Class 11 | The Magic of Words
Writer: Dorthi Charles
“Concrete Cat” is an example of a concrete poem, a poem just giving focus to the physical picture and not the imagination, emotion and language. This type of poem is written for eyes and not for mind and heart. It does not appeal to the heart because it doesn’t emphasize emotion and thought. It is written in the short form, which is also called “reduced language”. Words do not follow the regular pattern of the poems. Words are scattered in such a way that they form the real portrait of the thing to be expressed by the poem. The chief concern of such a poem is with the physical appearance of poetry- not primarily with ideas or emotions and also not with language as we ordinarily use.
This poem says something about a cat and its “catness” in action. Ear, eye, mouth, whisker, tail, etc. all sketched on the page denote both physical and abstract meanings. The middle stripe is the only place where language aspires toward poetry and becomes figurative. This middle stripe shows stomach part which says much about the human world and human activities.
Unlike other poem, the words are arranged in such a way that emotions are kept in a shadow and a real portrait is highlighted. From the words written in different shapes and styles we understand the poem. The poem creates such a situation that we can see the real picture of cat immediately after we read the poem. Outer appearances seem to be important than emotions and thoughts. Different parts of a cat’s body are presented by the use of words in their respective places.
Generally poems are written in certain stanza and generally follow the traditional pattern. Many poems are written in ornamental language. But, this poem doesn’t follow that pattern. This poem is made for our eyes rather than our ear. The meaning of the poem is nothing other than the portrait of the cat. The poet has used craftsmanship.
Important Questions & Answers:
1. ‘Concrete Cat’ is an example of a concrete poem, how?
Ans: This poem is made for an eye. This poem doesn’t concern much with emotions. The capitalized ‘A’ in-ear is for pointed ear, ‘Y’ for eyes, ‘U’ for cat’s mouth. Similarly the words ‘stripes’is for stripes of the cat and ‘upside’ mouse indicates dead mouse and the cat killed it. The poem is very fully and humorous. The poet is successful to give the concrete structure of the cat with the help of individual letters and words.
2. What possible pun might be seen in the Cat’s middle strip?
Ans: The cat’s middle stripes can be read as stripes which means stomach tissue of an animal for use as food. This suggests that the cat’s stomach is filled with the stripes of the mouse that it has eaten. The two words overlap each other.
3. Describe “Concrete Cat” as a concrete poem.
Ans: The middle strip refers to the stripes (intestine) or stomach tissue of the cat where food or useless things is found. The chief concern of the poem is with the physical appearance of the poetry. The pun in the cat’s middle strip is the only place where language desired towards poetry and becomes symbolic. The whole human world is concerned with the stomach. All activities either good or bad are concerned with this part of the body.
4. Why is the poem funny?
Ans: The physical structure of the poem and the combination of different meaningful words make the poem humorous. Because of the different arrangement of the words, the poem looks like the puzzle of the children. The whiskers of the cat are very wonderful. The symbolic upside-down representation of the mouse is very funny.
Some Important Questions For Practice:
- How does the Dorothy Charles make use of language, print and space to describe a cat in “Concrete Cat”?
- What else besides that cat does “concrete Cat” describe? Why do you think the poet finds it important to describe these items?