Poetry challenge #24: Cleave poem

First things first. A late entry for the previous Nove otto challenge from the cat goddess Bastet herself. Please read, it’s a great addition to the collection.

Now for the challenge. Cleave here is used in both senses— of hanging on or sticking to someone and dividing in two. There’s a name for words that have two completely opposite meanings (like sanction) but I can’t remember what it is. Cleave is obviously one.

A cleave poem is in two halves, two separate poems, one on the left, one on the right, but that make a single poem when you read them together. It sounds tricky…and it is.

BUT there are no rhymes, no rhythms and no set length, so the non-comformists among you who have problems with the strict forms have nothing to complain about. I found it useful to keep it short. The poem below started off as only four lines. I went back to it when I thought I’d got the hang of it. If you start with a good line that you can break in two easily enough and let the two halves go off in different directions, even opposite directions, the sense of satisfaction if it all hangs together as one poem is greater.

Poet’s Corner has posted a link to the Cleave Poetry Webzine which gives the background to the form by its originator. Thanks for that. It’s helpful and interesting.

Here’s an example I wrote yesterday.


Please stay/ the blackbird calls

The night will be dark/ the sun is setting

Don’t take your warmth/ beyond the horizon

Where the light dies/ for the night is waiting.

Remember your promise/ Mine forever

You said it so easy/ you gave me a rose

Sweet as the blackbird’s song/ sweeter than honey

Ended now / its white petals fallen

Like winter’s first snow/ lie soft on the ground.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

77 thoughts on “Poetry challenge #24: Cleave poem”

  1. You inspired me; I will have to try this form. I particularly liked your lines “Don’t take your warmth/ beyond the horizon – Where the light dies…” That conjures a myriad of emotional responses in me. Love it!

  2. Ooooh…I think I will like this form. I love what you did with it Jane! My favorite line…”Sweet as the blackbird’s song/ sweeter than honey”. You make it look so easy. We shall see! -kat

  3. It’s a bit late for me to start thinking about this, but the cleave poem looks more than interesting. I have some ideas for poems based on Norfolk history and I might try cleaving a ‘historical’ with a ‘modern’. I’ll see how I feel in the morning – of it’s sunny I’d like to take some photographs of ‘Daffodil Mile’, a local phenomenon, which might inspire me to cleave something else!

      1. I definitely will try it soon. Today is too chaotic but maybe tomorrow will be quieter. I want to check out how other people handled it first for inspiration 🙂

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