Over the years, it’s been such a pleasure to know that Slapering Hol Press (SHP), one of the most significant engines driving the poetry scene in New York’s Hudson Valley, is not only thriving but extending its community well beyond its Sleepy Hollow address. This small press, and I hesitate to call it “small,” has a publishing arm that would rival many commercial publishers who add poetry books to their yearly catalog. Slapering Hol is an old Dutch name for Sleepy Hollow, (think Washington Irving and Ichabod Crane) which is fitting, since the press resides in what was part of the vast Dutch colony, New Amsterdam, in the 17th century until the Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant handed it over (a kind way of putting it) to the English on September 8, 1664.
Slapering Hol Press (SHP), an imprint of the Hudson Valley Writers Center, was founded in 1990 by Margo Taft Stever. Her vision was to advance the national and international conversation of poetry among poets and with lovers of this literary form. The goal that still remains at its heart was to publish and support the work of emerging poets and to foster collaborations between these poets and more established authors. For over three decades, Slapering Hol Press has published over forty poetry books, chapbooks and anthologies. And what stands out is the care and craft that goes into the design of SHP books. Each book is given special attention. 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, and is also a published poet, bookmaker, publisher, letterpress printer, and papermaker. Dave Wofford of Horse and Buggy Press has also provided a number of fine designs for the press.
SHP is not simply a publishing concern but is active in every phase of connecting artists with each other and with the public. An ongoing series of readings, classes and workshops, live and virtual bring participants from all over the world. These series feature a wide array of themes and diverse cultures with Slapering Hol Press being the conduit for a world-wide community, and one that continues to grow and serve.
The poetic wheels began to turn in 1990 when SHP launched its first publication, an anthology, Voices from the River.With its simple and elegant design, the volume featured established poets and soon-to-become luminaries such as Hayden Carruth, Jean Valentine, Dana Gioia, Stephen Dunn, and Billy Collins, and it set the high aesthetic and literary standard for what was to come.
After this 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 a national competition for the publication of a chapbook by a poet who has not previously published a poetry collection. And from that time on, SHP chapbook authors have won numerous national and regional prizes, been awarded grants and read their work in countless venues throughout the country. SHP authors’ chapbooks have been in publications such as Georgia Review, 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. Public readings featuring SHP writers have presented at venues including the Bowery Poetry Club, New York; The New York City Poetry Festival, Governors Island, New York; Jewish Community Center; Neuberger Museum, Purchase, New York; York Art Association, York, Maine: and New England Gallery of Art, Portland Maine. Slapering Hol Press remains one of poetry’s shining lighthouses on the banks of the Hudson River in New York state. Its beam reaches across the world. Take a look at the website and also at the many fine publications that SHP has created. Poetry lovers will be hooked. Visit them at: http://www.writerscenter.org
Laurence Carr is the publisher of Lightwoodpress.com.