Smoking Guns and Cat Skin Drums

Sunday 20/12/2020

Who ever knew what it felt like to be shot through the heart? Maybe Sharon Olds, or anyone who (in her words) beats the cat skin drum.

Yesterday I listened to a recording shared by Billy Mills in his blog Elliptical Movements I was warmed and inspired by Dianne di Prima’s words and wrote three poems: two, which I felt bold enough to rehome (here), and one, which isn’t done with me, yet.

Today I came across a tweet of Dr Kim Moor’s that put me on to this recording… of Leila Chatti in conversation with Sharon Olds. I suppose that I (semi-consciously) join the conversation, and that is quite emboldening. I have more to say about loyalty than I could dance around in a day. Leila Chatti’s response to Sharon Olds’ concise statement “My loyalty is more horizontal than vertical”…

“Could you say more about that?”

…made me hum “Yes, please.”

I found this middle section of the conversation especially enthralling. Sharon Olds says, of her art, that…

“I can’t call it up, but I find that exercise, and taking my vitamins, and reading poems (other people’s poems) is good for that.” 

It was good seeing the sun out, and walking, and listening, in agreement, stopping to take a picture

and jot down a mildly affirming observational verse

I keep hearing artists’ dystonic reactions to the adage that art somehow comes from inner madness. There was a seed of this dilemma in my mind. 

Leila asked Sharon if she would read her poem Little Things, and Sharon replied that she’d be happy to. They each give an analogy for the virtuosity or benefit of paying attention…”a kind of praise”…a kind of antidepressant”.

I was reminded that I have been without my prescription for two days, and resolved to visit the pharmacy. The pills aren’t preferable to sunshine, exercise, nutrition, taking in other people’s poems/art, making, and the joy of real recognition within conversation; but they do seem to bring these things more readily into the scope of my attention. Shrinking away from the world is never inspiring. Depression is not something I want to write about, but I am inspired to share any thing that sparks, and seeds a dilemma, or answers a cryptic and pertinent allegorical question with a wicked line, and another, and another. Today it was that conversation, both poets’ readings, and then

that one line and the way she read it…

Maybe she beats the cat skin drum 

from As if my Mother, from Sharon Olds’ Arias: that made me look up! You’ll have to listen. It’s around 20 minutes in.

And then her Ode of Broken Loyalty, too. 

Published by Kay Keenan

Kay Keenan writes poetry and fiction, and her story "Shoes and Trews and Shell Dust" was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction prize, and published in their anthology "with one eye on the cows". She works as a holistic therapist in the country of Cumbria.

7 thoughts on “Smoking Guns and Cat Skin Drums

    1. Thanks Hal! I’m sorry I wasn’t notified of this comment! In the poem the farmer beats the wife beats the dog beats the cat beats the mouse. It’s a sad story, but who does the mouse beat? Not her own young, maybe she beats the cat skin drum. I think it’s all about taking the worst and making the best of it. I’m probably more of a mouse than a cat, but that’s OK!

      Liked by 1 person

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