Cleaving, by Florence Treadwell


by Florence Treadwell


  • Spring 1999
  • ISBN 978-0-921870-65-4 (0-921870-65-5)
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 100 pages
  • Poetry & Photographs, Women’s Studies

Using language as exorcism and photographs as a mirror of the shifting unconscious, Florence Treadwell crosses oceans both literal and emotional in Cleaving, her first book of poems. Memories of an elusive father shadow the unfolding love story, haunting the narrator who confuses childhood and adult passion and endows both father and lover with magical, god-like powers, thus allowing them — or her vision of them — to define her.

Trapped in love as in a tight fist, she strives for release, for a “displacement of lines” that will enable her to move beyond loss and nostalgia. Her deepening insight into her wishful fantasizing about her father leads her to recognize her own strength as passed down through the women who have gone before, as power inherited and inherent.

Cleaving consists of two tightly woven narratives, a succession of flashbacks interrupting and intruding upon the present. In poems and pictures connected by strong and subtle imagery, the narrator uncovers the protean nature of desire and the ambiguous function of language, coming ultimately to suspect her own attempt at the telling of truth to be nothing more than “a mere variation” on an infinity of possible stories.

“As we get on with ‘the non-blue business of the day,’ Florence Treadwell’s book arrives like a blue sweater filling the doorway and nothing is the same again. Her poems are sensual, the words caressed, yet they are tough and clear-eyed in their difficult, passionate negotiation with love, grief and memory.”
— Lorna Crozier