..they wouldn’t — because they’re CATS!

Poetry for Cats: The Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse


But hey, we can read (well, most of us anyway), and you don’t have to be a cat/cat lover to love, adore, and treasure this jewel of a book of poems translated from "cat" by Henry Beard.  In a word, GENIUS!!!  This book is feckin’ amazing.  The poetic styles are adapted and executed so perfectly that you will actually understand the original better.  It’s the Mad Magazine effect — comprehension through parody/the back-door effect. [Plato & A Platypus Walk Into A Bar:Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes]



From the Old English school:

"Grendel’s Dog," from "Beocat":

. . . Then boasted Beocat     noble battle-kitten,

Bane of barrow-bunnies     bold seeker of nest-booty:

. . . I would lay the whelpling low with lethal claw-blows;

Fur would fly      and the foe would taste death-food . . .

The English Romantic school (mid-to-late 1800s)

William Blake’s cat’s poem, "The Mongrel":

Mongrel! Mongrel! Barking blight,

Bane upon my yard at night;

What infernal hand or eye,

Could frame thy vile anatomy?

Other fantastical adaptations include Do Not Go Peaceable to That Damned Vet, There Is No Cat Toy Like a Mouse, & The End of The Raven.  I really like how Beard starts with the oldest poetic form in English and works his way forward through Middle English, Neoclassical, Naturalistic/Realist, and modern — refashioning the jazzy, acidic HOWL! by Allan Ginsberg into — of course — MEOWL.  Aaaaahahahahahaha! Hysterical. 

Beard does not take any shortcuts.  He’s totally and utterly committed to his adaptations.  The genius is in the details.  He has superb eyes and ears for poetic writing and comedy.  I would love to be able to write something like this.  I wish he would come up with some more — a book of poetry for dogs or something.  Why not.  He doesn’t skimp.  MEOW is just like the original: long paragraphs, syncopated line rhythms, delirious imagery.  And the villanelle! Oh my God! He did it!  It looks so effortless and perfectly crafted that you just know he lost a lot of sleep to get it just right. 

People who don’t get poetry might think it’s cute if they are cat people.  To be fair, this book could actually turn you on to poetry, mainly because it’s easy to understand.  No tiresome analysis required. 

If you genuinely love literature/poetry, you can love this book.  Notice I said "genuinely love".  Intellectual snobs and people who take their intellectualism way too seriously might be afraid of this book.  You will want to like it, but your snobbery will not allow you room to take it seriously.  You might see it as dumbing down lofty poetic ideals.  I feel sorry for you. 

But on a more positive note, this book is also really good for reading aloud.  If you can keep from laughing.

BOOKS IN EXILE: books I have in storage.


http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/lit_per.html  (Period Descriptors)

Love That Dog (New Century Readers)LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech



One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Steve on January 7, 2008 at 10:05 PM

    I confess to having read Mad Magazine more than I should have at a crucial stage of my development.  The risk in this kind of indoctrination is, like old wives\’ have said about crossed eyes, you might stick that way.  Anyway, the cat book you mentioned sounds pretty doggone funny.  I liked the sounds of the Plato and platypus one, too.


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