- Author: Joseph Brodsky
- Title: A Cat’s Meow
- Published: 1997
- Trivia: Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature 1987
- Trivia: Read for Nobel Challenge
- Trivia: Brodsky was a former poet laureate of the United States.
- Trivia: Read this essay for Challenges 2017
- Trivia: Deal Me In Challenge – Four of Spades
What did I read?
- I read A Cat’s Meow by Joseph Brodsky
- Speech delivered for a symposium
- Foundation for Creativity and Leadership
What was the message in the essay?
- Brodsky wants to describe the ability we have to
- create new ideas, rules, methods interpretations etc.
How did I read this essay?
- The most difficult part of reading Brodsky was defining his words.
- What is objectify? – (give expression to an abstract notion)
- What was creativity – (ability to go beyond traditional ideas)
- I did something different this is time.
- I read all the topic sentences first.
- I wanted to create a ‘helicopter view’ before I started reading.
What is the structure of the essay?
- Part 1 – 19 paragraphs
- Part 2 – 31 paragraphs
- Part 3 – 7 paragraphs
What does the title of the essay mean?
- Absolutely nothing!
- Brodsky compares the sound made
- by ‘creativity’ …with a cat’s meow.
Did I disgree on any points?
I disagree: Brodsky argues: (prgh 21-22; part 2)
- “… our discoveries are projections of what we contain within… upon the outside.
- A human being doesn’t so much obtain knowledge as secrete it from within.”
- I have difficulty accepting this concept.
- In my opinion discoveries are made by giving attention to the slightest clue.
- It has nothing to do with secreting projections from within.
- This essay was not an easy read and I was prepared for that.
- But I was not prepared for the
- — incoherent analogies
- — lack of style I expected from a Nobel Prize winner
- — informal use of English in a formal essay
- — ridiculous statements ‘out of the blue’
- They were not anticipated and confusing lines of development.
- I read the essay word for word — paragraph for paragraph.
- In the rest of the review I have noted some weak points.
- If you have the time you can look them over.
- I could not find one strong point in the entire essay!
- All I want to say is
- …I worked very hard to decipher Brodsky’s essay.
- Was it worth the time an effort?
- No. I was very disappointed in his writing.
- I know I should give him another chance
- ….but I will not do it.
- He is off my reading list….for a long time.
- Weak point: repetition of previous ideas…
- (prgh 7part 2 previous in –> phgr 6 part 1)
- (prgh 8 part 2 previous in –> phgr 5 part 2)
- Brodsky makes part 2 unnecessarily confusing
- …by repeating 2 previous ideas
- by just switching position of words in sentences!
- This is a sloppy way of appearing clever.
- Rhetorical questions
- A few questions in an essay are fine….but Brodsky ‘stuffs’ part 2
- with 6 consecutive paragraphs (nr 9-14)
- …totaling 22 rhetorical questions!
- Responding to an essay question with more questions is annoying.
- These are tiresome to read and
- …they shift the burden of answering the question to the reader.
- Brodsky does not carve out a good sentence.
- Example: (prgh 19, part 2)
- “In other words, in order to recognize anything you’ve got to have something
- to recognize it with, something that
- will do the recognizing”
- Now, even I could do better than that!
- Contamination: phrase is altered because of mistaken associations
- with another word or phrase.
- Brodsky writes
- “…suspicion is often the mother of truth.” (prgh 20, part 2)
- I know Benjamin Disraeli’s quote: Silence is the mother of truth.
- I know C.S. Lewis’s quote: Suspicion often creates what it suspects.
- But I never heard of Suspicion is the mother of truth!
- Brodsky writes part two as a so called ‘footnote’ .
- Now in my book a footnote is
- …a minor comment added at the bottom on the page.
- Brodsky uses his ‘footnote’ as the
- …largest part of the essay, 31 paragraphs.
- Is this another attempt to be clever?
- Bare with me here…..
- I was determined NOT to let Brodsky bamboozle me with his words!
- Brodsky completely loses me in part 3
- ….he’s gone over to the dark side!
- I will not let Brodsky discourage me.
- I will sit here and translate his jumbled thoughts.
- He will not defeat me with his ‘fancy words’ !
- I will do it!
- This is my transltion of part 3. (see below)
Part 3: paragraph 1
- We are living creatures in a world on inanimate (lifeless) things (matter)
- Brodsky argues the ability to create is nothing more than matter’s attempt to articulate.
- Here Brodsky implies matter (things) can speak.
- If and when matter ‘speaks’
- it is by chance….and with help of mouthpieces (geniuses).
- They are the ones who are ready to notice (perceive) a truth.
Part 3: paragraph 2
- Brodsky argues that matter speaks through
- ….art or science as a matter of compulsion.
- Brodsky tries to ‘dazzle’ me with the next line:
- “This may sound like an anthropomorphic fantasy…”
- ….which is nothing more than a fantasy in which one ascribes
- human attributes to a thing (matter).
- I continue using human attributes to describe ‘matter.
- ”Matter’ feels mental exhaustion
- due to compulsion to ‘speak’.
- ‘Matter’ is less dense….is thinning out.
- With each passing moment chance is becoming more apparent.
- Although we cannot call forth or evoke chance
- ….Chance is registered with the lab technicians instrument or
- …the poet’s pen….who have trained powers of observation.
Part 3: paragraph 3
- Scientist and poets can cultivate that attitude of mind of
- …being constantly on the look-out for the unexpected…for chance.
- The ability to make or to create depends on the
- ..range of things that someone knows.
- Bordsky call is an opened horizon.
- Chance favors the prepared mind.
Part 3: paragraph 3-4-5
- Brodsky drifts off into a very confusing analogy about creativity including
- …a beach, grain of sand, the dunes,
- …shoreline, the breakers, erosion of the beach.
- I have no idea where he gets this from
- ….but I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
- I close ‘my translation’ with these word
- What do we need for creativity?
- Memory – essential so we do not repeat what already has been created
- Imagination in language – create new forms of poetry, literature, music, art
- Ipso Facto! (…so say I!)