Video: Chickens and the Funnies

Year

2008

Type

Video

From The Poet's View: Intimate Profiles of Five Major American Poets, which features Kay Ryan, John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Anthony Hecht, and W. S. Merwin.

Transcript

I wrote this—well, I'm sure that I was thinking that I had made a lot of very stupid decisions in my life and that I was now suffering the consequences of them having all piled up and come home. This was a very personal poem, I'm sure, when I wrote it, although I like to write personal poems in such a way that nobody has to know that.

"The chickens are circling and blotting out the day." Now that's a really funny thing to say. You know, somebody has written me a letter and told me: "I love your poem 'Home to Roost' but you should know we raise chickens, and you need to know chickens don't really fly."

Home to Roost

The chickens
are circling and
blotting out the
day. The sun is
bright, but the
chickens are in
the way. Yes,
the sky is dark
with chickens,
dense with them.
They turn and
then they turn
again. These
are the chickens
you let loose
one at a time
and small—
various breeds.
Now they have
come home
to roost—all
the same kind
at the same speed.

Carol and I were reading the paper on Sunday morning in bed, and Carol is reading the funnies, and she says in this stricken or awed or something tone, she says: "Kay, read this out loud" and she passes me the funnies. I start reading this cartoon and it is Boondocks and in it, the little brother, who wants to get his bit of the action now and is complaining is smacked down by his big brother, Huey, who uses my poem "Patience" in this cartoon. It was just astonishing. He says: "You know, a poet named Kay Ryan once said, 'Who would have guessed it possible that waiting is sustainable—a place with its own harvests. Or that in time's fullness the diamonds of patience couldn't be distinguished from the genuine in brilliance or hardness.' What do you think that means?" Huey asks Riley. Riley answers: "It means you're a nerd and poetry is stupid."