People Need Nature/Young Poets Network competition highly commended poems – A woodpigeon by Tanya Kundu

Continuing our  series of pages publishing the winning and highly commended poems in the People Need Nature/Young Poets Network “Ways to be Wilder” poetry competition, hosted by the Young Poets Network. We are also publishing judge Jen Hadfield’s notes on the poems.

This is one of the highly commended poems.

A Woodpigeon

Tanya Kundu (18)

I tend to avoid large bodies of water
But when dehydration decrees
That I must visit one such brimming mirror,
I am told again that
I am ugly.
My crooked beak laps and splashes,
Distorting that once still surface with circles:
Echoes of distaste –
Widening, scornful eyes.

So I try to make amends
For those straggly grey feathers,
That clumsy, lopsided hobble,
With my song:
Not the rough bark of a preening pheasant
Nor the blackbird’s self-aggrandising stanzas;
No trills, turns or appoggiaturas –
Just a four-note, rasping lullaby.

But please – do not follow my voice
Through grass or wood or glade,
For if you catch me unawares
I will frighten you
With the panicked gunshot of my flapping wings.

And then, from a safer branch,
I will see the disappointment in your face
That I was not a dove.


Comments by Jen Hadfield:

A Woodpigeon (18)

This assured poem explore ideas of self-image and perception very movingly. Poor woodpigeons! On a thunderous summer day – with heavy light shining on those iridescent, bruise-coloured feathers, waking to the morphine of their cooing – they can be very beautiful, but in the pool’s mirror, in its perceived scornful gaze, the world relentlessly seems to inform the woodpigeon of its ugliness. When, of course, it’s the woodpigeon that persuades itself it’s ugly. There’s some very acute observation here. The clatter of an alarmed woodpigeon’s wings; the way they are so often concealed except for their voice; your descriptions of pheasant and blackbird song are all very true. And the irregular line-lengths feel apt here – like straggly feathers. I did wonder if ‘dehydration decrees’ was a bit stuffy for a bird, but changed my mind. The voice is consistent: articulate and mournful.