Cat poetry: a lesson

In cleaning out my study, I came across a folder from long, long ago labeled WRITING — POETRY — REVISION BULLETIN BOARD.  This is its story.

Eons ago, when I was media specialist at East Coweta High School, I eschewed the "Hop Into Spring with READING!" style bulletin boards favored by my little-old-lady predecessor.  Instead, I would create informative/lesson-based displays.  Every little bit helps, was my motto.

This particular display, on writing revision, was good enough for me to file away to use for inspiration later.  (I was actually able to use the concepts to design a lesson for Turner Educational Services when I worked for them.)

One goal was to introduce the idea that traditional poetic forms were not to be feared.  Most poetry instruction for students was (and still is) "yo, just put some words down, it's cool," and the idea of writing a triolet was alien.

The other goal was to show the young poets hiding in the crowd that revision was the name of the game when it came to writing poetry.  Remember the Lyles Rule of Poetry: The purpose of poetry is not to express your feelings; the purpose of poetry is to get the reader to experience those feelings.  (The other thing is called a diary, people.)

So even thirty years ago I was hammering on the ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS — GESTALT — SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION cycle.  Cool, huh?

I won't belabor the point by explicating each sheet of paper.  The rest of the bulletin board was made up of the usual title/graphics, plus a cleaned-up typed presentation of each poem.

And here they are:

Terza Rima

Like stones in a Japanese garden they sit,
obtuse and opaque, without reference to time,
controlling the universe, silently.  It

looks like they wrap the room's vacuum around them to frame
their being and essence.  The others
not fighting, just sitting and doing the same,

weaving a conflict of vectors, a network of eithers,
of boths and of neithers, a webbing of psace
which ties the world down just as each cat prefers.

One stretches and moves.  The cosmos has changed
to accommodate this one's perspective.  The cats
are changing your fate with the planets they face.


I write this poem for the cat
   who sits and watches me
scratch the paper. Watch how fast
I write this poem, for the cat
will soon demand I scratch her head
  instead, so hurriedly
I write this poem for the cat
  who sits and watches me.


So once again the cat's asleep,
sweetly counting kitty sheep
and dreaming kitty dreams so deep.

Do you suppose this ball of fur,
this set of whiskers, paws, and purr,
could have a streak of sneak in her,

that from the kitchen countertop
she'd steal a donut and then drop
it on the spotless floor, kerplop,

devour it whole, and leave the crumbs
to taunt the dog, who is all thumbs
at stealing donuts and such plums,

then without guilt lick clean her toes
and stretch herself in calm repost?
Is this that cat, do you suppose?

Free verse

Each has a voice:
Miranda's squeak; tough-boy Bentley's bark;
and Darcy's irritating apologetic squeal:
"I'm sorry I want out oh is it three in the morning I didn't know"
Be a man, Darcy, you weigh twenty pounds,
wait until daylight, why don't you?
"I'm sure I'm starving" screams Miranda.
She's not assuaged by references to time.
"Pay attention now," chops out the B-cat,
and flops over his ears to expose his belly for pettintg.
And patiently sitting on his bench outside
Pomfrey stares in and wonders if he's too afraid to be a pet.
He greets me with his hopeful chirps of fear.

Blank verse

There is a cat, and there, and there.  Where is
the point of all these omnipresent cats?
Why should my house be littered with these beasts
of fur? Why should I tolerate this cat
asleep atop a piece of work I must,
must, positively put my hands on next?
Yet there's the cat, asleep, or worse, awake,
aspiring through hypnosis with her purr
to charm me into some confession that
she belongs exactly here, asprawl
the very words which up until a little
moment ago I thought were necessary
that I read. Not now.  Not ever.  She's
enthralled me; I'm her slave and do her will.
Yes, extra food is in the cupboard, dear.
I will go and get it for you now.