Tuesday poem: ‘Send out your homing pigeons, Dai’


Send out your homing pigeons, Dai,

Your blue-grey pigeons, hard as nails,

Send them with messages tied to their wings,

Words of your anger, words of your love.

Send them to Dover, to Glasgow, to Cork,

Send them to the wharves of Hull and of Belfast,

To the harbours of Liverpool and Dublin and Leith,

Send them to the islands and out of the oceans,

To the wild wet islands of the northern sea

Where little grey women go out in heavy shawls

At the hour of dusk to gaze at the merciless waters,

And send them to the decorated islands of the south

Where the mineowner and his tall stiff lady

Walk round and round the rose-pink hotel, day after day.

Send out your pigeons, Dai, send them out

With words of your anger and your love and your pride,

With stern little sentences wrought in your heart,

Send out your pigeons, flashing and dazzling towards the sun.

Go out, pigeons bach, and do what Dai tells you.

‘Send out your Homing Pigeons, Dai’ by Idris Davies is one in a sequence from ‘The Angry Summer, A Poem of 1926′ which appears in The Collected Poems of Idris Davies, Ed. Islwyn Jenkins and published by Gomer Press, and I’m grateful for permission to use it.

I love this poem, and I don’t even like pigeons – well, not city pigeons anyway: racing pigeons are a different thing and probably if I met one, I’d admire it. But most of all I admire this poem, and Idris Davies himself, the great Welsh socialist poet now best known for writing ‘Bells of Rhymney’ which was set to music by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s and has since become an iconic folk standard.

Davies (1905 to 1953) wrote poems about the South Wales valleys and about the coalfields – he began his working life as a miner at the age of 14, and later qualified and worked as a teacher. His work, in both English and Welsh, reflects the idealism and protest of a people during a time of great economic, social and religious change; in particular the growth and decay of the old iron and coal town of Rhymney in Monmouthshire. T. S. Eliot, who published Davies’s work at Faber, thought that the poems had a claim to permanence as ‘the best poetic document I know about a particular epoch in a particular place.’ I was introduced to this poem by my friend Frances Thomas, in whose 2010 poetry diary this appears. I love everything about it, including the contrast between the declamatory beginning and the intimacy of the last line’s whisper.

Do have a look at the other poems on the Tuesday Poetry blog.

13 Responses to “Tuesday poem: ‘Send out your homing pigeons, Dai’”

  1. aj ponder Says:

    It’s very cool. I’m not even sure why, maybe it’s just this lovely fresh feel like something uncaged :)

  2. admin Says:

    Yes, I see what you mean AJ – all blue-grey and washed with rain.

  3. mary mccallum Says:

    yes it’s marvellous isn’t it? the spread of it – the sweep… and, as you say, the ending – quieter addressed to the pigeons, enigmatic but warm, something to do with hope

  4. Kathleen Jones Says:

    It has the feel of old black and white footage of working class communities – clogs and shawls, back-to-back houses, pigeon lofts, allotments, factory gates, the general strike, queues of men out of work. Beautifully done.

  5. admin Says:

    So glad you like it too, Mary & Kathleen – I think that last line moves from the political to the personal, which is such a lovely way to round off the drama, and so moving. I can just see Dai whispering into his pigeons’ ears, that’s if pigeons have ears which I assume they do somewhere under those feathers.

  6. Frances Thomas Says:

    It’s that last line that does it, isn’t it; turns it suddenly from being rather dramatic and grand into heartstopping.

    Incidentally – I’m sure other Londoners know about it – but I’ve just discovered the Poetry Library in the Festival Hall – a lovely serene refuge

  7. admin Says:

    Yes to both of your comments, Frances – that last line of the poem’s a clincher, and the Poetry Library in the Festival Hall is indeed glorious. I used to go and work there with a laptop, the journey was definitely worth it. I especially like the fact that it’s a lending library as well as a reference one.

  8. Helen Lowe Says:

    Very powerful … and plays on realtionships of power, too, including Dai’s with the pigeons …

  9. admin Says:

    Thanks for that Helen. I’m very interested in what you say about Dai’s relationship with the pigeons, so fragile in contrast with the others in the poem which are filled with power.

  10. mary mccallum Says:

    I must get to the poetry library now – oh yes I must…

  11. mary mccallum Says:

    … and are you all revved up for editing Tuesday Poem this week, Belinda? Let me know if you need any help. You could always reprise Dai and his pigeons…

  12. admin Says:

    Thanks, Mary – I’m on track and will email you if I have any troubles.

  13. fence gate, Says:

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