Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 2016 Poetry Challenge - a Cat Poem

Photo by Kathleen Marie Penrod

The news over the past few months has been intense and often depressing: the terrible destruction of life and property in Aleppo where even young children seem to be targets; in the U.S., an election campaign that featured name-calling, threats and insults, and exposed deep wounds dividing people; news of a huge international child pornography ring, burgeoning accusations of sexual abuse of youth by British soccer coaches. . . . and more. So for December, the Poetry Challenge is going to take a break from serious matters.

In the U.S., people joke about emails and Facebook posts about cute kittens, emails and posts that bring a smile to many faces. This month, we will focus on poems about cats (or kittens). 

Many of the world’s best poets have written about cats. In fact, “The Naming of Cats,” which ended up as a song in the musical, “Cats,” was written by T. S. Eliot, who is known for such profound and deep works as “The Waste Land,” “The Four Quartets,” and “The Hollow Man.” You can read “The Naming of Cats” at It is nice to know that Eliot had a sense of humor.

One of the most famous cat poems come from the 1700s:

Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat
Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes

’Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but ’midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch’d, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A Favourite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.

~ Thomas Gray

Here is another cat poem by a well-known poet:

The Cat and the Moon

The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon,
The creeping cat, looked up.

Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For, wander and wail as he would,
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.

Minnaloushe runs in the grass
Lifting his delicate feet.

Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet.

What better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
Tired of that courtly fashion,
A new dance turn.

Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
From moonlit place to place,
The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.

Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent,
From crescent to round they range?
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
Alone, important and wise,
And lifts to the changing moon
His changing eyes.

~ William Butler Yeats

The two poems above are in the public domain.

In contrast to these long poems, one by and English poet and one by an Irish poet, is the miniature cat poem by the Persian poet, Rumi, which you can find at It goes to show that you don’t have to be wordy to write a good cat poem.

If you want to read more cat poems, here are two places where you can find links:

The December Challenge:

The December Challenge is to submit a poem about a cat, or a poem in which a cat plays an important role, preferably not as long as the example poem by Thomas Gray. Your poem may be a narrative, as are the two example poems, but it doesn't have to be. It may be serious, humorous, or tender. Too much sentimentality, however, isn’t likely to win.

Title your poem unless it is haiku or another form that does not use titles. It may be free or formal verse. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem. Please single-space, and don’t use lines that are overly long (because the blog format doesn’t accommodate long lines). Please do not indent or center your poem on the page.

You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet.

The deadline is December 15. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards; however winners are published on this blog. Please don’t stray too far from “family-friendly” language. No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published on this blog. Decision of the judge or judges is final.

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet. If a winning poem is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put December Poetry Challenge Submission in the subject line of your email. Include a brief bio which can be printed with your poem, if you are a winner this month. Please put your name and bio under the poem in your email. Put “What if poem in the subject line.

Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name (exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win) at the end of the poem. Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment (no pdf files, please). Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all in capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). Also, please do not use spaces instead of commas in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique (I sometimes do it myself). However I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.

Poems shorter than 40 lines are generally preferred but longer poems will be considered.

© Wilda Morris