I’ve been reviewing some of the things I’ve written over the past five or ten years in preparation for a brief visit I’ll be paying a college writing teacher/mentor in a couple of weeks. I haven’t had much of an inclination to write original creative work since graduating, though there have been a few short stories, two or three half-earnest attempts at novels, and a few dozen stilted efforts at poetry (my specialty while in school). Of the short things I’ve written during this time, it just occurred to me, many of them have to do with cruelty to animals. I knew many of them were animal poems, most of them bird poems, but I hadn’t really noticed that most of them deal in some way with cruelty to or in any case the suffering of animals. Take these instances:
- The old woman who gets pigeons drunk in order to catch them to wring their necks.
- The birds found burned by creosote in a chimney.
- The hummingbird killed inadvertently by an ornithologist.
- The headless dragonfly that seemed still to be alive.
- The run-over cat left to suffer a slow death in the road.
- The hunted hawk.
- The Legend of the Crossbill (after a poem by Longfellow)
- The sand flea with its shell ripped off.
It seems as if there are more already written, and I know I’ve got some more to write (at least three more spring to mind immediately). There are others that don’t deal directly with the suffering or recent deaths of animals but that pertain to animals in some way:
- The bit about deveining shrimp.
- A flamingo piece.
- One about a snowy owl.
Again, there are probably more that simply don’t spring instantly to mind. I was thinking that a good book or section title might be “Cruelty to Animals.” Naturally, as human beings are animals too, some of the things one tends to write about human suffering could fit into such a book or section as well.
I don’t harbor any real notions that I’ll write enough more decent new work or manage to cobble these and other pieces together into a book, but thinking about the organization of the things one has written and at times, where possible, writing in the direction of an organizing principle are just things one does. And I wanted to get this idea down because, well, the bad memory and all.