The Arts Blog has been quiet for a few weeks, but behind the scenes we’ve been bustling with new projects. Yesterday we launched the Preview Issue of Cleaver Magazine, an online magazine of literary and visual arts. Read about it here in Beth Kephart‘s book blog.
The .5 edition is “all flash“: 9 short-short stories; 5 micro poems; 4 mini-essays; and “tiny art“, a photo-essay on Instagram by talented writer/photographer Blake Martin. On March 1, we will release Issue 1, featuring full-length works of prose and poetry; more art; more “flash”; and a new category: dramatic writing. We are proud to be publishing contributions by prominent authors alongside works by emerging writers and entirely new voices. For two of our poets, a college senior majoring in English and writing, and a concert violinist, this is a a first publication.
So, what’s up with the name? There’s a bit of an explanation on Cleaver’s About page: Cleave is a Janus verb, meaning both to stick tight and to fall away. A cleaver is the most broad-edged and brutally efficient kitchen knife, designed to be swung like a hammer for the most effective channel of force. (Thwack! Flash!) But how did Cleaver come to be? Here’s the skinny:
Cleaver began as a germ of an idea in 2002, when co-editor Lauren Rile Smith took a summer high school writing course at Columbia University and emerged with the idea to start a ‘zine. The name “cleaver” appealed to her for the reasons above. She placed some posters, adorned with a hand-drawn cleaver, around the Morningside Heights campus and received a few emailed submissions. But, at the time, the logistics and expense of publishing a magazine were daunting. That fall Lauren began working at American Poetry Review and her magazine was shelved.
Fast-forward more than a decade. Lauren and I have been on the verge of starting this project for a while. We have the tools and the skills– all we needed was to find the time. Our just-do-it moment came during the winter holiday, sitting around the brunch table on Boxing Day. We’d survived the end of the Mayan calendar. What better time than now? With our planets thus aligned, we went to work designing the architecture for the site, trusting on faith that we’d find the quality submissions we would need through our network of fellow writers and by putting out the word on writers’ websites such as DuoTrope. It worked: thanks to the generosity of our writer-friends, their friends, and flood of manuscripts across our virtual transom, we were able to put together a perfect wintry mix within four weeks (with plenty of midnight oil burnt.)
And as for the name, why not “Cleaver”? We love the duality, the hint of danger, the undercurrent of attachment. In researching images of cleavers while developing our logo, we learned that the kitchen tool we’d called a cleaver all these years is, in fact, a Chinese chef’s knife, similarly shaped but thinner, lighter, not up to the task of whacking through the bone.
Our mission is to present a mix of work by emerging and established writers and artists in a beautiful, clean, readable format that is free for the reader, and accessible by internet on any device. Our visual art will be accompanied by prose– essays on form or philosophy by the artist or a collaborative writer. Our dramatic writing will allow readers a glimpse into the heart of a play script. We’ll publish quarterly. We keep our overhead down at ankle-height by taking advantage of wonderful free-to-the-user services such as Submittable, a digital content and file manager; MailChimp, free software for designing email newsletters; and WordPress.org, open source blogging software, which we use as a platform for the site. Down the road, we hope to be able to pay our contributors, because we believe that art has value and artists should be paid. For now, we repay them by devoting hundreds of hours of our time.