Bork! by Diana Gittins  Pamphlet shown lying angled to the right -- a cream coloured jacket on an orange background. The title (BORK!) is in caps at the top. The bottom half has a lovely line drawing of a rather elegant hen, fully feathers. The authors name is in small caps at the bottom.

HappenStance, 2013   £5.00    

A Philosophie of Hennes: when Comedy and Philosophy Combine

This collection is subtle, poignant, clever, warm, and laugh out loud funny. I always enjoy slapstick, puns and bonkers but when, in this case, it’s combined with linguistics, sociology, psychology and philosophy, it’s an education.

The chickens are very obviously loved and realistically described. They have souls and names and pecking orders and grief. They are politically correct, transubstantiating slugs and scraps. Maisie has a wonky neck. Mabel is calling out for Hope and relegated to being bottom hen. Hope is ‘the thing without feathers.’

The symbolism is artful and convincing when Hope suffers from a Blocked Egg which can only be cured by breaking the egg shell into pieces. The next line in brackets (remember not to call them shards) confirms the workshop context. Apparently Hope is a poet. Unfortunately she eventually dies – make of that what you will!

I was looking out for reference to the two philosophical questions which belong to all chickens and the author doesn’t disappoint.

Question one: Why did the chicken cross the road?

Answer: They work hard for their worms on the verge / of the roads and – for whatever reason – they sometimes cross to the other side / of the highway.

Question two: Which came first the chicken or the egg?

Answer: cracking psyches / whizzed into the imaginary / albuminous complexity / of which comes first/layers’ pellets or broody id

The collection ends with a brilliant lyrical and rhetorical prose poem called 'Chicken Sutra' (which somehow sounds like a ready meal) with biblical echoes, crazy vocabulary and memorable descriptions, such as the praise of her ‘avian nun’ Martha:

Precariously balanced on dinosaur legs, giving
me sideways glances with eyes the colour of bile
and your wobbly pink wattle dangling like old
men’s balls

and there’s another crack at question two:

Egg-sprung, warmed, cracked, the eternal puzzle
of origin lying in you, you who came both first
and last, emerging from times well-timed 
albuminous goo

Marion Tracy