Mary Cheever Feted at Writers' Center
by Richard Binkele
The Hudson Valley Writers' Center hosted its Slappering Hol Press Winter Benefit by presenting A Need for Chocolate, a celebration of the poems of poet, writer, artist and teacher Mary Cheever. The event was co-chaired by Evelyn and Herbert Haddad and all proceeds from the $50 per person ticket price go directly to benefit Slappering Hol Press.
Ryan J. Conatti, Managing Editor of the press, introduced a number of distinguished guests including Sol Stein, Mary's original publisher and David Rockefeller. Introduced by her son, Benjamin Cheever, who later stepped up to finish reading when she got tired, Mary read selected poems from her book A Need for Chocolate (Stein and Day, 1980). Cheever's poetry covers the everyday life of a suburban dweller (she lives in Ossining), with a sharp eye to what makes it work.
Refreshments included champagne, wine and sparkling water, hors d'oeuves from the Tarrytown gourmet food store Mint and, of course, chocolate.
Cheever, wife of late author John Cheever and mother of two more authors, Ben Cheever of Pleasantville, and Susan, turned 92 in May. In addition to her book of poems, she also published The Changing Landscape: A History of Briarcliff Manor-Scarborough in 1990.
Mr. Hadad recalled first meeting Mrs. Cheever when he signed up for an evening writing class she was giving at a local high school. "I'd wanted to see for myself the qualities of the wife of the great John Cheever. When we got to know each other she kidded me about my motives, as she did Sunday night." Hadad called her "a wonderful, sensitive teacher of writing, yet never shy of being outspoken. She rattled me early on in class when I read one of my first stories. 'I can tell from your story,' she said, 'that English is not your first language.'"
Frank Juliano, Director of the Writer's Center, called the event "the culmination of year of challenges, new initiatives, and wonderful growth at The Hudson Valley Writers' Center. How fitting it was to honor artist, poet, writer, and teacher, Mary Cheever." Juliano noted that Mrs. Cheever was instrumental in the early stages of creating the Writers' Center. "Her support, and that of her son, Ben Cheever, has helped identify the Writers' Center as the premier center for literature, workshops, readings, and professional development in education, literacy, and the literary arts in Westchester County," Juliano said, "and hearing Mary read from her collection of poetry, The Need for Chocolate, was an emotional and moving experience, and truly a delight. When I am 93, I hope I too can hold a room full of people and capture their attention and love as she did."
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