Saturday, April 16, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - Feline Felicity

Okay, I may be "Team Dog," but I can appreciate a cat. I'm crazy about the Rev, the tuxedo cat that lives in the rectory at my church. I have a thing for Siamese cats (I think it's the eyes), and I love the neighborhood tabby, even when he's chasing squirrels and going after the birds in my yard. I promised after last week's list on dogs that I'd give equal time to pets of the feline variety. So here are some of my favorite books of cat poetry, beginning with one of the first poetry books I ever read.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, written by T.S. Eliot and illustrated by Edward Gorey - Forget everything you've heard about the musical and read the book! Eliot included these poems in letters to his godchildren. Though written in the 1930s, they ever get old.
I Am the Cat, written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Mark Buehner - Alternating between haiku and longer poems, this collection captures the essence of the cat in all it's complexity.

Cat, What Is That?, written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Wendell Minor - The poet answers the question posed in the title, never using the word cat, but by describing their antics and behaviors.

Cat Poems, written by Dave Crawley and illustrated by Tamara Petrosino - This collection contains 24 rhyming poems that describe cats and their often hilarious behaviors.
So, What's It Like to Be a Cat?, written by Karla Kuskin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin - The poems in the book make up a "conversation" (perhaps interview is a better word) between a young boy and his cat.

A Curious Collection of Cats, written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Michael Wertz - This collection of 34 concrete poems describes in words and form a variety of cats, including fat cats, princess cats, kissy cats, and more. I particularly like the poems focused on cat anatomy, like their tails and tongues.

Cats Vanish Slowly, written by Ruth Tiller and illustrated by Laura Seeley - This collection of 12 poems introduces readers to the cats at grandmother's farm, each one with a personality of its own. Be sure to check out some of the illustrations at Seeley's web site.
Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, written by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin - This is the story of a shelter cat and how he acclimates in his new home, told entirely in senryu, a form focused on “the foibles of human nature--or in this case, cat nature.” Whether you call it haiku or senryu, the short verses are entirely fitting for the tale Wardlaw tells.

The following titles are repeated from the Gone to the Dogs post, but since they include both dogs and cats, they are worth repeating!

Raining Cats and Dogs, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by, is a collection of poems that can be read from both directions. Tired of poems about dogs? Flip the book over and read about cats. (This one's out of print, so check your local library for a copy.)

Bow Wow Meow Meow: It's Rhyming Cats and Dogs, written and illustrated by Douglas Florian - In this collection, Florian presents a series of 21 poems about domesticated and wild dogs and cats.

I Am the Dog I Am the Cat by Donald Hall - This free verse poem alternates between the voice of a rottweiler and the voice of a tabby cat.

Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry by Joyce Sidman - A dog and cat are trapped under a picnic table in a rainstorm. Since much of the verse forms the images on the page, readers will enjoy searching for the buried verses while reading the story.

Now that you are in a feline frame of mind, here are some additional resources you may find helpful.
I'm going to close with two acrostic poems from the book A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms, selected by Paul Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka.

Paul Janeczko

Team dog, remember?

1 comment:

  1. Hah. Those are all lovely, and I saw the illustration on the cover of Cat What Is That, and marveled at how realistically the cats were depicted.

    I'm Team Reptile, chick. Let's have some snake poetry!