Tag: Stevie Smith

“Cat Poems” & Other Cats I’ve Encountered in Books Recently

Cat Poems: An enjoyable selection of verse about our feline friends, nicely varied in terms of the time period, original language of composition, and outlook on cats’ contradictory qualities. I was unaware that Angela Carter and Muriel Spark had ever written poetry. There are perhaps too many poems by Stevie Smith – six in total! – though I did enjoy their jokey rhymes.

Some favorite lines:

“Cat sentimentality is a human thing. Cats / are indifferent, their minds can’t comprehend / the concept ‘I shall die’, they just go on living.” (from “Sonnet: Cat Logic” by Gavin Ewart)

“For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.” (from “Jubilate Agno” by Christopher Smart)

“These adorable things. When my life gives out, they’d eat me up in a second.” (from “I’ll Call Those Things My Cats” by Kim Hyesoon)

My rating:


Cat Poems was published in the UK on October 4th. My thanks to Serpent’s Tail for the free copy for review.

 

Even when it’s not a book specifically about cats, cats often turn up in my reading. Maybe it’s simply that I look out for them more since I became a cat owner several years ago. Here are some of the quotes, scenes or whole books featuring cats that I’ve come across this year.

 

Cats real and imaginary

Stranger on a Train by Jenni Diski: “I find myself astonished that a creature of another species, utterly different to me, honours me with its presence and trust by sitting on me and allowing me to stroke it. This mundane domestic moment is as enormous, I feel at such moments, as making contact across a universe with another intelligence. This creature with its own and other consciousness and I with mine can sit in silence and enjoy each other’s presence. … This is a perfectly everyday scene but sometimes it takes my breath away that another living thing has allowed me into its life.”

 

Certain American States by Catherine Lacey: “This cat wants to destroy beauty—I can tell. He is more than animal, he is evil, a plain enemy of the world. I wish him ill. I do. Almost daily I find a mess of feathers in the dirt. Some mornings there are whole bird carcasses left on my porch—eyes shocked open, brilliant blue wings, ripped and bloody. I have thought often of what it would take to kill a cat, quietly and quickly, with my bare hands. I have thought of this often. In fact I am thinking of it right now.” (from the story “Because You Have To”)

 

The Nice and the Good by Iris Murdoch: “Montrose was a large cocoa-coloured tabby animal with golden eyes, a square body, rectangular legs and an obstinate self-absorbed disposition, concerning whose intelligence fierce arguments raged among the children. Tests of Montrose’s sagacity were constantly being devised, but there was some uncertainty about the interpretation of the resultant data since the twins were always ready to return to first principles and discuss whether cooperation with the human race was a sign of intelligence at all. Montrose had one undoubted talent, which was that he could at will make his sleek hair stand up on end, and transform himself from a smooth stripey cube into a fluffy sphere. This was called ‘Montrose’s bird look’.”

 

Four Bare Legs in a Bed and Other Stories by Helen Simpson: “They found it significant that I called my cat Felony. I argued that I had chosen her name for its euphonious qualities. She used to sink her incisors into the hell of my hand and pause a fraction of a millimeter from breaking the skin, staring at me until her eyes were reduced to sadistic yellow semibreves. She murdered without a qualm. She toyed with her victims, smiling broadly at their squeaks and death throes.

‘Why isn’t she a criminal?’ I asked. …

‘The difference is,’ said Mr Pringle, that we must assume your cat commits her crimes without mischievous discretion.’” (from the story “Escape Clauses”)

 

In Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing, Sunday Justice is the name of the courthouse cat. He sits grooming on the courtroom windowsill during the trial and comes in and curls up to sleep in the cell of a particular prisoner we’ve come to care about.

 

 

A recommended picture book

My Cat Looks Like My Dad by Thao Lam: I absolutely loved the papercut collage style of this kids’ book. The narrator explains all the ways in which the nerdy-cool 1970s-styled dad resembles the family cat, who is more like a sibling than a pet. “Family is what you make it.” There’s something of a twist ending, too. (Out on April 15, 2019.)

My rating:


Later today I’m off to America for two weeks, but I’ll be scheduling plenty of posts, including the usual multi-part year-end run-down of my best reads, to go up while I’m away. Forgive me if I’m less responsive than usual to comments and to your own blogs!

Book Spine Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, so I thought I’d try my hand at some book spine poetry. Thanks to Naomi at Consumed by Ink and Cathy at 746 Books for the fun idea! I have taken the liberty of adding punctuation between some lines, but the book titles themselves appear exactly as on the spines. This has been a fun project to do a bit at a time over the last couple of weeks – it’s always a nice break from my editing and more analytical writing.

Peruse your own shelves or the local library’s and have a go. It’s an easy way to get creative!


The years go by so fast…

 

Landmarks

 

Summertime

Harvest

A time of gifts

 

Winter

A week in December

March

 

Spring

Snow in May

A year on the wing

IMG_0145


A morbid little number, with a riff on Stevie Smith:

 

All at sea

 

Cold beacons:

The iceberg,

The whirlpool,

The depths.

Drowning Ruth,

Wave.

IMG_0146


Memento mori:

 

In fond remembrance of me

 

How to read a graveyard:

A tour of bones,

Mostly harmless.

Last night on earth?

Nothing to be frightened of.

IMG_0147


Thanks to my husband, we have a ton of bird-themed books. The concluding line from Emily Dickinson makes this one a bit of a cheat.

 

Adventures among birds

 

To see every bird on earth:

The secret lives of puffins,

Last of the curlews,

The life of the skies.

 

Rare encounters with ordinary birds:

Songbird journeys,

An eye on the sparrow,

The goldfinch.

 

Falcon fever:

The armchair birder

Feeding the eagles,

Chasing the wild goose.

 

Hope is the thing with feathers.

IMG_0148


An attempt to lay the groundwork for some progressive theology:

 

How (not) to speak of God

 

Jesus among other gods:

Atonement?

Blessed assurance?

Everything is illuminated?

The nice and the good

Crossing to safety?

 

A new kind of Christianity

The story we find ourselves in.

 

An unquiet mind

Until I find you.

 

Love wins;

No man is an island;

We make the road by walking.

IMG_0149


This one’s my favorite – a tribute to my peaceful days spent working from home.

 

Still life

 

The house tells the story:

A room with a view

A slanting of the sun

The shadow hour

A circle of quiet.

 

So many books, so little time;

Leave me alone, I’m reading.

IMG_0150