Leading with a Naked Body



Leading with a Naked Body: Poems in Conversation & a Conversation by Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon & Leela Chantrelle

The sixth in the Conversation Chapbook Series, Master Poet, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon mentors emerging poet, Leela Chantrelle and the two record an interview on craft.

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
The moon
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
not be
snatched up at the rapture was
i daydreamed

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.
an animal.

and a servant. my flesh whispered.
a wild stream.