Watch PJ Harvey Recite Captain Beefheart’s Poem About Her Cat
Don Van Vliet was born to be a cult artist. Van Vliet, better known to most of us as Captain Beefheart, pioneered an unhinged, experimental form of rock ‘n’ roll. He never made much commercial impact, but he inspired generations of artists. One of those artists was young Polly Jean Harvey, who grew up listening to Beefheart because her parents were fans. Apparently, Van Vliet was also inspired by PJ Harvey — or, at least, by PJ Harvey’s cat.
Don Van Vliet died in 2010, after a years-long battle with multiple sclerosis. He was 69. Nine years before his death, Van Vliet wrote “Man Can’t Anticipate Cat,” a poem about PJ Harvey’s cat Garden. Recently Harvey spoke at London’s Michael Werner Gallery, which is hosting an exhibition of Captain Beefheart’s paintings until February 17th. During her speech, Harvey read “Man Can’t Anticipate Cat” to the crowd.
PJ Harvey told the crowd that Don Van Vliet wrote “Man Can’t Anticipate Cat” based on photos that Harvey sent him of her and her cat: “Don loved cats. You might know of Garland. He wrote a song about his own cat called ‘Hey Garland, I Dig Your Tweed Coat,’ which was on Ice Cream For Crow. My cat was named Garden, probably sort of in homage to Garland, and he moved in with me when I was living in Bristol.” The poem is very short, and it’s about Harvey — “a lovely young dark-haired girl” — almost as much as it’s about Garden. Harvey posted the video on her accounts this morning, and you can watch it below.