The voices of the Holocaust—its victims, its perpetrators—rise wraithlike in these poems, singing clear notes against our collective impulse to turn away. It takes stunning courage to grapple with Rumkowski’s twisted legacy and ferocious skill to conjure this book’s strange beauty from what is not merely ugly but hideous. With their arresting imagery and relentless precision, Marlow’s poems leave us, gasping and floodlit in history’s chambers, with nowhere to hide.
—Francesca Bell, author of Bright Stain
Chaim Rumkowski on Hunger, 1938
A boy sits with his
back to the wall
of the orphanage,
avoiding other children
on the playground.
His pageboy hat,
a little too big,
his eyes like a wedding veil
while he makes circles
on the ground with a stick.
Is he trying to draw
a map home?
The boy’s eyes, like the sun
during a full solar eclipse,
fill in light with shadows.
If I were to reach
out to him,
would his skin
be soft like freshly
or dry and cracked
like the earth?
In another life, he could
First published in BODY
LEADING WITH A NAKED BODY by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon & Leela Chantrelle
Leading with the Naked Body: Poems in Conversation and a Conversation by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon & Leela Chantrelle (2019)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of Open Interval, a ﬁnalist for the LA Times Book Prize and the National Book Award; Black Swan, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize; and Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, a SHP chapbook collaboration with Elizabeth Alexander. She is currently at work on The Coal Tar Colors, her third poetry collection, and Purchase, a collection of essays. She was one of ten celebrated poets commissioned to write poems inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series in conjunction with the 2015 exhibit One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Visions of the Great Migration North for MoMA. She has written plays and lyrics for The Cherry, an Ithaca, New York arts collective. In 2018, her work was featured in Courage Everywhere, celebrating women’s suffrage and the fight for political equality, at the National Theatre London.
Leela Chantrelle is a poet and literature enthusiast hailing from San Francisco, California. She received a Bachelor’s in English and Creative Writing from Cornell University in 2014. Afterwards, she moved to Paris, France for a few years and just recently moved back to the United States. Currently, she teaches English at a progressive high school in Baltimore, Maryland.
The Starry Night
How little it takes to blend in,
To become a cloudy night,
To watch nipples turn into vague stars,
And toes curl into imitations of light—
To become a disappointment.
We so rarely wonder about the moon’s neighbor. How does
Take up everything?
I turn how are you
Into a million different questions,
Into a conversation,
Into a cloudy night.
What was needy became a shooting star,
What was stumbling out of pain became the sunrise,
Became orange glimmers peeking out of something asking
and waiting for the answer.
Why are so many people being killed,
Why am I not,
What is in this countryside night that allows me to survive?
I would like no permission,
I would like to be given nothing.
This telescope doesn’t work,
There’s nothing in the sky tonight.
when i was a girl the reason i feared i would
snatched up at the rapture was
a farm and a hand to tend
horses i mused for myself. the way i rode
in the backseat of my mother’s Cordoba and felt
that man’s imagined hand on me
made me love
the long ride home from church.
more than heaven then. i wanted.
and a servant. my flesh whispered.
a wild stream.
EVERY PRESENT THING A GHOST by Rebecca Doverspike
Every Present Thing a Ghost by Rebecca Doverspike (2019)
Rebecca Doverspike is currently training as a resident chaplain at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from West Virginia University and a MDiv degree from Harvard Divinity School.
This book is a brave and startling nearness: a prayer, a breath, a hundred stars beneath the skin. It insists on the in-betweens, the insides, the unsaid where prayer itself is a betweenness and ‘silence/is the fullest response.…’ And always—always—we are urged to transcend by going deeper, to embrace the body as a vessel of divinity and earth, as water and light and scar.
—Melissa Atkinson-Mercer, author of Knock
A paper wasp nest no longer hums,
and my loneliness does not need a home.
Wildflowers like music move through tall grasses;
tiny stars grow out of the dirt.
Mom carries toads from under stones while building a garden,
useful compassion. I can’t handle the weight
of their bodies twitching in my palm
but I love their tiny heartbeats.
I wish my trembling were a dance like the bees’
sleepy legs landing from one powdery stamen to another.
To crawl into the privacy of honeycomb walls,
even the dried
honeyless piece fallen in the driveway organizes the rain.
DUBIOUS MOON by Lillo Way
Dubious Moon by Lillo Way (2018)
Lillo Way’s poems have appeared widely in literary magazines and anthologies including RHINO, New Letters, New Orleans Review, Poet Lore, Tampa Review, Tar River Poetry, Madison Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Poetry East, Roanoke Review, Flying South, and The Meadow. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation for her choreographic work involving poetry. She lives in Seattle. Her Poem, “Offering,” was winner of the 2018 E.E. Cummings Prize from the New England Poetry Club.
In Dubious Moon, Lillo Way’s skillful and compassionate handling of language and rhythm makes complex ideas accessible. Her work is witty, inventive, and feisty. She possesses the rare gift of an unfailingly good ear. Her images stay in the mind’s eye.
—David Wagoner, Former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets
Stained tea towel, charcoal bleeding into mustard,
an umber edge holding the grime design together,
hung askew over the oven door handle
in a garbage-rank closet of a flat
in the poorest street of an old town—that’s what is
the yellowish thing that calls itself a summer sky
hanging a few meters above my head
and low pressuring me to fall into love
in the time of cholera where I become
the sinking stinking still air, where I am
the last bird not to die in the fetid drying river,
where I hear my ghost-voice calling
like a manatee mother to her missing children
late in the last night of a landscape scraped empty
of trees and their shadows, moonlight staining the river
yellow, the banks yellow, the only boat yellow,
the moon itself the final exit—small round aperture—
through which I will, watch me now, escape.
First published in Poet Lore
MILKSOP CODICIL by Spree MacDonald
Milksop Codicil by Spree MacDonald (2017)
Spree MacDonald is the author of the poetry collection, Konkababy (Africa World Press, 2019). His poems have been nominated for a number of other awards, including twice for the Pushcart Prize, and published widely in journals such as RHINO, Warscapes, and Transition Magazine. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he is a high school principal.
Into the ‘headwaters of hurt’ is where Spree MacDonald takes us, between branches that overhang and roots that trip, with a jambalaya of words and references that in the end prove the only way out of here. This writer uses his own weaknesses, his ‘blunder toe,’ to navigate a treacherous landscape, bringing the whole country to bear witness to the swamp living in its belly. At play with sound and music, he charges into this ‘labor hood of Atlantis,’ this ‘poorly lit paradise.’ Here is a spirit, wise, but not jaded, chided, but not overruled. Milksop Codicil is a poetic trance, full of bayou magic and common sense.
— Mervyn Taylor, author of The Waving Gallery
Colony Collapse Syndrome
as we squat through slum
rise slum set
in this labor hood of Atlantis
I wonder how much sun one needs
to see to say she’s seen it set
this life in the house of bees
a simple stock fortified by light
oblique as it ends it seems
she gathers strength in fading
don’t just expect to die
she sighs but
know that you’ll also be
these are the stories the dead
one night in exile
she made small circles
with her heels in the bed sheet
like a finger over crystal lips
she swirled until a slow-found
center coalesced into a sugar storm
flowed over our hovel
at the top of the stairs
so much unwaged
off into the wallpaper
it’s true it smelled
of boxes in there
soft power and echo chamber music
the semiotics of assault rifles
our shoulders dry rubbed
with anesthetic saltrash
now this poorly lit paradise
a Molotov wick soaking
in the oily abyss
so many small engines after dark
charge hard between herbicide lines in
febrile fight or flight
it seems this coast is the same
latitude as my dreams
I’m tired for tomorrow
First published in Warscapes
DOVETAIL by Kimiko Hahn & Tamiko Beyer
Dovetail: Poems in Conversation and a Conversation by Kimiko Hahn & Tamiko Beyer (2017)
Kimiko Hahn is the author of nine books of poetry, including Brain Fever, Toxic Flora, The Narrow Road to the Interior, The Unbearable Heart, which received an American Book Award, and Earshot, which was awarded the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize and an Association of Asian American Studies Literature Award. Her other honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, PEN/Voelcker Award, Shelley Memorial Prize, and a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a distinguished professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Literary Translation at Queens College, The City University of New York.
Tamiko Beyer is the author of We Come Elemental (Alice James Books), winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award and a Lamda Literary Award Finalist, and of the chapbook, bough breaks (Meritage Press). She has received grants and fellowships from Kundiman, Astreaea Lesbian Writers Fund, Hedgebrook, and Washington University in St. Louis. She is a social justice communications writer and strategist.
in the manner of Sei Shōnagon
One should always bathe or shower before bed—not only for cleanliness’ sake (the whole live-long day one drags oneself through food residue and bodily fluids just on the subway seats), but also for clearing away the day and commencing calm. Even if the calm is reserved for night terrors, the bath separates, makes way, for a sensational sphere.
Further, one should not sit on bedclothes wearing pants worn on, say, a park bench. What with guano and soot, one might as well wear one’s shoes!
There are so many baths to recall—like ofuro time with my grandma. In the basement in Maui. The chickens clucking outside. (Was the tub concrete?)
(Did mother say, kimochi ga ii ne?)
At the very least one should wash face and feet and privates.
Explore our many chapbooks in our online BOOKSTORE
With a simple yet elegant design, SHP’s first chapbook, the anthology Voices from the River (1990), featured some favorite poems by established and upcoming authors who had read in the Sleepy Hollow Poetry Series. Including poems by Hayden Carruth, Jean Valentine, Dana Gioia, Billy Collins, Stephanie Strickland, Kate Knapp Johnson, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Toi Derricotte, Stephen Dunn, Denise Duhamel, and many others, Voices from the River set the standard for chapbooks to come. Many Slapering Hol Press chapbook winners have subsequently received significant acclaim.
- The first SHP chapbook author, Dina Ben-Lev Rhoden (Note for a Missing Friend, 1991), earned an NEA fellowship, published a second chapbook, Sober on a Small Plane (1995), and won a national contest for her first full-length book, Double Helix (1995).
- SHP chapbook winner Lynn McGee (Bonanza, 1996) is the author of the poetry collections, Tracks (Broadstone Books, 2019), Sober Cooking (Spyten Duyvil Press, 2016), and the award- winning chapbook, Heirloom Bulldog (Bright Hill Press, 2015). Ten poems from her seventeen- part series, “Crush,” are forthcoming in What Rough Beast (Indolent Books). Her children’s book, Starting Over in Sunset Park, co-written with Jose Pelauz, is forthcoming in 2020 from Tilbury House Publishers.
- Rachel Loden, winner of the 1997 chapbook contest (The Last Campaign), earned the 1998 Contemporary Poetry Series Competition of the University of Georgia Press for her first book, Hotel Imperium, named one of the ten best poetry books of 2000 by the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review. Her second book, Dick of the Dead (2009), was a finalist for the PEN USA Literary Award for Poetry and the California Book Award. Other awards include a fellowship from the California Arts Council and a Pushcart Prize. Two of her poems are included in editions of The Best American Poetry.
- SHP chapbook author Andrew Krivak (Islands, 1999) is the author of three subsequent novels: The Bear (Bellevue Literary Press, February, 2020); The Signal Flame, a Chautauqua Prize finalist; and The Sojourn, a National Book Award finalist and winner of both the Chautauqua Prize and Dayton Literary Peace Prize for fiction. He is also the author of A Long Retreat: In Search of a Religious Life and The Letters of William Carlos Williams to Edgar Irving Williams, 1902-1912, which received the Louis L. Martz Prize for scholarship.
- The SHP chapbook winner, Chinese-born Jianqing Zheng, (The Landscape of Mind, 2001) professor of English at Mississippi Valley State University, earned a 2009 Fulbright Scholarship to China. He is editor of Valley Voices: A Literary Review. He has been awarded Literary Arts Fellowships (2004 and 2014) and mini-grants (2006 and 2015) from the Mississippi Arts Commission. His research focuses on contemporary American haiku, most recently African American Haiku: Cultural Visions (University Press of Mississippi, 2016) and Other World of Richard Wright: Perspectives on His Haiku (University Press of Mississippi, 2009). He also directed two NEH projects on Richard Wright and on African American Literary Heritage. He described winning the SHP chapbook competition in the following way:
The publication of The Landscape of Mind with Slapering Hol Press was significant. It was like the first bite of a piece of watermelon in hot summer—juicy, sweet, cool. I received the Literary Arts Fellowship for Excellence in Poetry and two mini-grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission and the Mississippi Humanities Teacher Award. I also served as a grant panelist for the Mississippi Arts Commission. More importantly, I still write.
—Jianqing Zheng, Slapering Hol Press author, 2001
- The 2002 SHP contest winner, Susana H. Case, witnessed 9/11 while living in New York City. This experience impelled her to write The Scottish Café (published by Slapering Hol Press in 2002; reprint 2015) about mathematicians in Lvov, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine). They had courageously continued their work at the Scottish Cafe after they were expelled from the university by the Nazis during the Third Reich. In 2010, Seweryn Malosa translated the collection and Opole University published it as a chapbook in Poland. The Scottish Cafe is now found at Yad Vashem in Israel, at the Hebrew Union College in New York, and in many other libraries. Case is the author of seven books of poetry, including Dead Shark on the N Train, which is scheduled for publication in 2020 from Broadstone Books. Drugstore Blue (Five Oaks Press) won an IPPY Award in 2019. She is also the author of five chapbooks, two of which won poetry prizes, and most recently, Body Falling, Sunday Morning, from Milk and Cake Press, 2019. Her work has appeared in Calyx, The Cortland Review, Portland Review, Potomac Review, Rattle, RHINO, and many other journals. Case is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology in New York City.
- The 2003 SHP contest winner David Tucker published Days When Nothing Happens about his work as Managing Editor for the Newark Star Ledger. In 2005 and 2011, Tucker and his group won two Pulitzer Prizes for Breaking News Reporting. In 2007, his first full-length collection, Late for Work, winner of the Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize judged by Philip Levine, was published by Houghton Mifflin. Tucker earned a 2007 Witter Bynner fellowship and read at the Library of Congress.
Slapering Hol Press has a national reputation for doing it right. The editing of manuscripts is as professional as that by big publishing houses,… the presentation is elegant and meticulous, and the advice and support for writers are extraordinary. …I will never be able to thank them adequately for what they have done and what they continue to do for me and so many others on the American literary scene.
—David Tucker, Slapering Hol Press author, 2003
- Sean Nevin‘s A House That Falls (2005), won the SHP Chapbook Competition. Nevin teaches writing at Drew University where he directs the MFA Program in Poetry and Translation. In 2008, he published his first full-length collection, Oblivio Gate, awarded by the Crab Orchard Series First Book Prize in Poetry. His honors include a Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry, the Alsop Review Poetry Prize, the Katherine C. Turner Academy of American Poets University Prize, and two fellowships from the Arizona Commission of the Arts.
How lucky to have found at the beginning of my publishing life a press so literary, so deeply supportive of my work, as Slapering Hol Press. And what a distinguished catalog of beautiful books!
—Sean Nevin, Slapering Hol Press author, 2005
- Stephanie Lenox, winner of the 2007 SHP contest for The Heart That Lies Outside the Body, has received fellowships from the Arizona Commission of the Arts and the Oregon Arts Commission. She is the co-author of Short-Form Creative Writing: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology, 2018, with H.K. Hummel. Her recent poetry collection, The Business, was selected by Laura Kasischke as the winner of the 2015 Colorado Prize for Poetry. She works as an editor at Chemeketa Press.
- Liz Ahl who won the 2008 SHP contest (A Thirst That’s Partly Mine) has subsequently published three additional chapbooks, Home Economics (Seven Kitchens Press, 2016), Talking About the Weather (Seven Kitchens Press, 2012), and Luck (Pecan Grove Press, 2010), which won the New Hampshire Literary Awards “Reader’s Choice” Prize in Poetry. Her full-length book, Beating the Bounds, was published by Hobblebush Books in 2017. Her chapbook, Song and Scar, is forthcoming from No Chair Press in 2020. She is professor of English at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.
- In 2008, Slapering Hol Press added a new series, the Conversation Series, which includes poems by an established and an “emerging” woman poet whom the former selects to appear in the same volume. In 2008, SHP published Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, by Elizabeth Alexander and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon. Winner of the 2007 Jackson Prize for Poetry awarded by Poets & Writers, Elizabeth Alexander is the author of ten books of poetry, including Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems, 1990–2010 (Graywolf Press, 2010), Praise Song for the Day (Graywolf, 2009), and American Sublime (Graywolf, 2005). Not long after SHP’s publication of the first Conversation chapbook, Alexander was chosen by President Barack Obama as the inaugural poet, the third such poet in the nation’s history. Her book The Light of the World: A Memoir (Grand Central Publishing, 2016) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters and other major prizes.
- Associate Professor of English at Cornell University, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon was awarded the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize by Marilyn Nelson for her first collection of poetry, Black Swan (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002). Her second, Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009), was named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. The SHP editors chose Clief-Stefanon to be the sixth “Conversation” master poet with Leela Chantrelle.
- In 2009, Slapering Hol Press celebrated the Hudson River Quadricentennial by publishing Helen Barolini‘s best-selling Hudson River Haiku. Barolini depicts memories of the glorious vistas of the Hudson highlands as well as the Hudson River’s magnificent palisades, storms, and sunsets. Her chapbook is accompanied by Italian artist Nevio Mengacce’s remarkable watercolors.
- In 2010, Garrison Keillor chose the title poem of Driving Montana, Alone, by Katie Phillips (Slapering Hol Press, 2010) to read for National Public Radio’s “The Writer’s Almanac.”
- In 2011, Denise Duhamel and Amy Lemmon collaborated on the second chapbook in the Conversation Series, Enjoy Hot or Iced: Poems in Conversation and a Conversation. In 2013, Duhamel published Blowout (University of Pittsburgh Press), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Duhamel has also collaborated with the poet Maureen Seaton on several volumes, including Caprise: Collected, Uncollected, & New Collaborations (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2015). Her poetry is widely anthologized and has appeared in eight editions of The Best American Poetry. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, she is a professor of English at Florida International University of Miami. Amy Lemmon, Associate Professor of English at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City, is the author of three poetry collections, The Miracles (C&R Press, 2019), Fine Motor (Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Press, 2008) and Saint Nobody (Red Hen Press, 2009).
At the humble beginnings of the Hudson Valley Writers Center, before the train station renovation, before the Slapering Hol Press and chapbook series, before the workshops, and before email, when the Writers Center was located in a small attic room, I was one of the first workers for what has become one of the amazing art centers of America. Now, after so many years, I am delighted that to be included in one of the first Slapering Hol Press Conversation Series chapbooks for this small, small press that has accomplished much more than its size belies.
—Denise Duhamel, Slapering Hol Press author, 2011
- In 2014, Slapering Hol Press, in collaboration with Poetry Foundation and the African Poetry Book Fund, published Seven New Generation African Poets, an elegant, light-weight eight-piece inaugural box set, featuring individual chapbooks containing new and original work from seven emerging African poets. Each chapbook cover features a unique piece of artist Adejoke Tugbiyele’s fascinating work. An eighth book presents an introduction written by Kwame Dawes, APBF series editor, and Chris Abani, which succinctly contextualizes the chapbook project and these poets’ roles within contemporary African literature while introducing the work within the set.
These volumes, which are original, are as diverse in thematic concerns, poetic styles, and musicality as the peoples of Africa and its diaspora. They are books of poetry that reveal a complex and sophisticated awareness of the world. —Kwame Dawes
- Seven New Generation African Poets contains eight individual chapbooks: An Introduction in Two Movements by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani; Mandible by TJ Dema; The Cartographer of Water by Clifton Gachagua; Carnaval by Tsitsi Jaji; The Second Republic by Nick Makoha; Ordinary Heaven by Ladan Osman; Our Men Do Not Belong To Us by Warsan Shire; and Otherwise Everything Goes On by Len Verwey.
- TJ Dema is Honorary Senior Research Associate in the Department of English at the University of Bristol. She is also a poet, arts administrator, and teaching artist whose poems have appeared in The New Orleans Review, The Kalahari Review, Cordite Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Mandible (Slapering Hol Press, 2014) was selected for publication by The African Poetry Book Fund as part of the Seven New Generation African Poets boxset. The Careless Seamstress (University of Nebraska Press, 2019) won the Sillerman Prize for African Poetry. Her work has been supported by The Danish Arts Council, the Vermont Studio Centre, and Northwestern University’s Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. She has been named a Botswana Top 40 under 40 Catalyst, as well as Mail and Guardian Editor’s Choice award recipient.
- Kenyan poet, scriptwriter, and editor Clifton Gachagua was born and raised in Nairobi and earned his undergraduate degree in biomedical science at Maseno University. His debut poetry collection, The Madman at Kilifi (2014), was chosen for the inaugural Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets by the African Poetry Book Fund. In his foreword to the collection, Kwame Dawes stated, “Gachagua’s poems are urgently present; they emerge out of sources like the radio, newspaper, television, as well as street stories and rumors. They seek to chart a changing society and while the effort is largely impossible to accomplish, the gesture is important.” Gachagua is a member of the pan-African writing collective, Jalada. He lives in Nairobi.
- Tsitsi Jaji is a poet and scholar from Zimbabwe. Associate professor of English at Duke University, she is the author of two books of poetry: Beating the Graves, was published in 2017 in the African Poetry Book Series at the University of Nebraska Press. Carnaval was published by Slapering Hol Press in 2014. Her poems have appeared in several anthologies and in journals including Black Renaissance Noire, Prairie Schooner, Bitter Oleander, New Coin, and Jalada.
- Nick Makoha was shortlisted for the 2017 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection for his debut full-length collection, Kingdom of Gravity. He is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow, Malika’s Kitchen Fellow, and Complete Works Alumni. He won the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry prize and was the 2016 winner of the Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize for his collection, Resurrection Man. His poems have appeared in The New York Times, Poetry Review, Rialto, Poetry London, Triquarterly Review, Boston Review, Callaloo, and Wasafiri. Born in Uganda, Nick Makoha fled the country with his mother, as a result of the political overtones that arose from the civil war during the Idi Amin dictatorship. He has lived in Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and currently resides in London. He has presented his work at many international events and toured for the British Council in Finland, Czech Republic, the United States, and the Netherlands.
- Somali-born poet and essayist Ladan Osman is the author of Exiles of Eden (Coffee House Press, 2019), a work of poetry, photos, and experimental text, and The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (University of Nebraska Press, 2015), winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize, and the chapbook Ordinary Heaven, which appeared in the box set Seven New Generation African Poets (Slapering Hol Press, 2014).
- Poet and activist Warsan Shire grew up in London. She is the author of the collections Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (flipped eye, 2011), Her Blue Body (flipped eye, 2015), and Our Men Do Not Belong to Us (Slapering Hol Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in journals and magazines, including Poetry Review, Wasafiri, and Sable LitMag; in the anthologies Salt Book of Younger Poets (2011), Long Journeys: African Migrants on the Road (2013), and Poems That Make Grown Women Cry (2016); as well as in Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade (2016). Accordi
ng to Alexis Okeowo in the New Yorker, Shire’s work “embodies the kind of shape-shifting, culture-juggling spirit lurking in most people who can’t trace their ancestors to their country’s founding fathers, or whose ancestors look nothing like those fathers. In that limbo, Shire conjures up a new language for belonging and displacement.” Shire’s poems connect gender, war, sex, and cultural assumptions; in her work, poetry is a healing agent for the trauma of exile and suffering. Shire is poetry editor of Spook Magazine and guest edited Young Sable LitMag. Shire has read her work in South Africa, Italy, Germany, and the United States. In 2013, she won Brunel University’s first African Poetry Prize. In 2014, she was named the first Young Poet Laureate for London and chosen as poet-in-residence for Queensland, Australia.
- In 2016, Michele Poulos’s (A Disturbance in the Air, Slapering Hol Press, 2012) first feature-length documentary film, A Late Style of Fire: Larry Levis, American Poet, premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival. In March, 2016, Iris Press published her first full-length collection of poems, Black Laurel. In 2010, her screenplay, Mule Bone Blues, won the 2010 Virginia Screenwriting Competition. She and poet Gregory Donovan edited Prismatics: Larry Levis & Contemporary American Poetry, forthcoming from Diode Editions in 2020.
- Julie Danho (Six Portraits, Slapering Hol Press, 2014) won the Gerard Cable First Book Award, and in 2020, Silverfish Review Press published her full-length book of poetry, Those Who Keep Arriving. She has been awarded fellowships from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the MacColl Johnson Fund.
- SHP author HeidiLynn Nilsson (The Math of Gifts, 2016) published her first full-length poetry collection, For the Fire from the Straw (Barrow Street Press, 2017).
- Spree MacDonald, SHP’s 2017 chapbook contest winner (Milksop Codicil) said about the editing process:
It quickly became clear to me that the opportunity to work with the editors at Slapering Hol Press was to be the greatest reward for me. Their sensitive, insightful responsiveness to the needs of the manuscript, combined with their deep commitment to its vision, truly took me off guard. I felt an excitement about our editorial exchanges that I haven’t felt in years. As a poet who works largely outside of the literary world, I cherished working closely with such skillful editors on this manuscript.
- On January 1, 2020, Poetry Daily featured “The Starry Night” and “He Seems Different, 1999, from the series Soul Erased, Joyce Scott” from the 2019 Slapering Hol Press chapbook, Leading with a Naked Body, by Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon and Leela Chantrelle.
- Leela Chantrelle stated the following about the editing process:
Working with Slapering Hol Press was a gift. Crafting a chapbook for the first time allowed me to think more deeply about the place a particular poem has in a whole collection. For the first time, I was gifted with a step back, an opportunity to think of my work as a collective and a conversation. In particular, my SHP editors and copyeditors pushed me to think deeply about punctuation and its place in my own writing and how it affects a sentence so strongly.
- During 2018 and 2019, Slapering Hol Press Editors and Advisory Committee members have placed SHP “Conversation” box sets and individual chapbooks in the John Hay Library at Brown University, the Esther Raushenbush Library at Sarah Lawrence College, the Firestone Library at Princeton University, and the Elliston Poetry Room at the University of Cincinnati. Ongoing efforts are in process to secure shelf space at other university and rare book libraries and holocaust centers around the country and world.
- Winner of the 2019 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition (Every Present Thing a Ghost) Rebecca Doverspike said,
Working with Slapering Hol Press (SHP) was an incredible experience for me, as the editors gave such careful attention, time, and energy to my chapbook. They worked with me through open dialogue such that I felt that they cared for me as well as my work. SHP editors and the SHP Advisory Committee members invited me into their community—everyone was so welcoming at the readings in New York, and SHP has been truly helpful in relation to the literary market both before and since the chapbook has been published. The people at SHP are a wonderful group, and they form a strong community of caring—careful, attentive writers and people. I am eternally indebted and grateful for their publishing of my chapbook and believing in me as a writer, and, too, for their friendship.
The distinctive and elegant design of the chapbooks has continued to be one of SHP’s many defining features. Ed Rayher of Swamp Press in Northfield, Massachusetts, has designed SHP chapbooks for many years. He is also a published poet, bookmaker, publisher, letterpress printer, and papermaker. Dave Wofford of Horse and Buggy Press has also provided many fine designs for Slapering Hol Press.
SHP chapbooks were reviewed numerous times by Paul Zimmer in Georgia Review. Additional reviews of SHP authors have also appeared in many other literary journals such as Boston Review on-line blog post, Blackbird, Booklist, Calapooya Collage, The North American Review, Gin Bender, Book/Mark, Hyphen Magazine, and Bellingham Review.
In 2005, the Slapering Hol Press Advisory Committee created a literary series, which takes place at the Hudson Valley Writers Center with the mission of providing an audience for emerging poets. Two annual highlights of the series are the War & Peace Reading and the Poetry MFA Spotlight, which features three regional MFA programs.
The Slapering Hol Press Advisory Committee has also organized additional poetry readings in established venues including the Bowery Poetry Club, New York; The New York City Poetry Festival, Governors Island, New York; Jewish Community Center, Tarrytown, New York; the former Cornelia Street Cafe, New York; Neuberger Museum, Purchase, New York; The View, Old Forge, New York; York Art Association, York, Maine: and New England Gallery of Art, Portland Maine, among many other places.
[A sampling of images from recent Slapering Hol Press readings below. For more photos of our SHP events and authors visit our galleries on Flickr.]