The Cleave Poetry Webzine [ISSN: 1758-9223]

What is cleave poetry? A summary of my thoughts so far

In announcement, discussion on October 26, 2008 at 7:14 am
What is in a name?
Cleave : is a contranym, a word with 2 opposite meanings:
  • verb 1) split or sever along a natural grain or line. 2) divide; split.
  • verb 1) stick fast to. 2) become strongly involved with or emotionally attached to.

— ORIGIN Old English Compact Oxford English Dictionary

In its most basic form it is three poems:
  • two parallel ‘vertical’ poems (left and right)
  • a third ‘horizontal’ poem being the fusion of the vertical poems read together.
This is a simple and elegant concept, but it is a paradigm shift.

It has been interesting to see the development of the cleave form so far. In less than 2 months cleave poets have modified and made it their own, making cleave in their own poetic image by cleaving in at least these ways:

  1. fusion
  2. division
  3. seeding
  4. co-operating
  5. using cleave as a meta-form
It has been incredible to see the versatility of the cleave form. Something I had not expected, indeed it is very exciting.

As a summary, here are 11 points. These are my current thoughts on cleave poetics.  I will expand on each subsequently. They are for discussion. Please comment and dialogue.
  1. a foundation for creativity
  2. gives freedom to explore
  3. a framework for that exploration
  4. art fused with craft
  5. focuses on multiplicity of meanings
  6. allows simultaneous seeing of the whole and its parts
  7. synergistic
  8. exercise in poetics and linguistics
  9. a meta-form
  10. poetic maturity
  11. communication and dialogue
Finally here are some thoughts for the future:

  • Potential for multiple cleave forms and ways of cleaving including multilingual cleaves.
  • The cleave in education as a tool around which language can be taught and skills honed.
  • The cleave in poetry as a new poetic form.
  • The cleave as a way of bringing people and cultures together.

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    1. Hi. I’m Richard Dates. I was working with this form with the Arlington Poetry Project in the 1990’s. You have brought it to the fore-front and made it a real force in poetry. You may not have exactly invented the form…but you discovered it and brought it and related forms into the poetic world. That’s more important than inventing it. It will help enliven the dry world of academic poetry. Sir Alexander Fleming got the Nobel Prize for discovering and utilizing penicillin. He didn’t invent penicillin. A Nobel prize always looks nice on a resume.

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