Cats, Love & Other Surprises by Otis Kidwell Burger
Illustrations by Katherine Burger
ISBN: 978-8182500891 2017 Hardback pp 65
Cats, Love & Other Surprises is an astonishing book of poems by 93-year old Otis Kidwell Burger, of New York City. Both a poet and a sculptor, Otis delights in the company of her cats in verse both whimsical and lyrical. Other poems reflect on a long life divided between New York City and a country cabin in the New England woods; these explore family memories, the vagaries of love, and the natural world, to which she is connected by both scientific curiosity (she was a zoology major at Cornell College) and philosophical questioning. The poems traverse territories from the quotidian to the metaphysical; from rejoicing in the return of a lost cat “sitting on my lap purring/and stitching us together again/with her tiny, needle-sharp claws” to imagining a prehistoric woman artist sitting on the floor of her cave, “whittling a bit of mammoth bone. /I don’t know yet if it will be/A horse or a bison. Prey. Food. Perhaps a charm for the hunter./Or perhaps a cave bear, immense, terrible./Death itself, but made small and manageable. A protection.” Solemn, yet also witty and accessible, these are American poems of great strength and a quirky animistic sensibility. They are also poignant. Musing on her unmatched “bachelor” socks, the poet imagines their lost, significant others and why they stepped out, never to return. In another poem, she mourns that “the darkness falls/And tucks us in our homes/No more telephones/No more visiting/No more conversations/No more sleepwalking, or I/Would be five miles away soon/And in bed with you.” Delightfully illustrated by her own daughter, Katherine Burger, this is a majestic little gift from a marvelous mother/daughter team.