I found the featured photo here:

It reminded me of how nice it is to snuggle under a soft, warm comforter on a cold morning (besides being an awesome photo). 🙂

Tuesday marks the close of National Poetry Month, a 30-day celebration of all things versified and all people versifying. And in tangentially related news, for more than eight months, a book of cat-themed poetry — I Could Pee On This — has perched on the NPR best-seller lists. There it sits, insouciantly swishing its tail amid self-help books and memoirs, the poetry world’s sole representative on the list.

Gazing at this collection of “poems by cats” week after week, I wondered: What is it about cats and poetry? Poets gaze out rain-streaked windows, write with fountain pens, drink tea, have cats: So goes the stereotype.

Is it true? As far as I know, no one has conducted a strictly scientific study of whether poets are more covered in cat hair than the rest of the population. But statistically significant or not, cats and poets certainly have a long history. NPR books asked Francesco Marciuliano, the author of I Could Pee On This as well as a comic strip writer and a cartoonist, to help walk us through some notable cat-poet duos … starting with Christopher Smart and his cat, Jeoffry…

And finally, bringing our survey of cat-loving poets into the contemporary era, the Canadian poet and novelist Margaret Atwood is a confirmed cat lover. In 1977, she drew a cartoon of herself covered in cats, writing, “I have a lot of cats. What else can you do with a B.A. these days?” An unofficial survey reports that the sentiment rings true for many English majors today.

Atwood’s cat poems include moving elegies and playful depictions of everyday life, and some poems that are both: “Oh pillow hog, / with your breath of raw liver, / where are you now?”

Are you convinced that cats and poets are linked by more than popular stereotype? Or are you on the side of Emily Dickinson, who definitely did not take a cat with her to visit the sea? Share your favorite cat-enthusiast, dog-loving, or other-pet-crazy poet in the comments.

I asked Google if cats and dogs can dance

Dogs Don’t Dance

By:  Christopher Peterson Ph.D.

Disney cartoons notwithstanding, very few animal species besides human beings dance – that is, move their bodies in synchrony with an external musical beat. The closest relatives of human beings, chimpanzees, don’t dance. Cows and horses don’t dance. Neither do aardvarks. Nor zebras. Cats don’t dance. Neither do dogs, which is interesting given the co-evolution of canines and human beings. The evolutionary purpose of dogs is to be pleasing to human beings, but apparently natural selection drew the line at them dancing with us.

However, a recent case study showed that birds can dance, and this is unbelievably provocative. As the story goes, researcher Aniruddh Patel saw a YouTube video (link is external) of Snowball, a cockatoo, bobbing his head and kicking his feet in time to a song by the Backstreet Boys.

Patel contacted the bird’s owner, and Snowball subsequently participated in a creative experiment. The song to which the bird liked to dance was played at different speeds, and Snowbird appropriately kept the beat, speeding up or slowing down as the music changed its tempo.

A video (link is external) of Snowbird doing slow dancing and fast dancing is currently (April 9, 2010) available on the Internet. I don’t know how long the video will be there, but I hope you get to watch it. Not only does it compellingly show that this bird can dance (and indeed better than most people I know), but it will also make you smile. I even started to dance along when I first saw it the other day, forgetting that my office door was open at the time. But passersby didn’t laugh at me. They crowded into my office, and soon we were all bobbing our heads and stamping our feet. A good time was had by all, even with final exams looming at the university.

So what does it mean that people and some bird species (and maybe elephants!) dance, whereas most other species don’t? Patel theorizes that people and cockatoos are vocal learners, having the ability to hear sounds and mimic them, a skill made possible by close neural connections between auditory and motor circuits in the brain. These connections make dance possible, even inevitable.

The positive psychology point is that dance deserves more attention. I have sometimes observed that to understand what makes life worth living, we need to get out of our heads and into our bodies. To do so, maybe all we need is music.

Dance is a universal human behavior, and it is fulfilling to do or even just to watch, especially when groups of us are dancing together. Dance and more generally synchronized movement may bolster group solidarity. Think clapping, marching, or doing the wave.

In an otherwise forgettable movie, The Replacements, there is a great scene in which football misfits come together as a team after dancing to the Gloria Gaynor song I Will Survive. Maybe the US Congress should dance together. So too should the United Nations General Assembly. Just imagine: C-Span meeting Soul Train.