What If…we were Sentimental?

A poem made me cry the other day.  for the first time in a long time. it sprang into my head  it in a lecture for some reason.  One of my strongest memories (but not the first) of listening to spoken poetry as a kid in my father’s car.  I looked it up online. It was called ‘A Cat Named Sloopy’ by this poet/singer-songwriter Rod McKuen, born around the same time as many Beat poets, compared to Carl Sandburg BUT also according to Wikipedia, not taken seriously by writers because of his sentimentality. Such as having the audacity to write about his cat, breaking one of the first rules of Contemporary Poetry: You Do Not Write Entire Poems About Your Pets.

Still, I don’t know the last time a poem made me cry. Maybe it was being exposed to it when I was like 8. Maybe it was having cats. The thing is, people take the piss out of this poet because he breaks rules, and yes, there are lines and phrases in this poem that are cringeworthy, but maybe that is beside the point. Perhaps there is only so far following rules can take you. I mean, people write about sex and masturbation and getting fucked and other kinds of nonsense you might think are inappropriate for the stage until they are onstage all the time, so why NOT pets? I keep trying to sound cynical in my poems but maybe there is value in throwing it all to the wind and saying ‘it was only Sloopy who loved me best’.

 

A Cat Named Sloopy

1

For a while

the only earth that Sloopy knew

was in her sandbox.

Two rooms on Fifty-fifth Street

were her domain.

Every night she’d sit in the window

among the avocado plants

waiting for me to come home

(my arms full of canned liver and love).

We’d talk into the night then

contented

but missing something,

She the earth she never knew

me the hills I ran

while growing bent.

 

Sloopy should have been a cowboy’s cat
with prairies to run
not linoleum
and real-live catnip mice.
No one to depend on but herself.

I never told her
but in my mind
I was a midnight cowboy even then.
Riding my imaginary horse
down Forty-second Street,
going off with strangers
to live an hour-long cowboy’s life,
but always coming home to Sloopy,
who loved me best.

 

        2

A dozen summers

An island on an island.

She’d comfort me with purring

I’d fatten her with smiles.

We grew rich on trust

needing not the beach or butterflies

I had a friend named Ben

Who painted buildings like Roualt men.

He went away.

My laughter tired Lillian

after a time

she found a man who only smiled.

Only Sloopy stay and stayed.

 

Winter.
Nineteen fifty-nine.
Old men walk their dogs.
Some are walked so often
that their feet leave
little pink tracks
in the soft gray snow.

Women fur on fur
elegant and easy
only slightly pure
hailing cabs to take them
round the block and back.
Who is not a love seeker
when December comes?
even children pray to Santa Claus.
I had my own love safe at home
and yet I stayed out all one night
the next day too.

 

          3

They must have thought me crazy

screaming

Sloopy

Sloopy

as the snow came falling

down around me.

 

I was a madman
to have stayed away
one minute more
than the appointed hour.
I’d like to think a golden cowboy
snatched her from the window sill,
and safely saddlebagged
she rode to Arizona.
She’s stalking lizards
in the cactus now perhaps
bitter but free.

I’m bitter too
and not a free man any more.

Once was a time,
in New York’s jungle in a tree,
before I went into the world
in search of other kinds of love
nobody owned me but a cat named Sloopy.

Looking back
perhaps she’s been
the only human thing
that ever gave back love to me.
(from the book “Listen To The Warm” published by Random House. Copyright Rod McKuen 1963-1967.)

Upcoming Gigs for March, etc.

March 1— 8PM:  LSE Literary Festival Poetry Slam, Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, the London School of Economics

http://www2.lse.ac.uk/publicEvents/events/2012/03/LitFest20120301t1830vWT.aspx

March 8— 7.30PM: Calm A Llama Down,KAFF 64-68 Atlantic Road, BRIXTON, SW9 8PY

http://www.facebook.com/#!/calmallamapoetry

March 9, Friday—7PM Club Wotever Dyke March Fundraiser @ RVT Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 372 Kennington Lane, SE11 5HY London, United Kingdom

http://www.facebook.com/events/239458009474724/

March 28— 7.30PM: JAWDANCE!!!!!!! Rich Mix, 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA

http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/233065886777984/

of pipes and bedtime stories

or, Video of Self Awkwardly Holding Laptop and Winning Farrago History Slam at Steampunk Opium Wars Night at The National Maritime Museum On 16 February with Poem About Not Saying No.

video credits go to the amazing Anna Chen who wrote an entire steampunk-styled poetry/play/opera about the Opium Wars. Imperialism! Drugs! Orientalism! Global Hegemony! Capitalism! Leather! Was a brilliant night. More on this later when I have finished writing an international law essay about, er…NATO and unilateral force…more of the same really….

Anna Chen blogs at www.madammiaow.blogspot.com.

Upcoming Gigs for February…

***JUST WON THE HACKNEY HAMMER AND TONGUE FEBRUARY SLAM ON FEBRUARY 7!  Shout out to all the people who were there, like Dizraeli, Anthony Joseph the two mind-blowing features; Angry Sam, Ray Antrobus, Gilbert Francois, and all the people from SOAS who have been to India….***
  • 9 February, Thursday: Calm a Llama Down Debut Night (on the open mic), 8PM
KAFF 64-68 Atlantic Road, BRIXTON, SW9 8PY
  • 20 February,  Monday: Chill Pill,  6PM

Soho Theatre

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=123086791063876

  • 23February, Thursday: SOAS LGBTQ Open Mic, 8PM

SOAS JCR, Russell Square, 33 Thornhaugh Street, WC10XH

http://www.facebook.com/groups/45909695166/

  • 24 February Friday: Farrago Heartbreaker Slam, 7.30PM-10.30PM
RADA Foyer Bar, Malet St, London, United Kingdom

…more details soon!

Also, I have been accepted for a 50 minutes one-woman show for the PBH’s Free Fringe Festival in Edinburgh this year. Will start blogging about the whole writing/creation process soon, ie. Will I Write and Memorize Fifty Minutes of Poetry About Myself Before August?

The proposal I sent says it has something to do with alternative histories, colonialism, post-colonialism,  the Experience of Me Coming to London. There will be at least one poem about British colonial officials meeting legendary characters, like a Mythical Mousedeer, the hero Sang Kancil of Malayan Folklore. I am not entirely sure what this will evolve into or what the whole thing will look like in the end. Maybe I will look back on this and laugh. Or not.

So keep checking back. Or will this be just an excuse to put a really tiny deer on my blog……

this is a mousedeer. now imagine this guy fighting crocodiles and starting a Southeast Asian Kingdom!