The Cat Is a Poem #NaPoWriMo18 #NPM2018

national poetry writing month 2018

The cat was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests.
Cats are the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.
The cat is life distilled.


Some like cats. Some—thus not all. Not even the majority of all but the minority.
Most people ignore most cats because most cats ignore most people.

Cats, like bread, are for everyone.
For what is a cat but a hazardous attempt at self-understanding: it is the deepest part of autobiography.
If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not cat enough to call forth its riches.
If a cat is to achieve anything, it’s to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel.
The cat is just the evidence of life.

The true cat rests between worlds.
When resonant harmonies arise between this vast outer cosmos and the inner human cosmos, the cat is born.
For the cat, there exists neither large countries nor small. Its domain is in the heart of all men.
The cat is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers.

I saw the gooseflesh on my skin. I did not know what made it. I was not cold. Had a ghost passed over? No, it was the cat.

Beauty is not all there is of a cat.
The cat is truth in its Sunday clothes.
The cat is an act of peace.
The cat is as precise a thing as geometry.
The cat is the priest of the invisible.
Why should the cat have to make sense?

Auden said a cat makes nothing happen. But I wonder if the opposite could be true. It could make something happen.
The cat is meant to be heard.
When power leads a man toward arrogance, the cat reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, the cat reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, the cat cleanses.
Cat are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

Cats, for God’s sake, they’re the only thing that matters.


Process Notes: Yesterday, I read an article called Put a Dog in There: Poetry and the Power of Concrete Nouns that got me wanting to write a poem called Put a Cat in There. The author of the article shared a mad libs type exercise she does with students where she gives them a published poem that has most of its nouns removed and asks them to fill in the blanks with the nouns that make sense to them. I imagined how if a teacher gave me that exercise, I’d just fill in all the blanks with “cat.”

I’ve been working on a different poem about poetry, and for that, I began to collect some quotations about poetry. When I was collecting a few more this morning, I realized how cool a couple of them sounded if I substituted “cat” for “poem” or “poetry.” And one thing led to another and I had five pages of quotations about poetry written down in my notebook and a weird idea for a word-change poem. As it came together, I was struck by how strange and mysterious and wonderful cats seemed as the language of these quotations made them somehow unfamiliar. 

I have tried to retain the language of the original quotation exactly and exchange “poem” or “poet” or “poetry” for cat or cats. In a few cases, I needed to adjust an article, a pronoun or a verb for agreement. 

In order, the quotations are from Pablo Neruda, Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, Wislawa Szymborska, Adrian Mitchell, Roque Dalton, Robert Frost, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jim Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Vanna Borta, Daisaku Ikeda, Giorgos Seferis, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Sylvia Plath, Robert Green Ingersoll, Joseph Roux, Pablo Neruda, Gustave Flaubert, Wallace Stevens, Charlie Chaplin, Carol Ann Duffy, Mary Oliver, John Kennedy, Percy Bysshe Shelley, ee cummings




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7 responses to “The Cat Is a Poem #NaPoWriMo18 #NPM2018”

  1. glenda funk Avatar
    glenda funk

    You know I love this. The cat is a hero rescuing us from ourselves.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I fully expect it will be the weirdest thing I write this month!

  2. margaretsmn Avatar

    Fascinating exercise. Thanks for sharing your process. “The true cat rests between worlds.”

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Margaret. You never know where a poem will come from! At least I don’t….

  3. Juliana Ellington Avatar

    This is really cool.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s kind of bonkers, but I also kind of love it, though I recognize that this is one of those things that only I and a couple of other people would love.

  4. Trina Haase Avatar
    Trina Haase

    What a fun poem. I wish we could have a cat, but we have allergies in our family! I love, “the cat is truth in its Sunday clothes.”

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