Of Dead Poets & Dead Cats

04 Apr


On a rainy summer day when I was about seven years old, I decided to create a poetry book. It was a collection of my favorite poems at the time, and my very favorite one was by Emily Dickinson. It went like this:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you Nobody too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t Tell! They’d banish us, you know!

How dreary to be Somebody!

How public like a frog

To tell one’s name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!

I don’t rightly recall why this particular poem tickled my little girl brain so much. Maybe it was the funny little comparison of a human to a frog. Maybe it was the brevity of the poem, which made it easy for a child to memorize. Whatever it was, it drove me to seek out more poetry & to write volumes of the stuff myself. I even had a poem published in Jack & Jill magazine all those years ago! Dickinson did not remain my favorite poet for long, but I can say, without a doubt, my love of the classics began with an infatuation with the agoraphobic woman who said so much with so few words.

My love of poetry actually started long before that summer. Right before I started kindergarten, I wrote my very first poem–an ode to my cat who was found fatally caught up on something in my grandpa’s barn. Sadly, my grandma & I discovered him and I cried and cried. I have lost the poem over the years (I’m certain it must be in one of the thousands of boxes in my parents’ attic), but I do remember the title & first lines. Dead Cat Snowball started out like this: My dead cat Snowball/hung himself on the barn wall…the meter is all wrong, but it rhymed throughout the piece in little sets of couplets like this one, as I recall. Not too bad for a little girl who was just turning five. It’s pretty amazing too, that I relied on writing and poetry as a catharsis, even then.

Why do you think that Death & Darkness are such popular themes in writing? Dickinson repeatedly wrote about the subject and I even chose the topic for my first ever attempt at poetry. Is it because every one of us ultimately succumbs to it? Because death has more to do with life than we give it credit for? Because it’s life’s greatest mystery? Death is among the top twelve literary themes out there. This literary device is full of drama and mystique. Sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it’s hideous. Sometimes it’s heroic. It can be fraught with chaos, or it can be serene. Death wears many faces, but it is always inevitable.

Dodoitsu. No, I didn’t just sneeze; this is a Japanese form of poetry, similar to that of a haiku, but it comprises of 26 syllables broken into four lines following a 7-7-7-5 pattern. Unlike the haiku, which is generally nature-driven, the dodoitsu is more folksy and traditionally deals with love or humor. I’d never heard of this poetry form before, how about you? Bless the A to Z Challenge for causing me to look up poetry forms beginning with the letter ‘D’ today!


Posted by on April 4, 2013 in Uncategorized


13 responses to “Of Dead Poets & Dead Cats

  1. DeenasDays

    April 4, 2013 at 9:07 am

    i really like your blog layout

  2. Taochild

    April 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    We are fascinated by that which we fear the most. Human nature. We what to know all and are oddly drawn to that which we really can’t, or don’t know. Nicely said! 🙂

    • Cheri Nordstrom

      April 4, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      I once heard that we all have a death wish…maybe we are collectively fascinated by what *might* be on the other side of life. Thanks for stopping by my blog tonight & happy A to Zing! 🙂

  3. Ashley Mott

    April 4, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Dickinson’s poems are so rhythmic that they are appealing when one is younger. As we age, we can appreciate the subtleties hidden underneath that rhythm. I think death is fascinating for writers because we like to explore the things we can’t quite understand, and while we know what death is, we don’t really know what it is like to die. Even people who officially die and come back don’t know what a permanent death is because they do come back. It is why ancients loved the moon and stars so much. Writers still do, but in a way that seems more cold because we have have knowledge of them….we’ve walked on one of the two.

    • Cheri Nordstrom

      April 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm

      Well said, Ashley! I still think there’s a lot of mystery out there in the cosmos…and it does make it all the more appealing for me as a writer & an occasional stargazer. Thanks for stopping by & commenting on my blog!

  4. Cynthia Reed (@Cynthia__Reed)

    April 4, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    I, too, first fell in love with poetry because of Emily Dickinson. It seems like there was something fascinating in learning that “girls” could write poetry, too. Like you, I moved on to other poets over the years as I grew up and my tastes still evolve over time. But Emily will always be the special one. It’s almost possible to reach out and touch that moment when it first happened. I enjoyed your post for the walk-down-memory-lane particular, thank you. Lovely!

    • Cheri Nordstrom

      April 5, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Cynthia! My tastes are still evolving when it comes to poetry too. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post & I’m about to hop over to your blog before my lunch break is over! Happy Friday!!

  5. dot

    April 5, 2013 at 5:19 am

    This is a lovely post. I enjoyed reading about your love of poetry, how you came to it, and the part about your first poem was strong. I also enjoy how you weave together the personal and a little bit of knowledge sharing. Thank you!

    • Cheri Nordstrom

      April 5, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Thanks for stopping by again. Glad you’re enjoying the poetry aspects!! Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

  6. Laura Bee

    April 5, 2013 at 8:45 am

    I’m jealous you were published in Jack and Jill magazine! I tried at least twice to get in but they weren’t having it. 🙂

    Nice post here – it gives a very relateable overview of your thoughts on poetry.

  7. Matthew MacNish

    April 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Poetry is the very best kind of writing.

  8. Julia

    April 5, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    I enjoyed writing haikukus when I was in sixth grade, and maybe I should try it again one day. You are a very talented poet. I found your post via the A to Z challenge. My blog is (


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