Doris Dunker was a fledgling poet growing up in Baltimore when she discovered the whimsical verses of Baltimore's Ogden Nash. His style has had a lifelong influence on her poetry.
Now, the Severna Park grandmother has a book of her own, That Cat Book, a collection of illustrated light verse that began life as a children's book and is beginning to catch on with cat lovers of all ages.
"We've always had cats," says Dunker, who has a calico named Haley and a tabby named Jaguar.
"They're so fascinating. You could have 20 cats and each would be different. I love the way they look and move and talk."
That fascination formed the inspiration for the book. Published this fall, That Cat Book is illustrated by Dunker's daughter, Wendy Tatter, a batik and watercolor artist who lives in St. Augustine, Fla., with her husband, Scott, and three teen-age sons.
Written in limerick form, the book contains bright watercolors that feature cats prancing and dancing, resting and in action, their beguiling green and amber eyes beckoning the reader.
The book came together slowly over a period of three years. But the title was obvious early on - when Dunker would phone her daughter, Tatter would invariably ask, "Have you done anything on that cat book?"
When the book was complete, Tatter sent cover letters and copies to children's book publishers who were encouraging, but urged the authors to resubmit through an agent.
Daunted by that task, the two had the book printed at Progressive Printing in Florida and set about promoting it themselves.
Last month, Dunker held a book signing at Chesapeake Treasures, the Severna Park retail shop run by the auxiliary of Hospice of the Chesapeake. She sold 120 books at $12 each and gave a donation of $600 to the hospice.
Soon after, Dunker learned that the county library system plans to make That Cat Book available at all its branches.
The book is on sale at The Hard Bean Cafe and Bookshop in Annapolis.
And Dunker plans to sell signed copies at Barnes and Noble in Annapolis Harbor shopping center from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
"I am really happy about how much people love the book," says Wendy Tatter. "Each person seems to identify with a different cat, a different verse. It's really fun to hear them read out loud and laugh at their favorite parts."
Dunker has a fondness for the limerick form, using the short poems to reflect her many interests, which include tending the flowers in her garden, family life and volunteering for Meals on Wheels and Chesapeake Treasures. Once a month she joins fellow members of the Poets of the Green Tables, an offshoot of a course taught by Donald Richardson at Anne Arundel Community College.
In addition to writing, Dunker sails, plays tennis, sings in the choir at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church and dances with the South County Senior Center's Encore Productions. She also sews costumes for the Annapolis Opera and the annual Naval Academy Halloween concert.
As much as she loves to express her thoughts in verse, Dunker admits that some subjects are easier to deal with than others. While she struggled to conquer the complexities of her computer, the effort inspired this bit of whimsy:
I sat to improve my lifestyle
By giving computers a trial
But my time was misspent
Causing such discontent
That now I'm in total denial.