In Praise of Cats by Abbie Taylor

Abbie TaylorThis post by Abbie Taylor.

Image of Marge PiercyThe first poem I ever read by Marge Piercy is “In Praise of Joe” which can be read here. This poem, about her addiction to coffee, inspired me to write “Ode to Dr. Pepper” which I posted on my blog here. In case you’re wondering what Dr. Pepper and coffee have to do with cats, I just finished reading Marge Piercy’s 2002 memoir, Sleeping with Cats.

Marge Piercy was born on March 31st, 1936, in Detroit, Michigan, to a family deeply affected by the Great Depression. A student at the University of Michigan, she was the first in her family to attend college. In 1957, she won a Hopwood award for fiction and poetry. After spending time in France, she received an M.A. from Northwestern University. Her first book of poems, Breaking Camp, was published in 1968. She now lives in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with her third husband, Ira Wood. As of 2013, she has written 17 poetry collections, 15 novels, 1 play, and 1 collection of essays, 1 nonfiction book, and one memoir. Her books often center on feminist and social issues, but some have science fiction themes. You can read more about her here.

In Sleeping with Cats, Marge Piercy starts with her childhood in Detroit. She talks about what it was like to grow up in a family where her mother was Jewish and her father was not. She describes her parents’ indifference to her, being bullied in school, her inability to make friends, and her bout with rheumatic fever. She then moves on to her adult years where she discusses her college education, her first two marriages that ended in divorce, and her third which is still going strong. She talks extensively about the years she spent in New York with her second husband where she was involved in feminist and socialist organizations before settling in Cape Cod. Most important, she talks about how cats were her constant companions through the trials and tribulations of her life. She also explains how she nursed them through various illnesses and made the agonizing decision to have them put to sleep when it was evident they were in pain. At the end of each chapter, she inserts a poem which, in a way, sums up the chapter. In the beginning, she talks about how she can’t get going in the morning without coffee, and I wish she could have inserted “In Praise of Joe” there.

Sleeping with Cats should be available from most online retailers and bookstores. If you’re visually impaired like me or otherwise unable to read printed material, it can be downloaded from Bookshare. Although I found the accounts of Marge Piercy’s political involvement and her relationship with her second husband tiring at times, I enjoyed the book, especially when she talked about her writing and her cats. I recommend this book to anyone who likes poetry, cats, coffee, or Dr. Pepper. I plan to read more of her work.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of:

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

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Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

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16 thoughts on “In Praise of Cats by Abbie Taylor

  1. Read your post as I drank my first cup of coffee, now becoming lukewarm. I’ve loved cats all my life, I think it’s genetic. My grandmother, who was a twin, and her two sisters, fellow twin Hortense and older sister Avis, lived together in an old house off a state highway in Sharon Center, Ohio, and all three loved their cats. They’d feed strays and soon the cats were hanging out at the horse, easily a dozen. Me … I’ve had cats one at a time starting with Harold when I was in elementary and junior high school. My last two cats, Bobby and Tessir, had to be put to sleep over the last 12 years, Bobby due to cancer and Tessir from complications related to diabetes. If money can be shown to reflect love for a pet, then I must overflow with love for them, for I spent thousands and thousands to treat Bobby’s cancer and Tessir’s diabetes. I expect people thought I was crazy. I’ll have to give Marge Piercy’s “Sleeping with Cats” a look-see. Enjoyed your post, Abbie.

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  2. Enjoyed the post Abbie. Both you and Ms. Piercy have written interesting poetry related to something you consume daily. Your blog was fresh and enlightening and I enjoyed it. I’m a lifelong cat lover but where we are living makes it hard to keep a pet since we travel a lot and have no one to watch them I used to have a cat named “Miss Kitty” and she would always climb up in bed at night, curl around my head and sleep there all night! Oh, I forgot to say (about the coffee) I drank so much coffee over the years that I think it fried my brain. lol The doc now has me on decaf coffee and once I made the switch I have learned to live with it. I think it’s the taste of coffee I love, not the buzz. I’m off to get a cup right now.

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  3. Thank you, Abbie, for bringing this author to our attention. As an animal lover, I will certainly have to look into this book (I also love coffee and Dr. Pepper!) I’m reading two cat books: “A Street Cat Named Bob” by James Bowen and “The Cats of Thistle Hill” by Roger A. Caras. Enjoy reading about dogs and cats, especially true stories — SO LOVED “Dewey the Library Cat”!! Like Mike, I spend a great deal of money on my pets — one dog has allergies and the other is nearly 16 — health issues galore! But, I love them dearly (except when they get into the garbage and make a mess of the house!). Today is grooming day — just in time for the next wave of cold winter weather! Loved your post, Abbie!

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    1. Thanks, Gayle, for the book recommendations. I found both “A Street Cat Named Bob” and “The Cats of Thistle Hill” on Bookshare and am looking forward to reading them. I also like reading true stories about dogs and cats. I’ve read and blogged about such titles as “Dewey the Library Cat” and “Homer’s Odisey” which is about a woman who adopts a blind cat. You can search for these posts on my blog at http://abbiescorner.wordpress.com.

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  4. Abbie, I had seen the book and the title drew me in for I love cats. Still I hadn’t gotten to read with everything else going on. I thank you for the review. It is on my list. Doris

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  5. Fun post, Abbie. I loved the Marge Piercy poem–and I think it’s great that it inspired you to write one about Dr. Pepper. I don’t have that strong a relationship to coffee (or Dr. Pepper)–my daily beverage is tea–but I love a nice latte or mocha every now and again. I’m also a cat lover (I have two of them), and they frequently bookend me while I’m sleeping, making it difficult to turn over.

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  6. Love the poems about drinks. I don’t particularly care for Dr. P and I’m so-so about coffee–maybe I could do one about wine. 🙂
    I’m definitely a cat lover though. Always have one. My current “familiar” has very definite opinions about how things should be and lets me know if I’ve violated the “rules.”
    Fun post.

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  7. Loved both the poems, yours and hers. My daughter loves cats and the two she has now came to our house, each in touch shape and stayed, after having been strays for a while, waiting in our garage for her to find them. They are totally devoted to her. Coffee is such a universal love for many. It was served at every meal on the farm where I grew up. Great post.

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  8. I’m a Dr. Pepper man myself, Abbie. I used to drink 2 – 4 a day, but now I’m down to 2 a week. One with a writing group and often one on the weekend. (Road trips not included.) I had to replace the syrupy sweetness with coffee, because it just wasn’t a healthy habit. It’s great when you can connect with a poet. It’s a win-win for the reader and the poet.

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  9. I read a novel by Marge Piercy years ago and liked it but didn’t explore her work any further. As a perpetual owner (servant) of cats, I’ll have to pick up this one. Thanks for the recommendation. I may have to have a Dr. Pepper as well. I haven’t had one in years.

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  10. When journeying in the US I always like to have Dr. Peppers- there’s nothing quite like it! I’m one of those people who don’t mind cats but have never had one yet I appreciate how a pet can ground someone going through very trying circumstances. Marge Piercy has been quite a busy author and I may never have encountered her without your post, so thank you, Abbie.

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