The loyalty of chickens by Jenny Blackford

cover image

Pitt Street Poetry, 2017. ISBN 9781922080745
(Ages: 12+) Poetry.
Anyone who has had chickens knows the fickle loyalty of chickens, how they will press around 'She Who Brings the Grain' whoever it may be, and the challenge of stepping forward without crushing 'worshippers'. Blackford captures the scene perfectly in her poem 'The loyalty of chickens'. Other feathered dinosaur siblings also feature in this book of poems - currawong, magpies, waterbirds, and the breakfast visitor that steals the tomatoes. But birds are not the only creatures that she describes so well, there are also the tattered cat, the ninja cats, the One True Cat, and the total control fur kid, the polar bear terrier, the lap dogs of Paris, and the rat lodger in the walk-in robe.
Child readers will love 'A brief guide to Australian fauna' - 'koalas have no feathers; dolphins have no fur' etc - the images the poem conjures would make a fun drawing, and could inspire further inventive animal descriptions. Another fun example is the multi-bottomed hoist centipede conjured from the washing on the line.
Adults will find more serious reflections on the creeping dementia of ageing parents, lost love, and the army of farm boys sent to war. I loved 'Polenta memories' - a lunchtime meal offered to a handyman draws out stories from his past in a displaced children's camp after the war, finally coming to Australia, the 'golden dream of peace'.
Blackford has brought together an interesting collection of poems that would appeal to many ages.
Helen Eddy