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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Poetry is a 'practical cat'

“Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” – T. S. Eliot

Born in America in September 1888, Eliot was an essayist, publisher, playwright, literary, social critic, and one of the twentieth century's major poets.  He moved to England in 1914 at the age of 25, settling, working, and marrying there.        He became a British subject in 1927.

Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, he wrote some of the best-known poems in the English language, including The Waste Land, "The Hollow Men,” and "Ash Wednesday” and seven hit plays led by the much-performed Murder in the Cathedral.   His book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats became the foundation for the long-running Broadway musical “Cats.”  Here, from that book – and for Saturday’s Poem – is Eliot’s, 

The Naming of Cats
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey —
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter —
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkstrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum —
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover —
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

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