The Poetry Cat
Janne's tabby cat sat not on the mat
She preferred the top of the sofa back
She purred now and then, not often, though –
a brindled enigma, this cat in the know.
Sometimes I'd catch her watching us
her eyes open thin, with a look just
this side of smugness. Call that poetry?
Those marks on the page? Without trying
I could show you that the real poem is a body curled into herself then
stretched out then curled in then arched high as the sky then curled
in and the sun on soft fur and a purr and a hiss and a shiver as the
shadow of the tenth life draws near
but I won't
She yawns with a smile, I think it's a smile
Our sweet poetry cat. Was it a smile?
If you read the context below you will see that the cat ‘Matilda’ is watching the work of a poetry workshop from her vantage point. In fact, she has been part of many of the sessions. Neva uses her presence as fuel for writing at the same time using her photographic skills to create this ekphrastic presentation. I do like the strength of eye intensity caught in the photograph.
The eye focus of the cat looking down on the writers marries so well with the smug arrogance of her words – ‘this side of smugness. Call that poetry’. And as she is a tabby with distinctive markings she is more special. Perhaps cats are naturally smug unlike dogs.
And Matilda is of course a very knowledgeable cat. She will tell you what poetry is all about with cat authority, if you care to listen. And words on paper, those markings, they are totally redundant stuff. The projection of her italic cat speech is all cat, as it should be, as any cat will tell you without hesitation – and that is true poetry.
And that inward cat smile, if it is there, is an appropriate end line, engaging a sense of subtle humour.
This had me thinking of the poem The Orange Tree – John Shaw Neilsen – Analysis | my word in your ear in which any attempt at description of an event destroys the appreciation of that event by removing focus.
Neva was one of five ladies associated with the University of the Third Age Poetry Appreciation group in Canberra. They met on a regular basis to workshop their poetry creations. The outcome of their deliberations was a book of poetry entitled ‘The Moorings’ (published by the Interactive Press, Brisbane).
‘Matilda’ was a tabby cat who sat in for many of the meetings. She used to climb up on the back of the couch to survey the proceedings after the visitors took her usual spot. So she was entitled to be a little indignant.
This poem is a very apt introduction piece to the book.
What I particularly like about this publication is the great variety of poetic form used across the selection of poems presented, including ekphrastic, journals, Japanese traditional structure, and the playing of shape in the visual representation of words.