April 4, 2010

Prompt: Pets of the Famous

Statue of Jeanne D Arc
at the Place des Pyramides, Paris
by Emmanuel Frémiet (1874)

Linda McCarriston's powerful poem, "Le Coursier de Jeanne D'Arc" (from Eva-Mary), about the imagined burning of the horse of Saint Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) is a painful poem. 

I heard her read it years ago and it still haunts me. She uses Joan's horse as a way to explore not only the cruelty and tyranny of Joan's death but also her own abusive childhood and the treatment of her mother. And, of course, it reaches beyond all that to ourselves.

I think the idea of using someone famous that we know, but describing them through an animal they loved is an interesting idea for our April 2010 writing prompt.

There are some famous pets of the famous. Margate, a stray black kitten, who showed up on the doorstep of No. 10 Downing St. where Winston Churchill was heading out for a speech to be given in the town of Margate, was seen by him as a good luck sign and a show of support. Churchill adopted the kitten after giving the successful speech and named her Margate, and she ended up sleeping in Churchill's bedroom thereafter. General Robert E. Lee's horse that carried him through the Civil War was Traveller. I'm sure Traveller could tell a story of that bloody war.

But, I think McCarriston's poem may be intimidating as a model.

As serious as McCarriston's poem is, the result of using this prompt does not have to be all that serious.

TV cowboy Roy Roger's horse, Trigger, who was stuffed and placed in Rogers' home after he died, could not generate the same kind of poem.

Perhaps, you should think of the famous person and imagine the animal companion.

I searched famous pets a bit and found out that Sigmund Freud was known to include his dog as an assistant in his psychoanalysis. He believed that dogs had a special sense that allows them to judge a person's character accurately. His favorite Chow-Chow, Jo-Fi, attended all of his therapy sessions and he thought the dog could alert him to any stress or tension in a patient. The dog lay relatively close to calm some patients, but would stay across the room if the patient was tense, and would unfailingly move toward the office door when the hour was up, according to What Do Dogs Know? 

You could give Freud an imagined schnauzer (I'll call him Moustache) as a point of entry into a poem about the man or about psychoanalysis or your own therapy and analysis.

How about Alexander the Great's cat, or Hamlet's falcon? Choose any famous person's real or imagined animal companion to start your writing.

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