Table of Forms—Pivot Technique

The pivot technique was originally proposed as a technique in composing movement by the mime-choreographer-contortionist Jeff Glassman. The pivot technique joins phrases by truncating them and conjoining them at identical moments. In a movement piece, a person sitting down in a chair might, before reaching the chair, suddenly pivot to a person rising from the chair. In poetry, a pivotgram would be a poem in which words are joined on overlapping letters: "I don'think you'really paying attention." It's a form of compression.

The Exquisite Corpse was a collaborative drawing game played by surrealists, and its method—a blind pivot—can be applied to text as well.

A word chain, or slip poem, is a pivotgram in which every word begins with the letter or letters ending the previous word. Slip Poetry, Yes! is a slip poem written in honor of (and, I think, by) the students at Stevenson High School in Illinois, and is a pangram and a serial poem, attempting to use every letter of the alphabet as a pivot letter once and only once. Newspoem 30 May 1998 is another slip poem.

A pivotnym is two sentences joined by a common word or words: "I hope the president isn't reelected isn't the word I'd use." This technique creates an effect similar to the Markov Chain, a technique of computer-generated language in which words or phrases are followed by statistically probable, if meaningless, words and phrases. Up Go is a pivotnym with the lines in reverse order.

The poem "What Silence Equals," by Tory Dent, a poem in which every stanza begins with the line ending the previous stanza, takes this technique up a level. Note that Slip Poetry, Yes! and What Silence Equals have a circular form, ending with the line or letter with which the poem begins.

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Dominique Fitzpatrick-O'Dinn
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