Tag Archives: T.S.Eliot

Song or Surname? What Shall It Be?

The gardener doesn’t like how Slupe’s name is spelled. Not that she’s our cat (yet). She’s still a foster, but as time moves along, things are looking more and more hopeful that we can keep her. She roams the house outside her bedroom for about 5 hours a day and then sometimes an hour later on. But she doesn’t want to stay out longer yet, as she gets a little stressed and hasn’t found her own safe spots yet.

I don’t know where the name Slupe comes from, but since some jerk  her previous owner turned her into County (where they usually kill cats so they don’t have to find a cage and food for them) I will assume that they turned in her name along with her body.

Now the sound of Slupe–which is pronounced just like Sloopy or Slupey–is kind of cute, but if you didn’t see it spelled out you might think it was spelled Sloopy, which can’t help but remind me of these old song lyrics:

Hang on, Sloopy
Sloopy, hang on
Hang on, Sloopy
Sloopy, hang on

Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
And everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
Sloopy, I don’t care what your daddy do (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
‘Cause you know, Sloopy, girl, I’m in love with you (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)

And so I sing out
Hang on, Sloopy
Sloopy, hang on
Hang on, Sloopy
Sloopy, hang on

Kind of chilling lyrics (“tries to put my Sloopy down”), considering the circumstances of Slupe’s life.  Here is the whole song:

Slupe has been hanging on at the no-kill shelter for two years now, so she definitely followed the song’s advice.

What’s your opinion? Slupe or Sloopy? Will she care? Is it better to make the gardener happy by changing the spelling? What IS a Slupe/Sloopy anyway?

According to the internet, there are all kinds of negatives associated with the word sloopy–and usually likened to sloppy. Some people say the inspiration for the song was a 51-year-old Columbus, Ohio, singer named Dorothy Sloop, but this is really stretching things.

There is a Project Sloopy that helps people around the world get medical supplies. People use Sloopy as a nickname or term of endearment.

The song itself has become unofficially tied to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Here is info about that phenomenon.

Then I looked up Slupe. I found this link! Thasssssss my girl!

Apparently Slupe is a surname. It could be related to Sloop, which definitely comes from the Dutch Sloep. A sloep/sloop is a type of sailboat. I’m glad that Slupe found this Dutch girl’s house!

I took her to the vet the other day for a checkup, and I warned them how at the shelter they found her to be so difficult to handle. Hahaha, she was angelic. She even let them cut all her nails. I think the carrier I used was very helpful. While we waited, she could feel my hand and leg against her body through the mesh.

Another thought . . .

Sometimes I get random thoughts about a subject and spend some time wondering or even researching said subject. Today it was privacy. It is an important topic today since we are increasingly losing our privacy because of technology like cell phones, the internet, and now drones.

But I have actually been contemplating cat privacy. Since Slupe was two years in the shelter, she hadn’t had a moment of privacy in all that time. You know how cats like to find little private places every once in a while? How does it feel to a cat who can’t find any place private for years? No, I don’t believe cats really need privacy in the litter box–just safety. Or even mating. But I do think they like “alone time” every so often.

Bottom line:

Song (Sloopy) or Surname (Slupe): what shall it be? Whichever it is, you know that she will never let us know her secret name.

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
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”
T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

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Filed under Art and Music, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

A Cranky Reader on Modern Poetry

I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts about poetry by guest bloggers Carla McGill, Carol Bachofner, and Cullen Bailey Burns. After those C names and for the final post in this series of poetry talks by guest bloggers comes a D name, Deborah J. Brasket who blogs at Living on the Edge of the Wild. Enjoy!

by Guest Blogger Deborah J. Brasket

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry, how some moves me and some not at all. Reading recent issues of some prestigious journals, I found not one poem—not one—moved me. Amazing!

Most seemed like intellectual exercises or obtuse offerings of random thoughts and images. None engaged me intellectually, or stimulated my sensibilities, or even challenged me—let alone invited me—to a second reading. Instead they were studies in disappointment. I left them unfulfilled, still hungry and, admittedly, cranky.

Is it me? Is it them? Sigh.

Just what is it I crave from poetry?

Wallace Stevens once famously said: “You can’t get the news from poems, but men die every day for lack of what is found there.”

That’s what I want: The thing we die from lack of. That’s why I read poetry. What I look for in other works of art too—in prose and painting and music that rise to the level of poetry.

I want what Emily Dickinson referred to when she says, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Something that tickles the hindermost parts of my brain, where I feel the synapses stretch and snap, reaching toward something just past my grasp.

I want what T.S. Elliot meant to when he writes that “poetry is a raid on the inarticulate.” Something dark and dormant, lying just below consciousness, rising into the light: a curved fin, a humped back, gliding momentarily along the surface of thought before dipping below again.

We have all felt that, I’m sure. Something deep and delicious, once known and now forgotten, woken momentarily. Something within us re-ignited, flashing briefly before dissolving into darkness again.

In “Ars Poetica,” Archibald MacLeish says: “A poem should be palpable and mute / As a globed fruit.”

He says: “A poem should be wordless / As the flight of birds.”

He says:

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

Reading his poem, I’m with him. I’m saying: Yes!

But then he almost ruins it with the last two lines:

A poem should not mean
But be.

Pointing to something static. Not in motion. Art for art’s sake. An artifact showcased in a museum.

Gwendolyn Brooks writes:

Does man love Art? Man visits Art, but squirms.
Art hurts. Art urges voyages–
And it is easier to stay at home,
The nice beer ready.

If it doesn’t make us squirm, if it doesn’t hurt, if it doesn’t urge voyages, is it art? Is it poetry?

Stevens calls modern poetry “the poem of the mind.” It’s “the act of finding what will suffice.”

He says:

It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage,
And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and
With meditation, speak words that in the ear,
In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound
Of which, an invisible audience listens,
Not to the play, but to itself, expressed
In an emotion as of two people, as of two
Emotions becoming one.

A poem must construct something that it inhabits, that speaks to the reader, in the “delicatest ear of the mind,” “exactly, that which it wants to hear,” what the reader, that invisible audience, wants to hear—which is not the play, not the poem, but “itself.” Itself “expressed / In an emotion as of two people, as of two emotions becoming one.”

It must
Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may
Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman
Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.

Stevens is saying that a poem can no more “be” than “mean.” Rather, it must act. It must unite poet and reader in the act of finding what will suffice.

It is not static: It is “a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman combing.” It is always moving. It moves us to capture it in its passing. It moves us beyond ourselves, where the top of our head lifts away and there we go unbounded, grasping for just a brief moment what lies always, already, just beyond our grasp.

That which suffices. That which the lack thereof we die of every day. That’s what I’m looking for when I read poetry.

I want to feel my synapses snapping.

Deborah J. Brasket is a writer working on a novel and short story collection. She has an Masters in English and taught college composition and literature courses for many years near her home on the central coast of California. She features some of her poetry on her blog Living on the Edge of the Wild, where she writes about nature, writing, art, literature, and her travels sailing around the world with her family. Some of her work can also be found at www.djbrasket.com.

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Filed under Books, Essay, Literary Journals, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Writing

That’s Some Pig

From the time we learn the words abracadabra or open sesame, we know that words can be magic. When adults tell children to “say the magic word,” meaning please or thank you, children see the cause and effect of magic words.

Certain books use words in a way that work magic on us, making them live on inside us for the rest of our lives.  Just thinking about these books can be magical.  Robert Frost’s poetry. Jeffrey Masson’s When Elephants Weep. Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Donne. Harriet Arnow’s The Dollmaker. King Lear.

Sometimes naming even seems to work some magic on the recipient of the name. When I called my orange cat Macavity, after the T.S.Eliot master criminal cat, I might have inadvertently caused him to steal all my earrings.  One of my tuxedo cat’s middle names is Jellicle Jill, and like Eliot’s Jellicle cats, she dances all night. In the morning I find her toys strewn around the house.

Even one word can resonate with magic.  For me a word which reverberates with magic is radiant–and all because of E.B. White and his children’s classic Charlotte’s Web. When I first read that Charlotte spun out that word in Wilbur’s pen and saw how Wilbur lived up (key word in this sentence is “up”) to it, I could never see that word the same again. Think of Wilbur who jumps and spins in the air to prove he’s radiant.  He begins to feel radiant from the inside. Then Mrs. Arable gives him a buttermilk bath, so that he looks radiant to others. But he was always radiant–he just had to find that quality within himself and act upon it.

I’ve been reminded of Wilbur every morning by the label on my new face cleanser by Burt’s Bees: Radiance. I feel akin to Wilbur, being an average Jenny like most of us are (Average Joes and Jennies) and how nice it is to try to live up to the radiance that bottle offers.  Then I think of how terrific Wilbur discovered he could be, but how humble he stayed.  After all, it was Charlotte’s hard work that allowed him to discover all that he could be–all that he could live up to.

When Charlotte wrote that Wilbur was some pig she was saying Wilbur really was a good soul, and that all pigs can be such. Her description of Wilbur connects back with Mrs. Arable’s comment on the very first page: “‘Some pigs were born last night.'” [my italics] All those pigs had the potential when they were born to be more than they were, just as Wilbur did.

Although it’s nice to have a good friend like Charlotte as a helper, all of us average Joes and Jennies can live up to the magic words we find in our lives. You might find yours in the Bible or in a novel or a play. You might find yours from the mouth of a friend or stranger.

As you age, you might add more and more magic words to your treasury. For me, “That’ll do, pig,” from the movie Babe layered on “some pig” in my memory bank. These words resonate with appreciation for the effort we put into our daily lives. Our hard work makes our lives glow radiantly as we try to live up to our potential.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Nonfiction, Writing