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Mort aux Chats -- Peter Porter

Not an Australian poem, but an Australian poet, and I suppose that counts
for something...
(Poem #572) Mort aux Chats
 There will be no more cats.
 Cats spread infection,
 Cats pollute the air,
 Cats consume seven times
 their own weight in food a week,
 Cats were worshipped in
 decadent societies (Egypt
 and Ancient Rome); the Greeks
 had no use for cats. Cats
 sit down to pee (our scientists
 have proved it). The copulation
 of cats is harrowing; they
 are unbearably fond of the moon.
 Perhaps they are all right in
 their own country but their
 traditions are alien to ours.
 Cats smell, they can't help it,
 you notice it going upstairs.
 Cats watch too much television,
 they can sleep through storms,
 they stabbed us in the back
 last time. There have never been
 any great artists who were cats.
 They don't deserve a capital C
 except at the beginning of a sentence.
 I blame my headaches and my
 plants dying on cats.
 Our district is full of them,
 property values are falling.
 When I dream of God I see
 a Massacre of Cats. Why
 should they insist on their own
 language and religion, who
 needs to purr to make his point?
 Death to all cats! The Rule
 of Dogs shall last a thousand years!
-- Peter Porter
As George MacBeth puts it, "only a confirmed cat-lover could write such a
charming indictment of the species"...

That said, this is as good a putdown of racist propaganda as any I've seen.
It's the tone of voice that does it, I think - the same mix of populist
rhetoric and vile innuendo, the same blend of twisted logic and warped
facts... Porter takes the caricature to extremes ("I blame my headaches and
my plants dying on cats"), but let's not forget that people have been taken
in by far less rational arguments in the past; the vicious anti-cat
demagoguery may be sidesplittingly funny in its particulars, but it's no
less powerful for that.

And of course, the last sentence (which I did _not_ expect, the first time I
read this poem) puts the whole poem into context - when we finally find out
who the speaker is, we know _precisely_ how much trust to put into his
words.

thomas.

PS. "they stabbed us in the back / last time" is a reference to a phrase
used by Hitler during his ascent to power: "Hitler considered the German
politicians who prematurely ended World War One and established the German
democratic republic to be traitors (the 'November criminals', he called
them); their actions were akin to a 'stab in the back'. In Hitler's mind and
among many Germans, the Army had not been defeated on the battlefield but
had been undermined by political treachery at home."
        -- http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/trial.htm

PPS. I'm also reminded of Snoopy's Kitten Kaboodle stories - equally
'speciesist', and aimed at an equally specific target audience ("PlayBeagle
has bought the entire series" <grin>).

124 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

JOHN P HARG said...

i feel personally the poem is abot women but it is not written to be taken seriously. i think it is just a very tongue in cheek poem about how men see women for their faults where as women see men as having the same faults too.
it may be about race but my reading of the poem is that it is about men poking fun at women

anyway that is just my reading

03SNicholB said...

This poem is abstract in the extreme, if anyone can give one point to
this poem they are a genius, peter porter is also a genius.

sildenafil said...

This really weird, I can see whoever person can write a poem, I don't understand what was the fascination of talking like that about cats.m10m

xl pharmacy said...

Wow!! Is this a poem or is a whole story? well I think it's a perfect poem but I realize that someone hate cats in here because judging for the words written in here it scared me.

Anonymous said...

I love this poem, our English teacher got us to look at it and I think its brilliant, the way the entire poem mocks people who are prejudiced, it has a serious message hidden in funny words.

Anonymous said...

It is about immigrants! The cat is a metaphor for immigrants.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when this poem was written?

Anonymous said...

does anyone know when this was written and how to pronounce the name? i figured it was in french, but idk how to pronounce it D:

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