It’s a while since I posted any poetry, so, since I’m in the process of moving things from the city to the village, this seems appropriate:
The rip and fart of parcel tape; the tangle,
stick and cuss; the smell of dust,
mothballs and corrugated cardboard.
Drugstore detergent cartons
stuffed and trussed
and stacked in the spare room.
Both cats in heat and looking
for a mate, a nest, a fond caress…
They play at pigs in pokes, scrabble,
scratch and snag at boxes, plastic bags
and bundles, wail and waul.
When finally I move, I’ll leave
fixtures and fittings
and two grown kittens.
It’s an old poem and the two cats who inspired the idea are long dead – from old age and illness, I hasten to clarify, not put down as inconvenient.
I’m particularly fond of the piece as I posted it for comment on a poetry critique forum and got one indignant reply: “If this is true, then this is, without a doubt, the most ignorant and offensive thing I have ever seen on this newsgroup.” I was glad to have produced a vivid emotional reaction in at least one reader, but anyone who read the group in question would recognise just how extreme that response was.
I don’t think my narrator ever really intended abandoning the cats; she was just exasperated and stressed out over moving house. Mind you, whatever she did or thought of doing might still be valid material for poetry. Just because something’s nasty or it’s something we wouldn’t do ourselves, doesn’t mean it’s out of bounds to the poet.
The separation of reality and art – the use of real life as a stepping stone to the poetic – is one of my basic tenets as a writer. So, too, the separation of the poet from the work, so that any criticism of the latter is not a criticism of the writer. If I offer my work for critique – and, similarly, if I offer it for publication – I should be ready to step back from it and be objective. If the critic, editor or reviewer makes a negative comment, it isn’t me who is being criticised or rejected.
If you are going to take criticism or rejection personally, perhaps you are not ready to be sending out your work.
Anyway, this poem went on to be published in Envoi magazine and has also found a place in my – as yet unpublished – collection Hope Street.