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Chicken on the Roof

Chicken on the Roof

Matt Goodfellow
Otter-Barry Books Ltd
ISBN: 9781910959909


This is Matt Goodfellow's second anthology: it brings together humour, lyricism and contemplation with a voice that never fails to engage. As well as writing poetry, he is well known for his performances so it's not surprising that so many of the poems lend themselves to joyful and robust performances. The title poem of the book, Chicken on the Roof, (p.62) is an exuberant celebration of a real event. In an interview with Poetry Zone, Goodfellow explained that 'A woman knocked on my front door one day and said:'Excuse me, but my chicken is on your roof'. And it was. Her chicken 'Sage' had flown the coop she kept in her garden and landed on my roof and then didn't know how to get down again. The poem pretty much wrote itself!' 'there's a chicken / there's a chicken / there's a chicken on the roof //I ain't telling you no lies, man. I'm telling you the truth.'



Also, calling out to be performed is 'Greedy Guts Goliath' (p.68) with its strong rhythmic beat, list of mouthwatering foods and a great finale: 'I'm going to steal your Battenburg, your bhajis and your bagel, / I'm going to steal the poppadoms that tower on your table. / I'm going to steal your broccoli, your slow-cooked chicken stew / and when I've eaten what I want, I'll probably eat -/ YOU!//



There are several short, pithy poems: little nuggets of word play that children will hold and delight in: take 'Advice' (p.47): 'My tip / for climbing / Everest? // Keep / on going. / Never rest.//'. Or 'A Hedgehog's Swimming Report' (p.71): 'Front-crawl: good / Back-stroke: painful //.



Despite the strong humorous vein running through the volume, there are some touchingly simple, lyrical poems: 'Little Boat' (p.45) is complemented by Hannah Asen's effective line drawing: 'little boat / on the sea / bobs about / waves at me // yellow sail / silver sway / little boat / drifts away /'. Here is an opportunity to follow up with art work or story writing just as you might with 'Growing Home' (28): /the seed we found / and placed in the ground ... It grew and grew.... It grew so far / it touched the stars /' The writer starts to 'climb / and climb / and climb'//. Where will it end?



The powerful poem Still there' (p.64) uses the calm repetition of 'I see you' to invoke feelings of loss and memory: I see you on the skyline / when night is winter-black.' It finishes, lyrically and enigmatically, leaving space for the reader to bring her own interpretation to bear : I walk within your footsteps, / haloed in the morning glass.



Storm Clouds (p. 74) would make a wonderful contribution to cross-curricular work. With its powerful war metaphor and rhythmic storming beat, it could also be performed: 'Rumbling bombers / in from the sea / carry a furious thunder decree: / We are the power. This is the law. / Welcome the darkness. Black to the core.'/ Hannah Asen's depiction of an atmospheric landscape with clouds dominating two tiny boats works particularly well.



Teachers that I worked with recently were delighted to find 'Library Poem' (p.38) in which we are exhorted to: 'Stride inside a library, / find yourself a book, / dive between the pages / in a comfy cosy nook.' This is a beautiful poem about the power of story to transport and delight ('Climb a crystal glacier, / meet a mighty king. / Slip into a silent sea / where mermaids softly sing./'). As a teacher, Goodfellow is only too aware of the power of, and need for story. If only our politicians were: they should read this!



The collection concludes with 'Slip Away' (p.94): 'I took the air at the seaside / home inside a jar, / safe within a rucksack / in the boot of Grandma's car. /' This is surely a poem that should be dedicated to all teachers in need of respite from classroom pressures: 'I stole a quiet moment, / kept it for myself / '. And when the world is noisy / and madness fills the day, / I'll lift the lid on what I hid / and softly slip away.//'



96 pages / Ages 9+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, Consultant.


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