Book Review: Poetry From Scratch

Poetry From Scratch:  A Kitten’s Book Of Verse, by Jennifer McCartney

I happened to greatly enjoy and appreciate this book of cat poetry, but there is at least one thing wrong with the book, and that is the way that the book is framed as having been the first or only book of its kind.  Now, it must be admitted that books that purport to be by cats that express their own views in poetic forms are not a very common genre of literature, but at the same time this is at least the fourth such book I have read, the other three of which are by the same author [1].  To be sure, the author may not have been aware of these books, but given that this book was published in 2016, at least some knowledge of or awareness of these other books would have been good.  There are likely at least a few readers like me whose fondness for this sort of book would be gratified by knowing that at least those writing such books are aware of each other and aware of their shared role as part of a community of authors that write for audiences of people interested in pets.  This may not be a large audience, but it is an audience that deserves to be recognized, at any rate.

This book is a short one at about 100 pages in length and it is divided into several parts.  The book introduces with a typical sort of fake acknowledgement of the real cat authors and an amusing story that helps to give the poems some sort of provenance.  After this the author writes cat verse inspired by famous poems, which include poems by Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Percy Shelley, Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, and others.  After that the author includes a set of free verse and beat poetry that is also genuinely enjoyable.  An entire section of odes devoted to things cats love like fresh litter boxes, sunbeams, a piece of string, and the corner of the book one is trying to read follows.  After this the book concludes with a set of amusing and entertaining rhyming verses, haiku, and limericks, as well as acknowledgements.  These are the sorts of poems that will likely be appreciated both by children as well as adult fans of cats, and it is difficult to know who will smile or laugh at them more.

Like any great collection of poetry, this book offers considerable more depth than may immediately meet the eye.  Although the author is not as interested as others are in portraying human beings through the use of animals, this book does at least have two layers of applicability and relevance for readers.  For one, the book offers a chance for cat lovers and animal lovers in general to vicariously enjoy trying to picture art and artistic endeavors through the eyes of pets.  It is likely only for the best when people practice their capacity for empathy through means such as writing poems or reading poems and enjoying them that purport to come from animals where the animals and their ways of thinking and behaving are viewed in compassionate and understanding and generous-minded ways.  Likewise, this book offers the reader the considerable pleasure of trying to spot the poems and recognize the poets whose work is being honored by being reinterpreted through the perspective of the anonymous and falsely attributed feline authors of these poems.  If these poems provoke any of the readers to take a look at the original poems that are being lovingly parodied here, it will likely have done poetry in general a considerable service.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s