No Ordinary Writer

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I think my favorite author is Charlotte A. Cavatica, a writer with humble beginnings in a Maine barn who has written some of the most beloved words in American literature.

The best-known poetic essay of Ms. Cavatica is, of course, “SOME PIG,” which asserts not just the presence of porcine flesh in the vicinity, but plays on the secondary and tertiary meanings of “some.” I think most readers grasp the connotation that there is a remarkable pig as the protagonist of this narrative verse, as in, “you have some pig there, Zuckerman,” but the true brilliance of the work is in the understanding of “some” to be an unknown, yet-to-be-measured quality, as in “there must be some reason for that police barricade,” or, in this case, “there is some pig yet to be known,” and requiring the careful reader to consider the untapped potential of Wilbur, its noble hero.

If there’s another work that everyone recalls, it is “RADIANT.” For many of us, we learned this word from her famous biography by E.B. White, in which Templeton the rat finds her the proper word and Wilbur strives nobly to live up to it. It’s fascinating to see the level of collaboration that Ms. Cavatica enjoyed by her barnyard brethren, but we also witness her sole proprietorship of her own work, her cautious discrimination as words like “SUPREME” are offered and dismissed. Moreover, we witness in this work the effect of her poetry on even her contemporaries. Some writers see the world as it is, but Ms. Cavatica had the rare vision to see the world as it might be, and helped bring it to be by the inspirational beauty of her work.

Some critics claim that Ms. Cavatica never matched the brilliance of “RADIANT,” I disagree. I have long held that “TERRIFIC” is the defining work and masterpiece of this arachnid’s oeuvre. To fully comprehend its majesty, you must consider the toil that produced it. Unlike even the tedious and physically demanding labor that Archy the cockroach used to produce the poems anthologized by Don Marquis, Ms. Cavatica produced words of her own flesh, wriggling and leaping about in a manner that is not requires great stamina and strength, but the adroitness of a ballerina. We can laud many writers for their genius and spirit, but Ms. Cavatica is the only one where he do this, and also regard her as a world class athlete. Every word she ever wrote is carefully selected and patiently executed, in this work, and it shows Ms. Cavatica’s utter dedication to her craft that she did not cut corners. Lesser writers might have omitted the second R, for example, knowing that readers would comprehend. But no, what’s good enough to be done should be done well, and Ms. Cavatica’s exercise and care should be a beacon for all authors to settle for nothing less than perfection.

I sadly must take White’s word for it that Charlotte was a true friend, but I heartily agree with his understated assessment, that Charlotte was “a good writer.” Or, as Ms. Zuckerman said with equal parsimonious New England praise, “no ordinary spider.”

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