Magical Realism in Poetry & Pattiann Rogers’ Cat

What is magical realism in poetry? Possibly it’s defined by what isn’t magical realism in a poem. One might ask what is magical realism in fiction, but in poetry, in a poem, it’s what both is and isn’t. It’s the magical field created around ordinary images with ordinary language. The establishing of an entire field outside of, and at the same time, inside what we call reality.
A great example of a magical realism poem is Pattiann Rogers’ stupendous meditation, “Find the Cat in a Spring Field at Midnight.” It does everything but levitate the cat. Rogers makes the cat vanish and unvanish, Cheshire Cat style, without ever  leaving the reader outside a feeling of realism. She names “a peculiar vision” — and that definition for me is the essence of magical realism. It’s reality seen through a new lens, one that layers things together to achieve a clearer truth.

 

Finding the cat in a spring field at midnight

It takes a peculiar vision to be able to detect
Precisely where

The field grasses brushed by blowing
Stars and the odor of spring
In the breath of sweet clover buds
And the star-mingled calls of the toads
In the threading grasses and the paws
Of the clover brushing through the field
Of stars and the star-shaped crickets
In the ears of the sweet grasses
And the tail of the night flicking
Through the calls of the night and the spring
Stars slinking past the eyes of midnight
And the hour of the field mouse passing
Through the claws of the stars and the brushing
Haunches of the weeds and  starry grasses
Threading through the eyes of the mouse
And the buds of the stars calling
With the sweet breath of the field

End
And the cat begins.

— Pattiann Rogers

In “the star-mingled calls of the toads” the poem steps lightly out of the commonplace and never returns. “It takes a peculiar vision …” Indeed, it takes a visionary like Pattian Rogers. The magical realism in this poem isn’t found in metaphor, but in the transformations of one thing into another: