In Competition No. 3134 you were invited to submit a poem featuring one of T.S. Eliot’s practical cats getting to grips with the modern world.
Your 21st-century reincarnations of Eliot’s felines (the poems were originally published in 1939 and inspired by the poet’s four-year-old godson, who invented the words ‘pollicle’ for dogs and ‘jellicle’ for cats) were terrific. Alas long lines mean space for fewer winners and some fine Macavitys narrowly missed the cut (take a bow, Nick Syrett, David Shields and Hamish Wilson). I was sorry, too, not to have had room for Bill Greenwell’s Jellicles and Brian Allgar’s Growltiger, the Tory Cat.
This week’s top cats are printed below and pocket £35 each.
“Bustopher Jones has firm flesh on his bones, In short, he has ceased to be fat, He had a rebirth and he’s saving the earth, He’s a Vegan Society cat. And this is the reason, when game is in season, He turns his impeccable back, And the merest glimpse of those winkles and shrimps Makes him yearn for a plant-based quick snack. Instead of pigs’ cheeks, he eats chickpeas and leeks, Or a spinach and kale cassoulet. If it’s growing, he’ll try it; he finds on this diet The pounds just keep falling away. Walking out, slim and svelte, he must tighten his belt, Or his trousers, well-cut, might descend. Yet it’s said, now he’s lean, that it’s cool to be green And that wearing white spats is on-trend! Sylvia Fairley Growltiger is a Boho Cat who gentrifies the slums: he’s living on a Dutch barge with some floorboard-sanding chums. From Peckham Rye to Hoxton he’s developing the stews, rejoicing in his title as ‘The Doer-up of Mews’. The cottagers of Rotherhithe know something of his crimes: a pop-up restaurant appears that’s big on kaffir limes; kombucha in the greasy spoon, some tofu at the pub, then there’s no more work for strippers down the Deptford Social Club. In the forepeak of his vessel Growltiger sits alone. He’s prowling over rooftops via a camera on his drone as priced-out cockney dockers gain a foothold on the barge, obliged to live in Luton when they long to live it large. The working class press forward in displaced rank on rank; Growltiger to his vast surprise is made to walk the plank. The Isle of Dogs rejoices when they hear it on the news, while the staff of Wapping Waitrose weep in crematorium pews. Nick MacKinnon From a long line of troupers, our Gus came of age Among mentors and models whose lives on the stage Took for granted that everyone knows it’s all right To cast a black role with an actor who’s white. An Othello’s corked face and his kinky-hair wig Were perceived not as hate crimes — just par for the gig, And a cat, like his human co-stars, could feel free To assume any colour he wanted to be. But today, if a cat wears a blue-lens disguise For a turn on the stage with faux Siamese eyes, Or dares to say dye to a natural follicle, He is sure to touch off storms of rage diabolical. If he dons extra fur to go Maine Coon or Persian, Angry critics will launch a barrage of aspersion. So if all of that stuff is off limits, thinks Gus, Then how come human beings get to dress up like us? Chris O’Carroll Life had posed a fateful question to the Lady Griddlebone. The tragic death of Growltiger had left her quite alone. Would she find her Mr Darcy, as in all the best romcoms, Or live an unprotected queen, the prey of feral toms? The first few weeks were tough as hell. She hung out by the docks, A teat of her survival skills, a college of hard knocks. The local males all tried it on. She bid them go to hell. Macavity came sniffing round. She brushed him off as well. Some cats are fat and lazy; not so Lady Griddlebone. You could call her too intense, but she was always in the zone. She formed a group of female cats to busk around St Paul’s For tourists who applauded their melodic caterwauls. Though she did it for morale’s sake, for a booster, for a gas, As selfies taken with the group popped up online en masse Their fanbase swelled to millions. They were soon living the dream. Who needs Fitzwilliam Darcy when your act’s a viral meme? Basil Ransome-Davies
No. 3137: by george
To mark the 70th anniversary of George Orwell’s death, you are invited to submit a short story with an Orwellian flavour. Please email entries of up to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 13 February.