GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
THE POULTRY LOVER'S GUIDE TO POETRY
A Poultry Lover’s Guide to Poetry is the debut pamphlet collection of Cheshire-based poet and hen lover, Helen Kay.
Helen is a dyslexia tutor at Reaseheath College in Cheshire. She gained recognition in several smaller poetry competitions and went on to win the Wigan Greenheart Competition in 2012. Since then she has had poems published in various magazines, including The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat and Tears, Obsessed with Pipework, Nutshells and Nuggets and Dreamcatcher. Her work was also included in the Spokes and Coastword Festival Anthologies.
Her first chicken poem was hatched in 2010 and she continues to be inspired by her feathered friends.
The Poultry Lover's Guide To Poetry
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: May 2015
11. Don’t be alarmed if a hen crows
I may have ended in these flower beds,
But I was farmyard born, grit-gut, half-bred,
Had seven broods and wore the crown,
‘Til Chauntecleer cropped up. I did stand down,
But never let him fully have his way.
I plucked along to his upstart assay.
A trochee – claws in – then a cretic,
Four crochets and a semibreve – pathetic,
And Mr Narcissus crowed on and on,
His scaly legs lit by the morning sun.
My theory is that’s why he’s now deceased,
But call me less a widow, more released.
This rooster crooning is a piece of cake.
Too much, of course, may make my red neck ache.
A few bars will suffice to pave my way,
A touch of primal scream to crack the day,
When hens are cocks and cocks are plucky hens
In a mixed up, shook up world of nearly men.
Lay lay lady crowla.
22. A hen coop must be vermin proof
He was a sewer pipe survivor.
A full-bellied wife lay indoors,
Gave birth to five mousy kids
Who cut teeth on the hen coop floor.
Evening, Dad set the neck snappers,
Wrestlers pinning down a snout
Twitching by half-bitten cheese.
Easy, but this nomad, without
The boundaries of hedge or gate,
Digs the brain’s matrix, mixing angst
For the fowl who first drew secrets
Out of night, with pity for a gangsta
With knuckleduster teeth, a broken back
And a mother, swollen underground,
Next to a gnawed poison pouch, buried
Deep as shame, while hens sleep sound.
1. Never chase your chickens
I wanted sitting ducks, dust-bathing.
My hands raked the air, erring.
Half-ruffled hens shook, shocked,
fled to shade, distressed, distrusting.
Watching, father said take time, tame.
Let the twitching hens come, calm.
Gently fold feather-fingers
to clasp pulsing bodies, buddies.
Now writing, I scribble, scrabble
to catch flighty thoughts, fight
to hold on. They elude, evade,
crouch in hedges aggrieved, afraid.
4. The pecking order is central to chicken society
Inside a smooth bill,
Before tameness, flesh and bone conflict.
After basilisk stares,
five hens take shape
in sharp nips over shortbread biscuits.
Alpha hen is king,
still slips Lemon Puffs
to her princess. They know this world is flat.
A full pellet tray
can end the war.
Hen three leaps in to dine. Smart tactic.
Ego free hens, four
and five, have turned
a blue glazed planter into their bidet.
addle my thoughts,
push me to six in the garden’s orbit.
7. Poultry breeding is in the blood
i.m. Ian Kay, author of Stairway to the Breeds, 1997
Maybe the teachers shaped him,
maybe not, pigeonholing days, sets,
teams, termly exams, ideas.
Even the boys were templates,
high fliers crossing the Oxbridge dots,
chick magnets, art room Chagall creeps,
sweaty, sporty geeks who ticked
the week with lengths and faster times.
But his wings, unclipped, untarred
fanned him out elsewhere.
Sun dust beamed him past windows
and railings, to a wire mesh pen.
Lacy Sussex, patchy Game,
Brahma, Breda, Yokohama,
had clear markings, the X and Y
he never found in chalky corridors.
From the old men, he learned to judge
the straightest breastbone, comb
or tail, to quest for perfect form,
to write the bible of the breeds.
“In these remarkable poems Helen Kay takes on the big ideas that touch everyone, not just poultry lovers. Family, memory, creativity, and the act of writing are preoccupations that are explored in superbly crafted and disciplined poems from a poet who knows how to meld form and substance. A dazzling debut collection.”
“A must for poultry and poetry lovers alike. Helen Kay’s collection casts a keen, beady eye over the world of cocks and hens and the characters that keep them. Here is the language of the chicken coop. These poems strut, cluck and peck across the page. Brilliantly observed and beautifully written.”
“In this curiously absorbing collection, Helen Kay guides us lovingly yet unsentimentally though the arcane world of poultry, her poet’s voice charged with irony, knowledge, care and joy. Kay plays confidently with formal structures and bravely challenges her innate lyrical responses in these strangely romantic, innovative and celebratory poems.”
“It's clearly the work of someone who knows her hens, bringing knowledge and unsentimental experience into play - not as a background but a part of almost every poem. It is a very varied collection, the more notable because of the unifying title. An intriguing and deserving collection, and I'm very pleased to applaud it on its way.”
This is a book for poultry and poetry lovers alike. Based on detailed personal observations of hens and their owners, Helen Kay uses a variety of poetic forms to address key themes.Birth, death and the pecking order are all parts of the hen’s routine in this sometimes funny, sometimes poignant pamphlet collection.
17. The ancient Greeks valued the beauty of the cockerel which was a symbol of bravery
It’s written the dying Socrates
gifted a cockerel to a god.
Its white wings mapped the air.
A scabbed comb crowned
its stabbed head. Its beak,
a forked V, could not speak.
We’re told the ugly fella, wise
beyond time, would not betray
the grain store in his skull.
While his senses snook away
to the stone sides of his cell,
he thought to thank Asclepius,
chose a cock, whose cry
could make a dawn sky heal,
to be cut up and handed out,
the raw remains scrutinised,
or did cock, scraping the soil,
require Socrates as sacrifice
to the god of the spoken word.
This done, he convinced Crito
to assist in his own demise.
Then Plato hatched his lies.