Poetry and the Lion’s Mane

Updated: Jul 23

By Stephen Kuusisto, co-editor Nine Mile Magazine

Why do lions–male lions–have manes? “Protects them in fights,” some say, but lions mostly attack each other at the hips which is a fact like candy or coconuts as Anselm Hollo once said though he wasn’t talking about lions. A contrary view: the mane advertises a lion’s fitness like a peacock’s tail, vanity in tooth and claw. A Pride of lions with its boys up front is nothing more than a roving band of social Darwinists. Those big cat boys should have their manes around their hindquarters like tawny tutus. Nature flubbed her leonine mane placement.

Nature flubs a great deal. Poetry engages with the flaws. A better way to say it is poetry “is” the flaws. Poetry can and will concern itself with imperfections. Poems that matter, the ones that feel necessary have to do with that lion whose mane is losing hair. It never grew back properly after a fight. Poems that matter suggest the mane is less important than a consideration of prey for it’s all appetite and surrender “out there” and not a hair salon.

Consider this excellent poem “In Praise of Prey” by Leslie McGrath which I’ll quote in its entirety:

The rhythm of predation is a sine wave.

Between predator and prey it winds

like a whip-crack in slow motion.

The time has come to praise the prey

who fill the guts of the never-satisfied

for whom winning is all, and nothing.