All the Cats are Gone

All the Cats are Gone

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All the Cats are Gone

John B. Lee
Cover and interior art by Peter Schwarz

6 X 9 inches, 72 pages

Penumbra Press Poetry Series, No. 32
SOMETIMES CHEERFUL, SOMETIMES MORBID, but always quick with wit and literary intrigue, these poems take an unusual look at the lives of cats ("a tapestry of cats," as Lee says in one of the poems), unlocking the mystery of a friendly but fragile coexistence with them. Among the menagerie is Mort the Mouser, Mordecai the Lover, Ming the Poet's Cat, Ernie from Hell; fat cats, cool cats, cartoon cats, dog cats; and dozens more.

A selection of poems from All the Cats are Gone took second place in CBC Radio's Literary Award competition for poetry.

The cats would walk the mantle
where the art was hung
and cock their legs
like disgruntled critics.

Part two of our tale of woe:
the artist recalls these very works as per
contracted privilege of purchase, for a special
Smithsonian show, and fearing suit
the owners sought remedy in expensive cleaning
of the redolence and hue of urine in the canvas.

Part three, the forlorn cats
mourn the shadowy rectangles
windowing the absence of art,
decanting such huge parabolas of piss
they washed the very colour from the wall.

Three Robert Bateman Paintings Ruined

"These are tender portraits, in many ways, of an inscrutable species whose representatives have accompanied, comforted, and puzzled their human 'owners' from time immemorial. It is the mystery of the cat as companion, pet, and enigma that Lee tries to unlock with his portraits as he parades his cat friends and acquaintances past the reader."
— Canadian Books Annual Review

Peter Schwarz

Cover Art

Peter Schwarz lived and worked as a full-time artist in Grafton, Ontario. His bold-stroked paintings, pastels, and prints have graced the covers and interiors of numerous Penumbra Press books. His work embraces the human range from agony to ecstasy and inspires with its resilience.

John B. Lee


Born and raised on a farm near the village of Highgate in southwestern Ontario, John B. Lee now lives in Brantford, Ontario. "I like poetry to be accessible," says Lee, who taught high school for ten years before 'weaning' himself into full-time writing, reading and submitting in 1988. "I take some pride, not because I deliberately go out to be accessible, but I'm lucky to have that aspect in my voice" (Hamilton Spectator).

Lee's poems have garnered over sixty honours, including: the American Poetry Association's Annual Poetry Award (1985-86), runner up in the People's Poetry Award for his book Hired Hands (1987), first place in the Nova Scotia Poetry Awards (1989), first place in the Roundhouse Poetry Awards (both 1989 and 1990), the shortlist for the Charterhouse Poetry Award of London, England (1990), CBC Radio's Tilden Award for Poetry (second place in 1993 for All the Cats are Gone and first place in 1995), and the People's Poetry Award twice (1993 and 1995). Besides hockey and cats, his other dual literary-and-life passions include the Beatles and detective work.

More about Lee at the League of Canadian Poets

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