‘Old Possum’ and his love for cats

Published: 04th February 2013 12:09 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th February 2013 12:09 PM   |  A+A-

If you think poetry is gloomy and hard to understand, you’re going to have all your worst fears confirmed if you ever get around to reading The Wasteland by T S Eliot. Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s a wonderful piece of work once you have spent some time getting to know and understand it. But it sure is full of dark moods and some very complicated references.

So it might surprise you that I’m going to ask you to read something by Eliot this week; and that you’re going to enjoy it. Because Eliot wasn’t just about the doom and gloom. He had friends, and some of these friends had children, and being a poet he figured that a poem or two would be the best gifts he could give them.

So he set about writing a set of poems about his favourite creatures — cats. He would include these poem in his letters to his young friends, who called him ‘Old Possum’. That’s why, when they were collected and printed as a book, it was called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

The 15 poems in this book are a whole lot of fun, even if you aren’t a cat lover — and I’ll bet you will be once you’re through with this book! You’ll meet a wide variety of unforgettable cats in this book, each with his or her own personality. Macavity, the mystery cat, is the master criminal of the feline world, breaking every human law and sometimes even the law of gravity. Then there’s the magical Mr Mistoffelees, a neat black cat who can teach the most skilful conjurer a trick or two. Dogs and cats often don’t get along, and in The Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles we learn of an epic battle between a group of cats and a band of Pekinese dogs. Some cats seem to live forever and know everything; in one of these poems you will meet such a cat, Old Deuteronomy, who is ‘famous in proverb and famous in rhyme’. The rogues Mongojerrie and Rumpleteazer are not dignified at all. They are highly efficient cat burglars, always up to mischief. Some cats like to sit, and sit, and sit — they’re Gumbie cats, like Jennyanydots.

And these aren’t even all the Practical Cats in Old Possum’s Book!

The book begins and ends with two very important poems for anyone who wants to deal with a cat. The first, On The Naming Of Cats, deals with the serious and difficult task of finding a name for a cat. If you have a cat, you know what a big job this can be. And no matter how wonderful the name you pick is, remember that every cat has a secret name, a name that only the cat knows. If you have ever seen a cat in profound meditation, you know that he is thinking about his secret name!

The other poem, The Ad-dressing of Cats tells you how you should talk to a cat — with lots of care and respect!

So if you’re looking for a fun, painless book of poems, and one that will introduce you to a variety of interesting cats, you should get hold of a copy of Old Possum’s book, sit back in a comfy chair and enjoy yourself.


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