Sharon Larkin posted on Facebook about wanting to do something to help her local cat rescue, and coming up with the idea of a charity anthology of poetry for them. I don’t see myself as a cat person but I hate the thought of any animal suffering, plus cats, despite my ambivalent feelings towards them in general, though I have known and loved many individual ones, seem to keep slinking into my poems. I prefer the big wild cats, but I can understand why people want to have pet cats, as they are strokeable and cute. I do admire the superior attitude cats display to the world, and something about them fascinates me, so I sent Sharon a few poems. In the end she chose my children’s poem, ‘Savoy Hotel Cat’, which is in the voice of the cat that hotel kept to set a place for to avoid there being 13 at the table, and the cat actually used to sit there with a bib on, on a dining chair, to eat. Naturally this made the cat even MORE superior. My poem has had other outings so I won’t include it here.
Sharon Larkin and Sheila Macintyre have assembled a goodly collection of poems here, and as a bonus included some great colour photographs of very pretty kitties, used as section dividers. The book is organised into sections, which breaks down the reading, and gives a sense of connection between poems. Sections include ‘Waifs and Strays’, ‘Whatever the Weather’ and that tricky one ‘Saying Goodbye’.
It’s always hard reviewing an anthology, because one doesn’t want to single out some poems at the expense of others, but I am going to mention a few of my personal favourites. ‘Seconds’ by Melanie Branton, uses language full of fun and invention, to bring life to her ‘roguish stowaway pirate’ of a cat rescued with his ‘more marketable symmetrical brother’. Angi Holden’s ‘Temporary Home’ about a car who came for a few days and stayed for 18 years, aptly called Rags, I found moving, as it shows how these animals can hook themselves into our hearts without us really noticing. I relished Lesley Quayle’s ‘Of Cats and Fish’ for its lack of sentimentality and its cheeky quote from Burns, and the tenderness of memory, and Alison Brackenbury’s ‘Spotted’ poem about the feral hunting cat, which is written in quatrains with deft rhymes. Anne Drysdale’s poem about an unlovely but loved old cat, I found very beautiful, with lines like ‘busy feet treading the slow mills of God’ . Jessica Mookherjee’s sonnet based on Elizabeth Barrett-Browning’s ‘ How do I Love Thee’, ‘The Cat Lover’ similarly moves me. Mavis Moog’s ‘Catterel’, about an awkward cat, is witty and the clever rhymes enhance that humour. Phil Knight’s poem ‘Ginger Cat’ gave me pleasure. I enjoyed both of Sarah J Bryson’s poems in the last section, and Rachel Clyne and Patrick B Osada contribute heart-breaking poems about the loss of cats – a topic which is almost a cliche, but they make it new and particular. I almost forgot to mention Jayne Stanton’s ‘A Kenning for Kitty’. I love seeing kennings and this is a really good one.
This anthology is family friendly and has many poems which are accessible to children. It reaches beyond the usual audience for poetry anthologies and would be enjoyed by all cat lovers, or people like me who have never had a cat, but admire them from afar. It is £8.95, available from https://eithonbridge.com/anthologies/