The Feline

On the eve of the year of the dog, the Feline Awards

WHEN A CAT DIES by Lyn Lifshin wins in the category of best book of poetry about and concerning cats. She takes great risks - the risk of sentimentality and of sounding maudlin; yet Lyn always did take risks in her poetry, as other American poets of my own generation whose work I most admire (Bobby Byrd, Adrian C. Louis, Lewis MacAdams) do. In much of her poetry over the past 35 years, she has her claws out, but in some of her early work, as in these lines from Tearing This Old Building Down first published in Poetry Review (London) edited by Eric Mottram (Winter 1972-73), she retracts to say purringly:

No one could
stay the shade

blowing from
the window could
be hair,

my hair.
when I live

in your arms
it's this

useless, beautiful

The best novel with a major cat character is THE MASTER & MARGHARITA by Mikail Bulgakov. (With a very honorable mention to the Kinkster's cat.)

For a chapbook of poems, there is a double award to the blind British poet John Heath-Stubbs, now in his eighties (1) and a long-time resident of west London, one of the Oxford New Romantics of the 1940's, whose cat verse may well be his best poetry(in the same way that the dialect poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, so publicly despised by him in his own lifetime, seem to me to be his best work, and can be read in HOWDY HONEY HOWDY, the finest edition being the one with photographs by Leigh Richmond Miner; and Herbert Woodward Martin has edited a slim & nice paperback selected Dunbar.) Heath-Stubbs's work on cats is published by Hearing Eye, with its 75 year old maven, former chairperson of Anarchist meetings at The Lamb & Flag, John Rety, 1960's editor of Freedom, the British weekly anarchist newsjournal who, in protest against the Vietnam war, participated in the fast at Speakers' Corner, still at the helm. CATS' PARNASSUS was Heath-Stubbs's first cat chap, and he writes in the guise of cats who belonged to famous poets. As Jeoffrey, Christopher Smart's cat, he writes:

For I will consider my master Christopher
For he also is the servant of the living God
For he yowls at all hours singing psalms
For he is of the house of Asaph the chief musician......

Or: "Great Atossa, sleek and fat - / I am Matthew Arnold's cat..." and so on. However, in a heavier vein in a later Hearing Eye chapbook, THE PARSON'S CAT, he writes eight poems and a Prologue in which he notes: "...I'll not bore you / By going through the six-and-twenty letters / Which make our alphabet. I'll choose just eight, / and they'll spell out his hidden name / (A name of horror and terror it is to boot - / The parson's cat is a shadow of the parson)". These Hearing Eye Heath-Stubbs chapbooks are designed and illustrated by Emily Johns.

In the category of best long poem of a cat the Feline Award goes to Basil Bunting (in collaboration with Obaid-e Zakani) for THE PIOUS CAT, published in Bunting's Complete Poems.

Best short poems: THE CATS' PROTECTION LEAGUE by Roger McGough. CHARLIE PARKER by Dave Etter.

Best cat snap on dustjacket of poetry book: SELECTED POEMS of Dave Etter (photo by Emily Etter).

The award for best musical is obvious, but an award for lyrics to TSE will be withheld due to his virulent and uncatlike anti-semitism. In graphic art and comics/comix, one honors Krazy Kat, and those who have followed, from the one in the hat, to Gilbert Shelton's cat, to the more sanitized syndicated versions. It would appear that there are now even cat bloggers: Valderbar, for example.

The Cat People films (even the recent Halle Berry one), celebrating as they do, the independent mystery and untameable wildness of the feline, win the coveted Freedom Award, cats always symbolizing Evil to the Tyrant. But of course, it is, nevertheless, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, in spite of noble efforts by Sidney Greenstreet, which garners the nod for best film with cat.

Tom wins Animation award.
Best Title Credits: Saul Bass ("Walk on The Wild Side")

The surprising winner in the category of best non-fiction prose is William S. Burroughs for THE CAT INSIDE. It is, I think, unlike anything else Burroughs has ever written.

These Catadamie Awards are certified and approved by The Cheshire Cat, Dick Whittington's Cat and Puss-in-Boots.

One dedicates this post to all of the cats I have lost over the years, and also to the gone human cats who have touched my life. I'd like to call specific attention, for example, to a brief portrait of Christopher Cook Gilmore in a book by Jeremy Mercer titled (in the U.S.) TIME WAS SOFT THERE, referring to George Whitman's Shakespeare & Co. in Paris; also to the recent short film about the iconic bookstore which featured my friend Chris in both the film's opening and closing. Writer of novels (ATLANTIC CITY PROOF, published by Duckworth, paperbacked by Penguin), short stories, and articles for magazines; performance artist and poet, CCG, a good friend, was one very cool and well-travelled cat indeed. An obituary I never thought I would write was printed in the local newspaper, Atlantic City Press, and was also published in FIRE #26, edited by Jeremy Hilton out of Oxfordshire, UK (www.poetical.org), and that issue also contains two of Chris's pieces: excerpts from his lyric, PARIS BLUES, and a poem he calls a "Transcription". Three of his poems from Rebibbia appear in issue number four of Branch Redd Review, now o.p.

(1) John Heath Stubbs, age 88, died on Boxing Day, 2006, in London. Obituary in THE CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL was followed by notices in The Guardian, The Independent, and The Telegraph. (footnote posted Jan. '07)