The Curious Relationship Between Writers and Cats II


About a month ago, I wrote a post on William Carlos Williams and the writer’s relationship with his cats. While researching the piece, I discovered that many writers had (and still do have) cat muses. The list, in fact, is so long that I am under the impression now that in order to really call yourself a writer, you have to adopt a furry feline.

Hemingway’s house in Key West is crawling with over 50 of his six-toed, polydactyl, cats, which tourists travel from all over the world to take a close look at. The Sun Also Rises author fell in love with his first polydactyl cat, Snowball, while traveling in Cuba. Hemingway felt that cats have “absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.” While Hemingway’s cats are now infamous, other writers and their cats may be less known.

50 Shades of Found Poetry


So, it’s no secret that the fan-fiction turned best-seller book 50 Shades of Grey is not considered very…literary. It’s really, from what I’ve been told, more about mild sadomasochism and a controlling sexual relationship than about story or plot or characters or sentence structure or…well, I could go on. So I decided to bully my fellow bloggers here into taking an erotic page from 50 Shades of Grey and turning it into a found poem. Here are the examples we came up with:

Hannah has playful interpretations of found poetry with the 50 Shades of Grey page:

50 shades of personification of body parts.

Emily Dickinson’s Coconut Cake Recipe.

Can you imagine eating a cake made by Emily Dickinson? The famous reclusive poet from Amherst, Massachusetts was also an accomplished baker. In 2011, the Poet’s House in New York City put on an exhibit featuring a handwritten coconut cake recipe from Dickinson on the back of which she had also scribbled the first draft for the following poem:

The Things that never can come back, are several —
Childhood — some forms of Hope — the Dead —
Though Joys — like Men — may sometimes make a Journey —
And still abide —
We do not mourn for Traveler, or Sailor,
Their Routes are fair —
But think enlarged of all that they will tell us
Returning here —
“Here!” There are typic “Heres” —
Foretold Locations —
The Spirit does not stand —
Himself — at whatsoever Fathom
His Native Land —

The Oral Element

I feel like a lot of poetry is misread – poetry is an oral art form that is meant to be read aloud or performed. Poetry on the page is much different then poetry from the lips of a poet or from a performer.

Take E.E. Cummings as an example. Here is his written work:

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Good Literature: What is it?

Being an English major, the conversation of what good literature actually is has come up on more than one occasion.

If you look up the word literature, you’ll find many definitions, the most basic being that literature is the art of written language. Yet, you don’t find most people discussing the latest Dan Brown or Jodi Picoult novel and calling the piece literature. Now, before anyone gets offended, I don’t mean to say these novels aren’t entertaining or enjoyable, but there are many who would argue that these authors and their novels are not on the same level as, say, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, or Twain (and the list goes on).

Rafael Zepeda at Gatsby Books

In the the last few days of February, Rafael Zepeda read at Gatsby Books in Long Beach. The bookstore reserved the night for an open-mic poetry night in which he was the featured poet. Before he read, others in attendance were invited to come up on stage and read their own poetry. Rows of white light bulbs webbed the edges of the bookstore and dangled on the stage behind the poets.

I don’t remember much from that night, at least not from the others who read. I didn’t arrive at the bookstore early enough to get a seat, so instead I stood in the back.  It was very difficult for me to pay attention when someone read their poetry. Not because I had to stand, Gatsby Books is small enough that I was still able to get a good view from where I stood, but because quite a few people near me and even others further in the back were having conversations. Also, since the bookstore was still “open” for business an occasional customer would happen to come in and add to the already annoying commotion at the cash register. Despite all that, when the time came for Rafael to read, everyone respectfully listened in silence.

My Thoughts on Criticism and Editing

There are differences, really, I swear. First let’s go with the “textbook” definition of each term –

Criticism – The analysis and judgment of a literary or artistic work: “methods of criticism supported by literary theories”

Editing – Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.

The difference essentially is that criticism is a form of educated feedback – it’s saying what is strong about the piece and what is lacking. Editing is correction to a piece – which is taking the work away from the original author, which is fine if you are an editor or asked to correct someone’s grammar or are asked to rework a piece, but, I feel, has no place in criticism.

It is not the job of the critic to rewrite the work; that’s what someone editing does.

Weekly Review – Week 2

So, in truth, we haven’t been getting as many user-submitted pieces to share and critique on here as we would have liked. The point of the weekly section is to have users send in their work they would like feedback on. This can be done anonymously if the reader wishes, and the poem or short story or other work is posted up here for a week for the editors and readers of the blog to post helpful feedback on.

That being said, here’s a flash fiction piece by Nicole Neitzke, author and English major extraordinaire, titled “Compulsive.”

The clock ticks away the morning as I begin my daily routine: Make the bed. Straighten the bed. Straighten the bed again. Add throw pillows. The coffee maker was preset and spits the dark roast into a travel mug as I stroll into the kitchen. Two eggs over-easy and one piece of toast with light butter. One glass of 2% milk and one ripe orange. It was four breakfast items, an even number. I set two places at the table, though I always eat alone. I use my normal blue table setting, placing one mismatched green mug with a re-glued handle across from me. I sit and eat my meal in ten minutes. Take my shower, brush my teeth, curl my hair, then get dressed. As I sit down to do my make-up in the remaining ten minutes of my morning ritual, I feel something is amiss.

Well, thanks. We like you too.

We’ve just gotten one hundred and one followers on this blog and we wanted to say thank you! The blog, little over a month old, is the love child of multiple English majors who just wanted to have fun and start a community. We’re very excited to have 100 followers and we look forward to bombarding you all with writing things and poetry stuffs.

Cheers to you!

Wine is appropriate for poetry - right?
Wine is appropriate for poetry – right?

– Amanda Riggle

On Revision

When writing, revision can be both the most gratifying aspect of the process, and the same time, the most paralyzing. On the one hand, you have a chance to polish off your work, to shape it into the magnum opus you imagined one day while daydreaming on the john. It’s undeniably important. But, in my experience, if you entertain the need to revise while writing, you won’t get anywhere. So first, a little on the virtues of revision.

A former professor once told me that when you step back from a piece and return a while later, you effectively have a new set of eyes on your work. You can chalk it up to temperament (maybe you skipped breakfast the day you started writing, or found a parking ticket on your windowshield). Or it may be a matter of perspective; at the risk of sounding like a popcorn psychologist, we grow every day, and the “you” of tomorrow might be more capable of writing that piece than the “you” of today.