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Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
The Best Sort of Mimicry
Skylar was given the assignment, on short notice, to write a "list" poem for her Literature class. Because it's due tomorrow and she has already been working on her other homework for hours, I read her the opening lines of Christopher Smart's eighteenth-century tribute to his cat Jeoffry from Jubilate Agno, which Annalee Newitz and I used to enjoy reading aloud.

Skylar was inspired to attempt her own version, dedicated to her feline. I left her for a few minutes to use the bathroom -- we're hanging out at the Barnes & Noble Café in Foothills Mall -- and returned to find that she had already completed the assignment. I was glad, since I had feared that she would labor over the task as someone of her creative bent is inclined to do and was worried that she would run out of energy before her homework was completed. But when I saw what she'd come up with, my happiness magnified a hundred fold:
For I will consider my cat Punka
For her eyes burn brighter than all the tigers in the forests of the night.
For her robe of charcoal sweeps to her dainty toes.
For her tail is a plume.
For her eyebrows were singed away by the flame of Satan.
For she views food as a primitive curiosity beneath her contempt.
For she does not need solid fuel to feed her wild soul.
For she is smarter than my father.
For she counts the rows of helpless, neon mice and minces them with her claws.
For she is the predator.
For she regards her siblings as lower forms of life that God created for her prey.
For she leaps upon them from the night of the ceiling, sinking her teeth into their fur with a hiss.
For satisfying her bloodthirsty jaws, she squashes the black beetles from the cracks in the walls and eats the remains.
For she sleeps in the sink to block her servants from tentatively attempting to brush their teeth.
For she is irresistible when her motor rumbles.
For she is the love of the life of the universe and all its inhabitants.
For she is the bear.
This is a grand imitation of Smart's style. But the scary thing is that I read Skylar only a small portion of Smart's original and not the best parts -- and the ones that her lines evoke most strongly -- which come later on.

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8 comments or Leave a comment
barca_k From: barca_k Date: August 24th, 2011 02:33 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I am not familiar with Smart's work, but this is the best description of a cat I have ever read.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 25th, 2011 05:34 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
At the very least, it's a spot-on description of Punka! I told Skylar what you said and it made her very happy.
quuf From: quuf Date: August 24th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'd love this for robe of charcoal alone - but there's so much else. Wow.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 25th, 2011 05:35 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
That impressed me, too. I love "wild soul" in this context as well.
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: August 24th, 2011 11:46 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
This is so fantastic! There are a surprising number of 18thC cat poems. Ok, two or three I can think of off the top of my head. But still.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 25th, 2011 05:35 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It's like that plethora of seventeenth-century poems about mowing: WTF?
celebrian_3 From: celebrian_3 Date: August 25th, 2011 04:39 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Bravo, Skylar! She is growing into quite the creative spirit!
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 25th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
She sure is. Sometimes I worry that her great talent in visual art is lying fallow -- she doesn't have it in school right now -- but I think she'll be fine. Getting better at words and music is enough for the time being.

(Also, it's great to hear from you. Drop me a line sometime. I'd love to talk.)
8 comments or Leave a comment