Is it presumptuous of me to title this piece such? I’m not an acclaimed or acknowledged poet by anyone of consequence. I don’t have books published with my works. I don’t even have a chapbook, and yet…and yet, I choose to deem myself so.
What makes us artists? What differentiates us from those others? What makes ME a poet?
I think in rhymes. I am constantly looking at things and thinking, how would I convey that on the page? I wake with words swimming in my head, forming stanzas as I sip my tea, or brush my teeth.
I don’t write every day, but I think every day and I plan every day and read every day.
What started it all? I sometimes wonder about that and usually I attribute it to the marvellous world of Dr. Seuss. The other day, I came across something that led me to reconsider that assumption.
I was in a second-hand bookstore in London, Ontario and happened to wander over to the children’s section. A very narrow spine caught my eye. It was a tall book – a Golden Book and it was entitled, “Tell Me, Cat”. Something deep inside me jolted at that name. I reached out and drew the book from the swamped shelf. As I revealed the cover, I gasped. I recognized the book right away.
Greedily, I opened the book and my eyes scanned the inside of the cover where a cross-stitched cat looked back at me with familiar woollen eyes.
Carefully, I turned the large pages and unfolded a page of my own history – a piece of my childhood. With a whoosh, it all came flooding back. Suddenly, I could anticipate what was on the following page…I knew the images of kittens and cats I would find. The words of the verses struck my heart and made me a tousle-haired tot again.
Here are a few samples:
(From the photo on the left):
If we could just read
All the stories inside
Of these books, we’d have fun
But we can’t – though we’ve tried.
Are there books that are written
With words for a kitten?
(From the photo on the right):
I’m a tough old seagoing cat;
They call me Captain Jack.
I’ve sailed to England, Spain, and France,
To Singapore and back.
I’ve walked the decks of many a ship
and guided many a crew.
Tomorrow I sail for Zanzibar….
(I like to pretend, don’t you?)
I called to my husband, whose nose was buried in a social exploration of the world of soccer. I brought the book over to him and presented it as if it were on a velvet cushion. The excitement in my voice could be heard from one end of the store to the other although I was quiet enough.
As I read a few of the verses to him, he smiled (he loves the little girl in me). I said, “It’s only $7.50. I’m going to get it. I can’t believe I’ve found it again.” I had completely forgotten this book existed.
I feel as if I’ve discovered that missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. This book is one of the reasons I AM a poet. The style, the whimsy and the rhyme is so like mine today.
I am ecstatic to have rediscovered it.