Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Author, poet, and famed poultry laureate Henry Beakman died yesterday at the age of 102. After suffering for years from a smattering of embarrassing moles and warts, Beakman passed away in his home in his small New England town Quaintsville, Vermont, surrounded by his stuffed animals and pet worms.

In 1965, Henry Beakman took the revolutionary step of actually getting inside the mind of a chicken, and that unique voice served as the speaker of the most prolific stage of his career.

This was considered the writer’s “Yellow Period.” Amazingly, no writer before or since had even considered writing from a chicken’s point of view or so beautifully championed the rights of downtrodden hens everywhere.

Perhaps his most famous poem from this period was this one, written when Beakman turned 50.

Stopping by a Nest on a Sunny Day

Whose eggs these are I think I know.
His nest is in the chicken coop though.
My little peep must think it’s queer
To stop without a rooster near.

From the house a rotisserie hums,
Gently cooking former ovums.
The only other sound I hear
Is the clucking of a chicken near.

The oven is warm and wants me to play,
But I have many eggs to lay,
And miles of pecking to do, so I cannot stay.
And miles of pecking to do, so I cannot stay.

As any high school student can tell you, the speaker is reflecting on the warm, inviting promise of death, but in the end knows that it is too soon to die, for many things must still be done in his life, as reflected in the repetition of the final line, mimicking the sound of a chicken feeding.

It is a classic rumination on mortality and longing, and this poem single-handedly changed forever how we view our poultry brothers and sisters.

Beakman grew even more minimalist in the years that followed, referring to poems with an abundance of words as so much “chicken scratching.” This is evidenced in this famous poem, which some unenlightened critics dismissed as “retarded” or “the work of an real jerk-off.” Time has proven, however, that this piece served as the inspiration of the poultry activist movement of the early 1970s.

The Red Hen

So much depends upon
A small red hen,
Clucking in the coop.

Finally, at death’s door, Beakman contemplated the death of a chicken in his last published work, drawing parallels to the fate of all men. Can we assume that his own death touched him most personally?

Do Not Go Gentle Into that Bad Barn

Do not go gentle into that bad barn,
Chickens should scratch and peck at the draw of the ax;
Cluck, cluck against the farmer of the night.

Though wise hens know they will one day be grilled,
Because they laid eggs aplenty while they pecked,
Do not go gentle into that bad barn.

Young peeps, who just emerge from the shell,
Know not of their fate and future garnishes,
And go chirpingly into that bad barn.

And you, dear rooster, crowing at the dawn,
Blaze like a meteor and curse not the blade,
For the farmer needs your cock.

Beakman’s remains will be shoved into sausage casings and dumped in a satchel in the Quaintsville Ye Olde Tyme Square tomorrow. Viewings will be held at 12, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10, with a sing-along at midnight.


  1. The story and poems remind me of the rubber chicken that hung in your room that freaked Debbie out.
    Looking back at the rubber chicken years, i wonder if this was written by him...or may he channeled his thoughts through you.
    From Cathy--a woman without a url.

  2. Alas, my old rubber friend passed away some time ago, but still speaks to me in his own way, mentoring me from beyond the grave and helping me in my quest to contribute to chicken literature.

  3. I'm sure your blog is a first to give chickens the respect they are due! Keep up the good work!

  4. The only 'logical' inspiration for expressing such devotion & admiration for the multi-faceted Chicken (eggs, soup, white meat, dark meat, feathers & the ever fought-over part going over the fence last) must be the memorable diet of broiled chicken backs of which we all partook!!