A Three Drops Review
Cat Lady by Mary M. Schmidt
[Reviewed by Diana Sanchez]
Cat Lady, by Mary M Schmidt, is a love song to the feral cats of Roma, and to the soul of the Eternal City. On the surface, Old Maria might appear as any kindly old biddy, slightly pitiable as she wanders the ruins with cans of tuna, talking to the cats. But the cats know, and so do we, that Maria is a strega, an Italian witch. She meets with Bast, a mother, and her three precocious kittens, and enthralls them with the tale of how she helped the ailing cardinal find his true love before he died. It is a story about forbidden love surviving the obstacles of duty, and reminds us that especially in Rome, the past is never the past, and the future isn’t really that far away.
The is the story of one gattara, or cat lady, of Rome. The cats of Rome are legendary, even making it into the French children’s series, Madeleine. The men and women, though the term is largely feminine, even form associations to look after the cats who are not only tolerated, but legally protected. These guardiands of feral felines come from all walks of life. Old Maria just happens to be a witch as well.
The author writes with a playful, breezy style that is reminiscent of TS Eliot and Edward Lear. The poem itself is comprised of thirty-one nine-line stanzas in rhyming couplets that form an easy melodic rhythm. In some places, the tone is comical, like when Bast is lamenting the energy of her kittens. Then, it seems to soar along with Maria as she searches New Jersey for the soul of Anne-Marie. And sometimes it glows, gentle and serene as the procession of cats who watched over Mezzaluna as he passed away.
Mary M Schmidt spent time in Rome in the 1960s, and her love of the feral cats is palpable. She even includes a link to a charity website in the afterword for the interested reader. She does advise that not every cat lady there will be able to find a lost love, though they will appreciate any donations to their cause.